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A Good That TranscendsHow US Culture Undermines Environmental Reform$
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Eric T. Freyfogle

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226326085

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226326252.001.0001

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The Cosmos and Pope Francis

The Cosmos and Pope Francis

(p.86) Four The Cosmos and Pope Francis
A Good That Transcends

Eric T. Freyfogle

University of Chicago Press

With his encyclical, Laudate Sí, Pope Francis has joined the ranks of commentators who trace misuses of nature to grave flaws in modern culture and in the institutions that reflect and perpetuate these flaws. Francis similarly joins those who contend that the root causes of environmental decline also play roles in fostering economic inequality and injustice, and that efforts to address environmental ills must also address income and power inequities. This chapter rearranges the Pope’s wide-ranging comments into a more focused critique of modernity and a call for a fundamental change of direction by all peoples. At bottom, Laudate Si’ poses a stark challenge to global capitalism, to excessive consumption, and to widely-embraced ideas of sustainable development. The Pope’s message leaves key pieces undeveloped, including a blurry line between the use and abuse of nature, vagueness on whether efforts to aid the poor might rightly bring further short-term degradation, and inadequate attention to overpopulation. It is nonetheless a highly valuable contribution, one that aligns well with the similarly wide-ranging critiques of Leopold, Berry, and Orr, and includes intriguing hints that human population, at least in places, has reached excessive levels.

Keywords:   economic inequality, encyclical, excessive consumption, global capitalism, Laudate Sí, Pope Francis, population, sustainable development

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