On Care for Our Common Home

By Pope Francis


This book is about the environment and climate change and if you are a progressive of any stripe you probably already know most of the science that he will teach; so why read this?

First, this is a good overall exposition of the scientific problems. Second, it is a useful discussion of the barriers to the conversation and useful suggestions as to how to surmount the barriers. Third he introduces the fact that it is our empty hearts that inures us to what is obviously happening before our eyes and constricts us from doing what is required. (He quotes Benedict that it is the desert within that is creating the deserts without.) And fourth, less compelling to those of us outside his Catholic tradition (perhaps even off-putting) there is some church-speak about how the world should look when we are done, assuming there is such a thing as “done.”

Whatever you already know in this arena, this is a good compilation, by a great man, who holds perhaps the most powerful teaching chair in the world. For many people, what the Pope says cuts ice! If you are one of those people, let him cut your ice. If you are not one of those people, knowing what he says you will be in a position to pass that on to those who might be unreceptive to science in another form, or even simply comforted and solidified in scientific positions by knowing that the Pope said it too.

He drives home the fact that it our internal emptiness driving our willingness, even when we know the science, to plunge on a course that we think will create happiness, although it never has. Who better to say it, than the leader of the largest and stodgiest church in the world? If you do not buy the book, or read the book, at least take thirty seconds right now to thank Francis for writing the book. Maybe even say a prayer that there is more to come.

My take on what is to be found in this book: 1) What is happening to the earth now: pollution, water shortage, falling biodiversity, lowering quality of life, social breakdown. 2) What the Christian tradition says about this. 3) The human roots of the problem: technology irrationally applied in service of short-range human desire. 4) Methods for correcting our course. 5) How to talk about it. 6) A vision for the future.

Even if you do not need the book yourself, perhaps this review will enable you to pass on the existence of Laudato Si (official title) to those who might find it useful.

This is something to cheer about.