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Deep Ecology and the Implications
of the Pope’s Encyclical

A Sermon by Paul Rockwell

Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists,
Berkeley, California

Esperanza Pallana, director of the Oakland Food Policy Council.

"On Care for Our Common Home". Encyclical by Pope Francis (2015). To download the complete document, click here.
  • To listen to the full sermon, "Deep Ecology and the Implications of the Pope’s Encyclical,” by Paul Rockwell, click here

August 2, 2015. Two months ago I was very surprised when I began to read through the Pope Francis encyclical on climate change.

“Who is this guy?” I asked myself when I studied the Pope’s views on profits, on the destructive role of global free markets, on our need to protect the commons from privatization.

The Pope writes: “Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage, which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature.”

Vandana Shiva often reminds us that those who suffer the most from climate change are the least responsible in causing it. Apparently, and perhaps unexpectedly, the spiritual leader of 2.5 billion people agrees with her. The Pope argues that the industrialized West, especially transnational corporations, are causing both climate change and poverty.

The Encyclical reflects, not only the influences of Leonardo Boff and liberation theology, it expresses the kind of reverence for nature common to Indigenous peoples ( a reverence for which Saint Francis himself was known. )

For centuries, Christianity treated nature mystics as pagans. Almost 2,000 years ago, established monotheism, especially sin-and-redemption ideology, excluded the natural world as a source of spirituality and inspiration. Winona La Duke, a spokesperson for Indigenous cultures, tells us that, in the continental U.S. genocide and ecocide were part of a single process.

The Pope’s Encyclical represents a reform, if not a full ideological change. He writes: "There is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop … . We discover the action of God in the soul, but also in all things."

The recent letter of Pope Francis is a turning point in the environmental and social justice movements. The Pope’s teachings about Western consumerism, about the link between climate change and growing poverty; about the failures of free-market globalization and the dangers of growth and technology; about the arrogance of anthropocentrism, and especially about the sacredness of creation -- the entire treatise on climate change may well inspire millions of people to put faith into action in their quest to heal the earth.

Here is the audible link to the full sermon, "Deep Ecology and the Implications of the Pope’s Encyclical,” by Paul Rockwell, delivered at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, August 2nd, 2015:

About the author:
Paul Rockwell, is a columnist for the Hills Newspapers, Bay Area News Group. His essays have appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Baltimore Sun, Utne Reader, The Nation, and local weeklies. He can be reached at: For a full list of articles contributed by Paul Rockwell to In Motion Magazine, click here.

Also see:

  • "On Care for Our Common Home". Encyclical by Pope Francis (2015).
    To download a PDF of the complete encyclical, click h

  • Sustainability and Exclusion
    by Nic Paget-Clarke
    Buenos Aires, Argentina

Published in In Motion Magazine August 16, 2015