Michael Lebowitz:The tragedy of the commons, the Pope, and the system, Nov 23, 2015
Michael Lebowitz: The tragedy of the commons, the Pope, and the system
The message of "On Care for our Common Home" is simple: the earth is our commons, it is limited, and we are not managing our commons in a way that is consistent with its sustainability and justice. Indeed, the Encyclical is unequivocal in describing the despoiling of our common home: the pollution, toxic waste, global warming, rising ocean levels, acidification of oceans, deforestation, natural resource depletion, drought, and food and water shortages, et cetera. How is it, the Encyclical asks, that we have "so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years" (53)?
At the core of the problem, it proposes, is Mammon—in particular, the worship of profit. Thus, Pope Francis attributes the destruction of the ecosystem to the search for "quick and easy profit" (36), to the "principle of the maximization of profits, frequently isolated from other considerations" (195), to the one-sided "pursuit of financial gain" (56) and, to finance, which "overwhelms the real economy" (109). The Encyclical accordingly calls upon us to "reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals" (190).