Previewing Laudato Si’: Anthony Annett on Integral Ecology

AR: Does resistance to environmentalism as an exclusively eugenic-left cause have a leg to stand on? People seem to forget the formative influence of Christians such as Wendell Berry and E.F. Schumacher upon the movement.

TA: I think this is a red herring. As I believe Pope Francis will strongly affirm, care for the environment is our duty as Christians. We are called to care for the garden that God has given to us, not owners, but as tenants. Furthermore, we are all part of nature and the whole web of life on earth. We must value and respect this life.Yes, there are some environmentalists who advocate radical population control measures. At its core, sustainable development is a holistic framework that encompasses not only economic growth, but also social inclusion and environmental sustainability. On the latter, in particular, we are on a path of great peril , especially from climate change. And the effects of climate change will hit the poor especially hard, the people who are least responsible for climate change and least capable of adapting to it. At the issue is really about reducing carbon, not people – especially among the rich, not the poor. The “business as usual” path of continued use of high-carbon forms of energy degrades the sacredness of human life and sacrifices the poor.

So decarbonization is actually pro-life. But many so-called pro-lifers try to oppose decarbonization by hiding behind the unborn and casting aspersions at the whole sustainable development agenda. This is shameful.There are, of course, plenty of people who support family planning measures as a way to reduce poverty in places like Africa. And indeed, a declining family size is a standard feature of the development path, and is tied to rising educational and occupational opportunities for girls and women. The Church has no problem with this, and of course strongly endorses female education. Even more, the Church has no real issue with the idea of planning families for economic reasons – just as long as it’s not by artificial means.

But let’s stay on point – the issue is carbon, not condoms!

AR: What were the motivations for the leak?

TA: I really can’t say much here, as I don’t know much. Part of me thinks this in an attempt to undermine Pope Francis by some of his opponents. The journalist who leaked it, Sandro Magister, is a well-known critic of Francis. Just recently, he wrote that the plug was being pulled on the encyclical because it didn’t pass muster with the CDF! So I think Magister has an agenda, and I wish people would respect the wishes of the pope to wait a few more days. Of course, though, human nature is human nature – everybody is sneaking a peek, and trying to discern the mysteries of google translation. So my advice is look, think, but don’t talk in public. Until Thursday, then let the free for all begin!

But let’s look at the bigger picture. In a few months, nobody will even remember the leak.

AR: What readings in ecological theology would you recommend?

I’m a big fan of primary sources. Read Laudato Si’, but not before Thursday! Read the beautiful writings of Pope Benedict XVI on the environment, which are now in book form. Read Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. When it comes to the academic theologians: The Catholic Climate Covenant has some excellent resources and also check out the work of my friend Christiana Peppard, a theology professor at Fordham.

You might also want to take a look here for an almost comprehensive list of the latest books on the extensive dialogue between theology and science.

See also Playing Mad Libs with Laudato Si’ & the Politics of Identity.

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