By Rubén Gilardi *
Later, critical voices argued that underdevelopment was not a phase prior to development but rather the consequence of colonialism and imperialism; Criticisms focused on the environment also emerge from the club in Rome, the Stockholm summit. The different reports coincide that the increase in industrialization, pollution and the consumption of resources had limits and that crossing them would lead to a planetary collapse. An important moment in those times that appeared as a turning point was the Rio conference in 1992, where agreements were reached on the necessary balance between environment and development. But despite the multiple summits on the environment and climate change, nothing changed the course or slowed down the globalized development model.
Today very few deny the critical state of the planet close to an environmental catastrophe and the responsibility of man in general and the more developed countries in particular as the cause of this critical situation. Some heads of state had strong criticism and Bolivia organized an international meeting on climate change and the responsibility of the development model, but no one imagined that the harshest criticisms of the system would come from the Vatican and through a papal encyclical like the one produced by Francisco named Laudato Si.
Laudato Si: characteristics
This encyclical has planetary importance from a religious, ethical, social and political point of view. In many media it has been labeled as a green encyclical that deals with climate change, that is to minimize it, reduce it. It is an encyclical on our common home, how we inhabit it, and an urgent call to modify a system of "wasteful and consumerist overdevelopment."
It presents an analysis of the environmental situation in the world, makes severe criticisms of the consumer capitalist model, blames the economic powers and developed countries for a large part of ecological disasters, but at the same time linking the central issue of caring for the environment and nature with the defense of life and the dignity of people, poverty and exclusion in the world and calls to look at reality in another way.
Supports and questions
It was received with praise by environmental defenders, scientists, social leaders, religious leaders and heads of state, but with coldness and rejection by the more conservative sectors of the church and by right-wing political sectors.
Scientists, philosophers, religious and social activists have praised the encyclical:
Edgar morin, French philosopher and sociologist, said: "This message is perhaps the first act of a call for a new civilization"
Humberto Maturana, Chilean biologist: “… we intuit that it will have enormous importance in the expansion of consciousness that Humanity requires to overcome postmodernity, we see a continuous reference to the deep interconnectivity between all things, in a harsh and direct criticism of the fragmented gaze that we used to to have and especially to the power we have assigned to money ”.
Leonardo Boff, theologian, Franciscan priest, philosopher, writer, professor and Brazilian ecologist: “The encyclical is the Magna Carta of ecology, the main contribution is the fact that the Pope assumes a new ecological paradigm, according to which all beings are interdependent and they are in relationship ”.
The environmental and geopolitical conjuncture in which it appears
It has been published at a time marked by an environmental crossroads, undoubtedly structural in nature, the consequence of a production and consumption system that is mainly responsible for the climate change that we have to live and one of the great challenges of today, with profound social and economic implications.
On the other hand, we are in a change of era where international power relations have changed, due to the emergence of alternative power blocs moving towards a multipolar world, with advances and difficulties. A change that is resisted by the unipolar system centered on the unilateralism of the United States as a world imperialist military power.
The comparison with John XXIII arises naturally. At the time of publishing his encyclical Pacem in terris (1963) the world seemed to be on the brink of nuclear war; Today, the unprecedented destruction of ecosystems and climate change also make catastrophic predictions more valuable every day.
The role of the Vatican in the period of Francis
The Pope, head of the largest unified religious community in the world, is today an influential actor in the globalization process.
In contrast to John Paul II, a Pope from a bipolar world, clearly identified with one of the poles, Francis appears as a Pope more linked to multilateralism, betting on building a world with a variety of players and greater balance.
Pope Francis' harsh criticism of globalization and inequality has shown him as a leader who is not afraid to mix theology and politics. Now it is also showing the diplomatic power of the Vatican, which, thanks to its international appreciation, has enabled it to unblock conflicts, bring positions closer together and recover the historic diplomatic prestige of the Vatican.
The encyclical and the current development model
The fact that the criticism of the prevailing economic system is at the center of Laudato does speak clearly that the specific weight of the text is more political than theological or environmental. The encyclical calls into question the productivist logic of the current development model based on industrial agriculture, extractivism, the commodification of nature, the alliance between economy and technology and the myth of infinite growth.
For Pope Francis, ecological disasters and climate change do not simply result from individual behaviors –although they have their role– but from current models of production and consumption; it is very clear that for him, the dramatic ecological problems of our time result from the cogs of the current globalized economy, cogs that constitute a global system, a structurally perverse system of commercial and property relations.
This ethical and social perversity, says Francisco, is not typical of one country or another, but of a world system, where the obsession of unlimited growth, consumerism, technocracy, the absolute dominance of finance, the divinization of the market prevail, speculation and a search for financial income that tend to ignore all context and the effects on human dignity and the environment.
The alternative that Francisco proposes
Francisco proposes, above all, a new model of development, based on sobriety and solidarity. It proposes to slow down the current rate of production and consumption, which may lead to another mode of progress and development.
He argues that it is impossible to continue on the path of growth of industrial economies, arguing that the destructiveness of the capitalist model of development and consumption requires a radical change in the techniques and purposes of production and, therefore, in the way of life.
It explicitly states that the solution to our global problems requires a new way of thinking, a shift from anthropocentric (human-centered) values to ecocentric (earth-centered) values. It is a worldview that recognizes the inherent value of non-human life, where everyone and everything is interconnected. This principle of interconnection is the basis of the worldview of indigenous peoples and proposes to pay attention to their wisdom.
Regarding economics, he says that it is essential to incorporate ecological economics into our human history. An economy that, through its systemic and transdisciplinary vision, evaluates the costs and benefits considering the interests of the social group and transcends the perspective of the current economic paradigm.
He argues that the poor and marginalized should be the center of our concern and finally says that the moral challenge is intergenerational. How could our generation condemn our children and their children to live in an increasingly unlivable world?
You may or may not agree with Francisco's proposals, but given the orphanness of proposals on alternatives to the development model and the lack of criticism of the different proposals that emerged in the last decade with popular governments in Latin America and that today suffer a backward movement, the encyclical provides the possibility of opening that pending debate on another different, possible world.
* Rubén Gilardi, National Reference of the AOED in Argentina. International Institute for Study and Social Training of the South INCASUR.
Article published in the Latin America in Movement Magazine No 515, July 2016: What cooperation for what development?