The coming June 18th publication of Laudato Si will reaffirm our moral responsibility for the Earth. Whether that responsibility comes from religious belief or concern for our world and all its creatures depends on each, but the obligation to the present and the future remains. Laudito Si comes from St. Francis of Assisi's Canticle of All Creatures
On his trip to the Philippines earlier this year Pope Francis tied the two concerns together
You are called to care for creation not only as responsible citizens, but also as followers of Christ!The Pope, of course, takes this to be a religious obligation
As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.Moral framing is basic, not only to climate issues, but all environmental concerns. It would be a grave mistake to anticipate Laudito Si as being solely about climate change as many political types are (and worthy of derision they are too). We are of the Earth and have the obligation to preserve it for the future. Attempts to decouple the Earth and humans are futile, scientifically silly and morally corrupt because of the damage such an attempt would cause. Stephan Gardiner summarized this for climate change, but his statement is equally valid for all other ecological problems driven by humans.
. . . the presence of the problem of moral corruption reveals another sense in which climate change may be a perfect moral storm. This is that its complexity may turn out to be perfectly convenient for us, the current generation, and indeed for each successor generation as it comes to occupy our position. For one thing, it provides each generation with the cover under which it can seem to be taking the issue seriously – by negotiating weak and largely substanceless global accords, for example, and then heralding them as great achievements – when really it is simply exploiting its temporal position. For another, all of this can occur without the exploitative generation actually having to acknowledge that this is what it is doing. By avoiding overtly selfish behaviour, earlier generations can take advantage of the future without the unpleasantness of admitting it – either to others, or, perhaps more importantly, to itself.There is, of course, a tension in many religions, between millennialism and care taking, Those who think the end of the Earth is nigh, or, alternatively, that they will dwell in a heaven after but a short time on Earth, are prey to neglecting their current world. Eli's guess is that Laudito Si will stress that a strong component of where and wither will be the care that is taken in this world, preserving it for the future.
Elizabeth Kolbert, in considering technological enthusiasm for settling Mars has some telling words for the Ecomoderists who are advocating separating humans from nature
Every sensate being we’ve encountered in the universe so far—from dogs and humans and mice to turtles and spiders and seahorses—has evolved to suit the cosmic accident that is Earth. The notion that we could take these forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, and hurl them into space, and that this would, to use Petranek’s formulation, constitute “our best hope,” is either fantastically far-fetched or deeply depressing.Finally, Eli recommends some reading of the National Catholic Reporter in the coming weeks. It already has much on the forthcoming encyclical from the standpoint of the Catholic Church.
As Impey points out, for six decades we’ve had the capacity to blow ourselves to smithereens. One of these days, we may well do ourselves in; certainly we’re already killing off a whole lot of other species. But the problem with thinking of Mars as a fallback planet (besides the lack of oxygen and air pressure and food and liquid water) is that it overlooks the obvious. Wherever we go, we’ll take ourselves with us. Either we’re capable of dealing with the challenges posed by our own intelligence or we’re not. Perhaps the reason we haven’t met any alien beings is that those which survive aren’t the type to go zipping around the galaxy. Maybe they’ve stayed quietly at home, tending their own gardens.