by Michael Koss
If you know nothing about Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’, here’s the essential take away: In the encyclical, Pope Francis argues that we need to apply an “integral ecology” when combatting and rectify environmental degradation. An integral ecology entails two acknowledgments: the first is that the concerns and injustices on this planet are not isolated from one another. The example of cobalt mining represents this intersection of concerns quite well. Cobalt is predominantly mined in the Congo by “creuseurs” who are impoverished, who mine cobalt at great personal risk, and to the detriment of their health, their offspring’s health, and the cleanliness of their water supply. Pope Francis’s integral ecology calls us to understand that the issues of poverty, unsafe working conditions, and unclean water supply (an economic concern, worker’s rights concern, and environmental concern) intersect, meaning that working to resolve one must involve working to resolve the others.
The second acknowledgment is that we must work together, drawing on people’s expertise in and passion for different disciplines, to solve complex, multifaceted social concerns. This is why Pope Francis asserts that, while the Church’s ethics will yield a better world when applied, the Church does not presume that science or the Catholic Church or any other discipline will provide every answer or solution to how to exactly respond to environmental concerns.
So an integral ecology is fundamentally “a dialogue with all people about our common home” in which there is a respect for creation and a “respect for the human person” without exception; he sincerely “wish[es] to address [and include] every person living on this planet” (Pope Francis 8-9). His view is communal; the protection of the environment is an imperative for Christians, but it is also a necessity for all the people whom God has willed to be on the earth in this time.