Category: Environmental Stewardship

Lake Karachay, Russia, often referred to as the most polluted lake on Earth

Lake Karachay, Russia, often referred to as the most polluted lake on Earth

At The Federalist, a round-table discussion brought up several issues regarding the encyclical, Laudato Si’. A quick reading of the discussion sees several themes emerge: the pope shouldn’t be writing about science, this encyclical comes down too heavily against free markets, and that modernity has much to offer in the way of solving humanity’s many problems.

Now, if free markets and capitalism are really to blame for pollution, it would stand to reason that those would be the countries with the worst ecological problems. That is not the case.

On the contrary, the management of the environment in communist countries has been and continues to be much worse than in capitalist ones. For example, Richard Fuller, president of the environmental non-profit Blacksmith Institute once identified the former Soviet Union as having “by far and away the worst problems…” when it comes to environmental protection and land use.


Air-ConditioningI know why Victorian women fainted so much. They were too hot – literally. Wearing layers and layers of clothes, corseted to the point of not being able to breath, attempting to make merry in rooms draped and swathed and festooned with velvet furniture and bric-a-brac. If you think about London in the summer … you’d faint too. I will happily keep my modern clothing and my air conditioning, thank you.

Not so fast, says Pope Francis. His encyclical, Laudato Si’, suggests that air conditioning is one of those modern features that is giving us environmental woes.

Some countries are gradually making significant progress, developing more effective controls and working to combat corruption. People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning. The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears self-destructive. (55)


On Friday, the Instituto Ludwig von Mises Brasil published a Portuguese translation of Samuel Gregg’s recent article about the economic flaws in Pope Francis’s environment encyclical. Matheus Pacini of the IMB translated Gregg’s commentary, originally published June 19 in The American Spectator.

Nos dias posteriores à publicação da nova encíclica do papa Francisco, Laudato Si’ (Louvado Seja), a maioria dos comentários abordava as possíveis implicações da mesma para o debate sobre as mudanças climáticas.

Um esforço para influenciar esse discussão — sendo que boa parte dela, como Al Gore, já desapareceu das manchetes dos noticiários e se confinou a organizações internacionais, ONGs, burocratas governamentais e lobistas profissionais — é claramente parte da intenção imediata da encíclica.

Gregg is the Acton Institute’s director of research. The full Portuguese translation can be read here, and the original The American Spectator article in English is here.


A French translation of Samuel Gregg’s The American Spectator article on Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical was published earlier this week in Nouvelles de France. Gregg is the Acton Institute’s director of research, and the article, titled “Laudato Si’: Well Intentioned, Economically Flawed,” was translated by Emmanuel d’Hoop de Synghem.

Peu avant la publication de l’encyclique du Pape François, Laudato Si, la plupart des commentaires focalisaient sur les implications et les liens qu’a cette encyclique avec le débat sur le changement climatique. Une tentative d’influencer ce débat fait clairement partie de l’objectif de cette encyclique, alors que cet exercice n’étaient plus effectué que par des organisations internationales, quelques ONG, des bureaucrates gouvernementaux et des professionels du lobbyisme. De plus, malgré les quelques intrusions dans des aspects très techniques, tel l’impact de l’air-conditionné, la véritable signification de ce long texte, ardu à lire par endroits, se situe plus généralement au niveau d’une réflexion théologique sur la relation de l’homme avec la nature.

The full translation can be found here, and the original English article is here.

Pope Francis will begin a tour of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay on Sunday, returning to the continent of his birth for the first time since his election in 2013 and visiting areas of extreme poverty. Peter Johnson, the Acton Institute’s external relations officer, told the Associated Press that the pontiff’s criticism of the free market neglects to account for the economic improvements made in Latin America in the last decade.

The three countries on Francis’ tour all have made economic advances over the last decade, improvements that business leaders say have come thanks, in part, to the very sort of capitalistic ventures the pope recently has criticized as materialistic.

Bolivia, for example, has cut the number of people living in extreme poverty from 37 percent to 19 percent in less than a decade due in large part to increased natural gas exports under President Evo Morales.

“Francis is constantly impugning the free market and never holding up the good that it can do,” said Peter Johnson from the Acton Institute, a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based think tank focused on the intersection of economics and religion.


pope plant“Laudato si, mi’ Signore!” Both the title and first line of the most recent papal encyclical come from St. Francis’ canticle which looks at nature as a great gift, but you all know that. Every news source worth its salt made that clear before the encyclical was released (either time); yet, we as Christians are called to be salt of the Earth. This entails more than a brief glance at the word on the street about the ecological pronouncement. What is at stake here is the central call of humanity: to till and keep the gifted garden (Genesis 2:15). The first human was placed in this role of cultivation of the earth even before being told to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There was a promise to act and a law to keep. The Bible is divided into two halves: law in the Old Testament and promise in the New Testament. The call to be salt of the earth is about the Christian life fulfilling that promise. Note that the law followed the promise in the order of our creation. Core to human being was first the love of the life of the world–the greatest commandment as Christ said. So, then why is the reactionary focus of the encyclical even before it was released surrounded upon the policy, the law, that it would inspire and not the call to promise?

Surely within the encyclical there is language that leads to law being created. What Pope Francis has seen in the world directly articulates the life he leads–one unaccepting of a “globalization of indifference” for any child of God’s in need. (more…)

Coal power plant Datteln 2 Crop1Today at The Federalist I explore “Why Big Oil Wants A Carbon Tax.” Perhaps such advocacy isn’t just made out of a sense of global citizenship and environmental stewardship.

On the surface such advocacy may seem counter-intuitive. Why on earth, other than out of selfless benevolence, would a firm (or group of firms) advocate for higher taxes on their products? But on reflection, it makes some sense, and the reasoning is similar to why an online retailer like Amazon might be in favor of the collection of sales tax at the state level.

As Adam Smith famously put it, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Companies are often happy to raise prices if it hurts their competition or provides them with a competitive advantage. And in the case of carbon taxes, it’s important to recognize that not all fossil fuels are equally carbon-intensive, just as not all renewable sources are equally sustainable and resilient.

This is one of the economic realities that I wish Pope Francis had recognized more clearly in Laudato Si’, although I may have more to say about this later. For now, David Brooks expresses a similar desire in his column, “Fracking and the Franciscans.”