Early this month the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, published his view of the state of the world, and he doesn’t think it’s pretty. “In today’s world, many forms of injustice persist fed by a profit-based economic model that does not hesitate to exploit, discard or even kill human beings…” Speaking of climate change, the Pope wrote, “Often the voices raised in defense of the environment are silenced or ridiculed using apparently reasonable arguments that are merely a screen for special interests.” Moreover, thanks to “this shallow, short-sighted culture that we have created,” as the environmental crisis deepens, “the scene will be set for new wars albeit under the guise of noble claims.” The Pope’s solution: he urges the world’s “political leaders to devise an effective development plan that could be freely accepted and sustained over time.”
The Pope is right to see the on-rushing crisis, but it’s wrong to say “we” have created it. When did working people decide to allow the rich and powerful to loot our planet, and launch the wars the Pope condemns? Did “we” really have a say when the government passed the laws that protect the “profit-based economic model that does not hesitate to exploit, discard or even kill human beings?”
While the Pope’s strong words can perhaps heighten awareness of the crisis, his solution – to look to the world’s political leaders – is a non-starter. The politicians put into power by “the profit-based economic model” will never attack the foundation they stand on. The solution will have to come from us, how we join together, and the fights we make to uproot this profit-based system of capitalism that threatens human civilization and even life itself.