Pope Francis Decries ‘Convulsive Consumerism’ Destroying the Planet

In this Aug. 22, 2018 file photo, Pope Francis is caught in pensive mood during his weekly general audience at the Vatican. Francis' papacy has been thrown into crisis by accusations that he covered-up sexual misconduct by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File

Pope Francis delivered a powerful environmental message Thursday, decrying the selfishness that is ruining the earth and destroying biodiversity.

In three brief addresses to groups affiliated with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an agency of the United Nations in Rome, the pope spoke about the need to react to environmental degradation with a change in lifestyles.

“Indigenous peoples are a living cry in favor of hope,” Francis said. “They remind us that human beings have a shared responsibility to care for our ‘common home.’ And if certain decisions made so far have spoiled it, it is never too late to learn the lesson and acquire a new lifestyle.”

“It is a matter of adopting a way of acting that, leaving behind superficial approaches and harmful habits, overcomes atrocious individualism, convulsive consumerism and cold selfishness,” he said.

Francis has distinguished himself for his attention to environmental issues such as global warming and carbon dioxide emissions, becoming the first pope to devote an entire encyclical letter to the care of the environment.

In that 2015 text, called by the Latin title Laudato Si, the pontiff said that the earth “is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” as “once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”

He also denounced a failure to recycle paper and other resources, while calling climate change “a global problem with grave implications” as well as “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” Citing “scientific studies,” the pontiff said that “most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.”

“Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies,” he said.

In his meeting with IFAD Thursday, the pope said that he wished to represent “the yearnings and needs of the multitude of our brothers and sisters who suffer in the world.”

“I wish we could look at their faces without blushing, because finally their cries have been heard and their concerns heeded,” he said. “They live in precarious situations: their air is flawed, their natural resources depleted, their rivers contaminated, their soil acidified.”

While the pope certainly has a point about the gravity of pollution and its effects in many parts of the world, the solutions currently being proposed do nothing to alleviate these problems.

The pope has thrown his moral weight behind the Paris Climate Accord and other United Nations efforts to curb climate change by decreasing carbon dioxide emissions. These misguided programs do nothing to address the very real problem of air and water pollution, focusing instead exclusively on carbon dioxide, a non-toxic gas necessary for the growth of plant life.

In a landmark 2017 study, the prestigious Lancet journal revealed that pollution-related diseases, not climate change, were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015, or some 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence combined.

Pollution is not only the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today, the study found, but diseases caused by pollution were responsible for roughly 16 percent of all deaths worldwide — “three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence.”

While to date there has not been a single documented case of a person being killed by carbon dioxide related “global warming,” real pollution of air, water, and land is killing an average of 25,000 people every day across the globe.

The great tragedy is that the powerful of the world ignore the immense devastation wrought by pollution in favor of an ideologically driven crusade against “global warming.”

“Despite its substantial effects on human health, the economy, and the environment, pollution has been neglected, especially in low-income and middle-income countries, and the health effects of pollution are under-estimated in calculations of the global burden of disease,” the Lancet stated in its study.

This health damage from pollution “has particularly been overlooked in both the international development and the global health agendas,” the report continued.

The highly touted Paris Climate Accord goes on and on about greenhouse gas emissions without ever once mentioning the word “pollution” in the entire 27-page document.

If world leaders truly cared about saving human lives, they would focus on eradicating the immense damage caused by air and water pollution rather than wasting their breath attacking the bogeyman of carbon dioxide.

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