Pope Francis is now the world’s most influential climate activist, but he didn’t utter the word “climate” in his recent speech to Congress. He merely referred to his 184-page encyclical known as Laudato Si, the eco-manifesto that solidified his reputation as a climate thinker when he released it in June. At the time, I only skimmed the breathless stories suggesting that Laudato Si could galvanize global action against global warming at the coming Paris climate talks, so now I figured I ought to read what His Holiness actually wrote.
And, it’s, um, well…how to put this delicately…unusual? Not what I expected?
OK, forgive me, Holy Father: It’s super-weird.
There is some stuff about climate, most of it sensible and useful. But there’s much more stuff about techno-economic paradigms and information overload and aesthetic education and misguided anthropocentrism. There are quasi-Marxist passages that sound like Noam Chomsky on acid. There are technophobic passages that sound like they were written by an Amish hippie grad student. There are asides about “the feeling of asphyxiation brought on by densely populated residential areas” and the inability of the individual to “prescind from humanity” that sound like that guy at the microphone at the zoning hearing with two comments and one question.
It has been noted that the pope’s beliefs scramble the traditional fault lines of American politics, but Laudato Si puts them into a kind of bizarro-world Vita-Mix. Conservatives who are already annoyed by the pope’s climate advocacy might not be too happy to hear him link laissez-faire economics to slavery, pedophilia, organized crime and the abandonment of the elderly in paragraph 123. Liberals who are fawning over the pope might not want to read paragraph 117, where he compares neglect of the environment to support for abortion. And while I’m no theologian, I’m pretty sure that paragraph 155, the one about “valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity,” implies that sex changes are anti-environmental, too.
Read More: Why the Pope is wrong about climate