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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Laudato Si' Chapter One: Pollution

As I work my way through Chapter one of the encyclical, I came across this sentence which struck a discordant note:
"The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth." 
Really? Is that how the pope sees the earth and the people in it who, by implication, are responsible for the "immense pile of filth?"

Of course, I live in the Shenandoah Valley and all around me are small towns and farmland tucked in between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Alleghenies to the west, a paradise of natural beauty. But I came from Alexandria
where I lived for almost thirty years. Even that highly urbanized area could never be described as an "immense pile of filth." It was lovely. We lived along the Route 1 corridor, a mixed area of very rich and very poor, so it wasn't just because it was an upscale neighborhood.

But I'm baffled. How could anyone with a soul ever describe the world as looking "more and more like an immense pile of filth?"

Huge cities with millions of people, of course, have particular challenges, especially where there are high concentrations of the poverty stricken without access to clean water and proper disposal. I remember being in Guatemala City for a Natural Family Planning conference twenty-five years ago. A shanty town near the conference center held hundreds of people living in pasteboard shacks with corrugated tin roofs with no bathroom facilities. But the city, on the whole, could hardly be described as an "immense pile of filth."

I seriously doubt the pope wrote that sentence. It sounds like the prelude to a rant against overpopulation. Perhaps the one who actually wrote this section of the encyclical (He is certainly getting credit for being a contributor.) is Hans Schellnhuber who thinks the planet can only sustain a billion people. All the other six billion are, no doubt, to blame for creating that "pile of filth."

Don't get me wrong. I realize pollution is a problem and agree with the pope's statement that pollution problems "are closely linked to a throwaway culture." Heck, I remember the days when the milk man delivered our milk in glass bottles which were collected and re-used. I remember paying a deposit on returnable glass pop and beer bottles and before plastic bottled water. I remember reusing brown paper bags to cover school books and create "brown paper packages tied up with string."

Today's generation thinks they invented recycling, I was raised by parents who believed you should use up what you can and re-use and wear out what you can't, who taught us to pick up after ourselves and leave a place cleaner than you found it. My husband and I used to take our children on "litter walks" each of us carrying trash bag. That is simply responsible stewardship. Unfortunately, the consumer culture encourages throwing out and buying new since it's cheaper (by design I'm sure)  than repairing.

But, I digress. Suffice it to say that I agree with Chapter one about pollution and the throwaway culture. It is a significant problem.

But then I came to Chapter 23 on the climate. (To be continued.....)


newguy40 said...

Thanks for the measured repsonse and review. I suppose I'll pick it up next week. Need some time to pray before I make a start on it.

I live in the "worlds salad bowel" on the west coast. A place of immense natural beauty. The shrine I regularly attend and support is literally 200 ft from the ocean. I cannot help but believe the earth is beautiful as is man. Why would God have made us if we were not full of beauty. He doesnt make anything ugly or useless. Creation just doesnt work that way.

BTW, I am a big amateur student of the American Civil War. You are living in the are of Stonewall's (arguably) greatest campaign the Valley. I've never been to the area of the eastern campaigns but only the ones in the west in Tennessee and Georgia. Maybe someday I'll make a trip out to your neck of the woods. I'd love to see Petersburg, Manassas, etc...

I made it thru my dental surgery just fine. Thanks again for your prayers and kind words.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

So glad all went well. Re the Civil War, I'm a big Stonewall Jackson fan.There are markers all over the area abut his campaign, several museums, and the headquarters he used in Winchester. I've read James Robertson's biography and read Beloved Esposa, letters to Anna. What a great man he was! If Catholics were half as faithful and zealous about their faith as he was, we would not be in the mess we're in. I love his last words. "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees." He is one of the people I look forward to meeting in heaven one day. What a wonderful reunion of Christians that will be!

If you get this way come stay at Camp Kreitzer. We love visitors! We can go visit Lexington and VMI where Jackson taught. They have a little museum and you can also visit his house in town.

Robert Simms said...

I wish I could share your optimism about the Earth not being an "immense pile of filth." For the most part, rural areas in the U.S. are pretty clean. Outside the US, however, the Pope's assessment rings true.
This doesn't have to do with over population either. The area where I live in Philippines is rural, with a fair size urban area nearby. Even in the areas where the people aren't crowded in, the people who are here throw their garbage pretty much anywhere and everywhere. The men urinate in public. It is a filthy country.