Not long ago Pope Francis came out as an environmentalist in response to issues of overpopulation, environmental degradation, and climate change. On one occasion he stated his belief that “people should stop breeding like rabbits” (to paraphrase him), and he made the following statement about the forces that have driven us to the brink of calamitous environmental devastation and climate change:

“An economic system centered on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it. The monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.”

Predictably, the Pope has come under vicious attack by those among us who believe that — to paraphrase one local commentator — the Pope should “stick to the task of saving the soul of mankind rather than trying to save the planet from man.” As if the Pope ought to be rudely condemned rather than sincerely appreciated for taking on both of these intertwined tasks!

For my part, I am heartfully glad and greatly encouraged that the Pope has joined his brothers and sisters in the communities of faith and belief here and around the world whose teachings for some time now have become informed by and infused with ecological understanding and wisdom.

I love the cartoon above by my longtime friend and fellow environmentalist Bud Bottoms that accompanies my few words here. We are among those who helped to begin the work of the Community Environmental Council (CEC) some 45 years ago, and we think it fitting indeed to celebrate the Pope’s presence among us as our community prepares to come together for Santa Barbara’s 45th Earth Day observances.


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