Our attention span now approximately the length of a tweet, it is not surprising that we have, so far, flunked the existential carbon pollution challenge.
As activist and journalist Chris Hedges observes, our apps have become traps – “nonstop electronic sounds and images” that “make it impossible to build relationships and structures that are vital for civic engagement and resistance to corporate power.”
Save for the disappeared poor, whose preoccupation with survival does not count in our commoditized society’s dismissal of the general welfare, our culture is consumer-, spectator-, entertainment- and self-oriented. The corporate media propaganda machine faithfully filters any distraction that might challenge the sacred pursuit of more money. Greed rules boardrooms, and corporate power owns Washington.
Imagine God emailing everyone an endorsement of Pope Francis’ call for a humanity-ordered culture in “Laudato Si” with this ultimatum: We have two years to reduce carbon emissions to levels that will cease destroying our earthly habitat and our health, or humanity is doomed. The CIA confirms that the message could have come from no one or nowhere else.
Mass media would emphasize the sensational source, skim the report, then turn to politicians’ responses.
Sen. James Inhofe would warn of a huge tax increase. Ignoring the pope’s deference to the scientific consensus, Rick Santorum would declare that science should be left to scientists.
Mike Huckabee would see a threat to the Christian faith. Jeb Bush would declare that religion concerns personal moral development, not politics. Hillary Clinton would punt, deliberating.
Within hours, some violence or scandal would deep-six the God report. Governments owned by the extraction industry and its beneficiaries would manipulate another climate crisis meeting – and the inexorable journey to the end of humanity would continue its relentless course.
As labor historian Steve Fraser’s “The Age of Acquiescence” observes, belief in the impulse “to renew the democratic imperative” that motivated resistance to the Gilded Age robber barons and prompted the Depression’s New Deal response is not now much in evidence.
The Koch brothers and their ilk are spending billions to maintain that delusion and control government – demonizing dissent, sabotaging climate conferences and, in event of unrest, militarizing police.
But reality resists disrespect. Last year, writer and social activist Naomi Klein exposed the corporate powers’ madness in refusing to forfeit capitalism’s victory over communism on recognizing that its global market economy is not environmentally sustainable. For short-term gain, it would instead forfeit humanity’s survival. This insanity jolted many into consciousness.
Now Pope Francis’ Franciscan perspective dissects our fatal malaise – an economic system blind to all save utility and money that is rapidly degrading the environment and producing criminal inequality and an insensitive population gambling that some panacea will mitigate the impending disaster while ignoring the harm climate change is already visiting on the poor.
“Laudato Si” recalls us, as did St. Francis, to our humanity: Whether, like poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, we see the “world charged with the grandeur of God,” we are its stewards, entrusted to respect its fragility, to “till and keep.” This trust includes fellow humans and all living things.
Our human obligation is to the common good, to human solidarity, to love and care for all, especially the weak and poor. Our common humanity places the general welfare before gain and greed. All – the Earth and each living being– have dignity.
The domination of a consumption-oriented technocracy that is causing rapid environmental destruction must give way to gratitude for our sacred home and recognition of the interdependence of species.
An integral ecology must include environmental, economic, social, cultural and spiritual dimensions of our world and lives. We should be caring, compassionate and recognize responsibility for everything in our environment: “The world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”
“Laudato Si” invites all humanity to respond to the millennial Earth Charter’s call: “Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.”
Francis reminds us what being human means. If we will only give our apps a rest.