I wrote about the environmental encyclical today for Politico. Yes, there are beautiful and true things in it, but a lot of it is frankly bonkers:
Perhaps it doesn’t matter because only the climate-change passages will get much play, but the document could have benefited from an editor cutting out the bizarre ramblings.
The pope writes of “harmful habits of consumption,” including “the increasing use and power of air conditioning.” This apparently is the result of an insidious capitalistic dynamic: “The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behavior, which at times appears self-destructive.”
That’s assuming the outsider lives in a very cool climate, or doesn’t mind sweating. Anyone not so lucky probably thinks the inventor of air conditioning should be canonized. In France about 10 years ago, roughly 15,000 mostly elderly people died during a heat wave, in part because they lacked the aforementioned wasteful air conditioning.
The pope is also skeptical of automobiles, which are, after all, a suspiciously recent innovation: “Many cars, used by one or more people, circulate in cities, causing traffic congestion, raising the level of pollution, and consuming enormous quantities of nonrenewable energy. This makes it necessary to build more roads and parking areas which spoil the urban landscape.”
If saving the planet, or our souls, depends on giving up air conditioning or cars, we are all indeed on the road to perdition.