POPE FRANCIS MADE history eight years ago when he became the first pope to publish an encyclical focused on the environment and our collective responsibility to end the poisoning of our planet. Unlike most such documents that stir debates largely confined to theological circles, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home” sparked a global reaction far beyond the Catholic Church.
In October, the pope again pulled our attention back to a worsening climate crisis and even more dire threats to our common home with the release of “Laudate Deum” (“Praise God”), which comes at a time when mounting evidence of more frequent climate emergencies has been met most often with apathy, not action.
“I have realized that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point,” the pope writes. There are good reasons for the pope’s stark assessment. The burning of fossil fuels continues to reap obscene profits for oil executives while the impact of human-induced climate change, especially on impoverished nations, is devastating. Pope Francis laments that “the necessary transition towards clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and the abandonment of fossil fuels, is not progressing at the necessary speed.” The publication was timed for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) taking place in November and December.
I’m particularly encouraged by the pope’s support for activists and grassroots organizers who have far outpaced most political leaders when it comes to mobilizing for climate justice. Francis endorses “a multilateralism ‘from below.’” While right-wing demagogues who fancy themselves populists exploit fears of cultural displacement and economic anxiety, the pope’s hopeful populism is rooted in standing in solidarity with the poor, bringing people together across divides, and challenging structures of injustice that prop up immoral syst