II. Dialogue for new national and local policies [176 – 181]

I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora & Newsvine and will add my comments over time. Papa Francisco's 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do.

176. There are not just winners and losers
among countries, but within poorer countries
themselves. Hence different responsibilities
need to be identified. Questions related to the
environment and economic development can no
longer be approached only from the standpoint
of differences between countries; they also call
for greater attention to policies on the national
and local levels.

177. Given the real potential for a misuse of
human abilities, individual states can no longer
ignore their responsibility for planning, coordi

129 Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29
June 2009), 67: AAS 101 (2009).

nation, oversight and enforcement within their
respective borders. How can a society plan and
protect its future amid constantly developing
technological innovations? One authoritative
source of oversight and coordination is the law,
which lays down rules for admissible conduct in
the light of the common good. The limits which
a healthy, mature and sovereign society must
impose are those related to foresight and security,
regulatory norms, timely enforcement, the
elimination of corruption, effective responses
to undesired side-effects of production processes,
and appropriate intervention where potential
or uncertain risks are involved. There is a growing
jurisprudence dealing with the reduction of
pollution by business activities. But political and
institutional frameworks do not exist simply to
avoid bad practice, but also to promote best
practice, to stimulate creativity in seeking new
solutions and to encourage individual or group

178. A politics concerned with immediate results,
supported by consumerist sectors of the
population, is driven to produce short-term
growth. In response to electoral interests, governments
are reluctant to upset the public with
measures which could affect the level of consumption
or create risks for foreign investment.
The myopia of power politics delays the inclusion
of a far-sighted environmental agenda within
the overall agenda of governments. Thus we
forget that “time is greater than space”,130 that
we are always more effective when we generate
processes rather than holding on to positions of
power. True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult
times, we uphold high principles and think
of the long-term common good. Political powers
do not find it easy to assume this duty in the
work of nation-building.

179. In some places, cooperatives are being
developed to exploit renewable sources of energy
which ensure local self-sufficiency and even
the sale of surplus energy. This simple example
shows that, while the existing world order proves
powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals
and groups can make a real difference.
They are able to instil a greater sense of responsibility,
a strong sense of community, a readiness
to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a
deep love for the land. They are also concerned
about what they will eventually leave to their children
and grandchildren. These values are deeply
rooted in indigenous peoples. Because the enforcement
of laws is at times inadequate due to
corruption, public pressure has to be exerted in
order to bring about decisive political action. Society,
through non-governmental organizations
and intermediate groups, must put pressure on
governments to develop more rigorous regulations,
procedures and controls. Unless citizens

130 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November
2013), 222: AAS 105 (2013), 1111.

control political power – national, regional and
municipal – it will not be possible to control
damage to the environment. Local legislation
can be more effective, too, if agreements exist
between neighbouring communities to support
the same environmental policies.

180. There are no uniform recipes, because
each country or region has its own problems
and limitations. It is also true that political realism
may call for transitional measures and technologies,
so long as these are accompanied by
the gradual framing and acceptance of binding
commitments. At the same time, on the national
and local levels, much still needs to be done,
such as promoting ways of conserving energy.
These would include favouring forms of industrial
production with maximum energy efficiency
and diminished use of raw materials, removing
from the market products which are less energy
efficient or more polluting, improving transport
systems, and encouraging the construction and
repair of buildings aimed at reducing their energy
consumption and levels of pollution. Political
activity on the local level could also be directed to
modifying consumption, developing an economy
of waste disposal and recycling, protecting certain
species and planning a diversified agriculture
and the rotation of crops. Agriculture in poorer
regions can be improved through investment
in rural infrastructures, a better organization of
local or national markets, systems of irrigation,
and the development of techniques of sustainable
agriculture. New forms of cooperation and
community organization can be encouraged in
order to defend the interests of small producers
and preserve local ecosystems from destruction.
Truly, much can be done!

181. Here, continuity is essential, because policies
related to climate change and environmental
protection cannot be altered with every change
of government. Results take time and demand
immediate outlays which may not produce tangible
effects within any one government’s term.
That is why, in the absence of pressure from the
public and from civic institutions, political authorities
will always be reluctant to intervene, all
the more when urgent needs must be met. To
take up these responsibilities and the costs they
entail, politicians will inevitably clash with the
mindset of short-term gain and results which
dominates present-day economics and politics.
But if they are courageous, they will attest to
their God-given dignity and leave behind a testimony
of selfless responsibility. A healthy politics
is sorely needed, capable of reforming and coordinating
institutions, promoting best practices
and overcoming undue pressure and bureaucratic
inertia. It should be added, though, that even the
best mechanisms can break down when there
are no worthy goals and values, or a genuine and
profound humanism to serve as the basis of a
noble and generous society.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *