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Jayabalan: Upcoming Encyclical On Environment May Not Be Helpful

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In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, the director of Acton’s Rome office, Kishore Jayabalan, offered his thoughts on the upcoming papal encyclical on the environment. Jayabalan told the Reporter’s Brian Roewe that he did not deny that climate change exists, since it indeed changes all the time. Jayabalan’s concern is that the upcoming encyclical won’t be based on sound scientific research.

To say that the science requires us to do X, Y and Z, I’m skeptical about that because I’m not sure exactly if the problem has been adequately understood and described so that everyday people can make sense of it and help us understand what we should do about the problem,’ he said.

Further, Jayabalan (who worked on environmental issues for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 1999-2004) worries that the encyclical will create dissension, with some calling for government interventions where none are necessary. This would especially be the case were the encyclical call for alignment with the United Nations’ stance on global warming.

Jayabalan, who worked for the Holy See’s U.N. mission 1997-99, also expressed caution before the Vatican signs onto any agreement. He was skeptical that the traditional U.N. dynamic, pitting industrialized countries against developing nations, could simultaneously address poverty, development and the environment. Instead, Jayabalan endorses more local solutions.

‘There’s plenty of ways you can have less pollution and a cleaner environment that doesn’t require international treaties, that don’t require mandates from large government-owned institutions,’ he said.

Jayabalan said that an encyclical that “demonizes capitalism” will certainly create a partisan document.

Instead, he [Jayabalan] hopes Francis will challenge problems of materialism in a ‘throwaway culture’ by promoting a humanistic perspective that views people not only as stewards of creation but also essential pieces to environmental solutions — rather than the problem.

Read “Conservative corners have tepid take on Pope Francis’ environment encyclical” at the National Catholic Reporter.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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