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Lakoff writes: "Beginning with my book Moral Politics in 1996 (Ch. 12), I have been arguing that environmental issues are moral issues. There I reviewed and critiqued conservative metaphors of nature as a resource, as property, as an adversary to be conquered."

George Lakoff. (photo: Guardian UK)
George Lakoff. (photo: Guardian UK)

Pope Francis Gets the Moral Framing Right

By George Lakoff, Reader Supported News

27 June 15


eginning with my book Moral Politics in 1996 (Ch. 12), I have been arguing that environmental issues are moral issues. There I reviewed and critiqued conservative metaphors of nature as a resource, as property, as an adversary to be conquered.

Instead I argued that we needed to conceptualize nature as the giver of all life, as sustainer and provider, as having inherent value, imposing responsibility, and deserving gratitude, love, adoration, and commitment.

I suggested alternative metaphors of nature as mother, as a divine being, as a living organism, as a home, as a victim to be cared for, and a whole with us as parts inseparable from nature and from each other.

This week, Pope Francis in his Encyclical used all of these and then went much further. First, he got all the science right -- no small task. I have been writing for some time about role of systemic causation in global warming and the environment. The Pope not only got the ecological system effects right, but he went much, much further linking the environmental effects to effects on those most oppressed on earth by poverty, weather disasters, disease, ocean rise, lack of drinking water, the degradation of agriculture, and the of the essential aesthetic and spiritual contact with unspoiled nature. And more, he spoke of our moral responsibility toward animals.

He spoke in metaphors that might sound strange coming in a scientific or political speech, but somehow seem entirely natural for the Pope.

The title of the encyclical is "On Care for our Common Home." This simple phrase establishes the most important frame right from the start. Using the metaphor of the "Earth as Home", he triggers a frame in which all the people of the world are a family, living in a common home.

This frame carries with it many assumptions: As one family, we should care for each other and take responsibility for each other. A home is something we all depend on, physically and emotionally. A home is something inherently worth maintaining and protecting.

164. "...there has been a growing conviction that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home."

61. "...our common home is falling into seri­ous disrepair."

13. "Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home."

Pope Francis explicitly states what most progressives implicitly believe but rarely say out loud: "The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all." The "Common Good" frame is about interdependence, shared responsibility and shared benefit.

156. Human ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and uni­fying principle of social ethics.

157. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.

Critics of Pope Francis have attacked him as having a naïve understanding of the economy, of being anti-technology, or of denying the so-called productive role of self-interest. But he is doing much more, suggesting that business and technology can, and ought to, have moral ends, especially in the face of the looming worldwide disaster of global warming. He is further pointing out, correctly, that the global warming disaster and hugely disastrous other effects were created by the business-technology axis seeking profit above all, without being structured to serve the common good.

129. Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the areas in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.

54. The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests.

The pope of course realizes the challenge. An alternative religion of market fundamentalism has taken hold both in public discourse and in the minds of the public -- so much so that it is hard to imagine a change in time to avert disaster.

108. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable.

Indeed, market fundamentalism has become a kind of alternative religion, with its own idea of what is natural (the primacy of self-interest) and moral (in the conservative version of the in the Invisible Hand metaphor, if everyone pursues his own profit, the profit of all will be maximized). Pope Francis correctly points out that these metaphors have run wild, "ending up" creating enormous wealth for some, disaster for the many, and the terror of global warming for the earth. In market fundamentalism, there is only "individual responsibility," no common responsibility for the common good. Without such common responsibility, there will be no way to avert the coming disasters of global warming, which has been created by market fundamentalism and will be perpetuated by it, unless it is checked.

In market fundamentalism, wealth is measure of the good: an overall increase in monetary wealth is a moral triumph. But while the industrialization of China has increased the wealth of China's capitalists, of American corporate outsourcers to China, and of the Chinese government, the Chinese have suffered an ecological and social devastation, an overwhelming "cost" -- a cost beyond the measure of money. Just look at the pollution in Beijing and desertification in western China. Via global warming, they are imposing that cost on the world, just as the industrialization of the West has in the past.

Pope Francis extends his view of morality using the commonplace economic metaphor of "Moral Accounting" in which there are debts, costs, people who owe, people who are owed, and an expectation that debts should be paid. He points out that no one makes it on his own, that pre-existing resources, often taken from others and the labor of others, have made life possible for anyone who is economically well-off. We all have debts. We also all have basic rights, e.g., to human dignity. When market fundamentalism shifts the resources of others and fruits of the labor of others to the wealthy, robbing the poor of their right to dignity, the wealthy incur a debt, a moral debt.

30. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dig­nity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor.

51. A true "ecolog­ical debt" exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial im­balances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time.

159. The Portuguese bishops have called upon us to acknowledge this obligation of jus­tice: "The environment is part of a logic of re­ceptivity. It is on loan to each generation, which must then hand it on to the next".

These are just a few examples of the many metaphors and frames used to powerful effect in this document. They have one thing in common, which they also share with the progressive value system: they are rooted in a worldview based on empathy.

This is Empathy writ large, beyond individual empathy: it is a global empathy for all humanity, all of life -- animals, fish, plants, and Nature, which provides all life. What is absent is the all too common narrow view of religion as about individuals alone, in which THE spiritual issue is whether YOU get into Heaven, and that is a matter of personal responsibility. You are responsible for yourself, not for others, not for all of life and what is life-giving. That narrow view of individual, not social or global responsibility is completely absent from the Pope's message. The message takes morality to the global level, to an ecological spirituality. It is a message especially appropriate for American democracy, which begins with the idea of union, of citizens caring for one another and taking the responsibility working through their government to provide public resources for all, whether for business or personal life, and with freedom and dignity for all as inalienable rights.

The whole Encyclical is well worth reading. It is a remarkable document and one that needs to be taken to heart not just by the world's Catholics, but by the world's full population, now and for many years into the future.

I am an advocate of the separation of church and state. I don't have a Pope. I have never tended to follow the edicts of a Pope just because he was Pope. And I am not doing so here.

It is vital to bear in mind that this Encyclical is not just a matter of church doctrine. All policy within the political domain is a matter of morality. Every politician who proposes a policy does so on the basis that it is right, nor wrong or morally irrelevant. This Encyclical is overtly about politics and the role that a global morality needs to play in politics.

I have long argued that global warming is the moral issue of our time. President Obama has said the same. I am now thrilled that Pope Francis, spiritual and moral leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, has not just agreed, but has gone so much further, and that he has framed the issue so powerfully, often in language that flows most easily and readily from a Pope, and yet makes so much moral sense, whether you are Catholic or not, religious or not.

Moral questions are not the same as practical questions. But the fate of the earth in the face of global warming is so practical a question that it becomes a moral one. That is the lens through which to read the Pope's Encyclical.

Portuguese Bishops' Conference, Pastoral Letter Re­sponsabilidade Solidária pelo Bem Comum (15 September 2003), 20. your social media marketing partner


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+29 # wdcarrier 2015-06-27 18:18
In 1968 Garrett Hardin published his classic essay, Tragedy of the Commons. It took almost 50 years for a Pope to recognize and voice the same problems. While I laud the Pope for speaking out he has avoided the fundamental issue...too many people using too many resources. Without aggressive population control we are all on the road to extinction.
-14 # bigkahuna671 2015-06-27 19:03
So what are you proposing? Maybe we should just allow wars to continue unabated, encourage Monsanto to destroy our food sources, and encourage Nestles to rob America's breadbasket, the Central Valley, of all its water. Maybe recall all the doctors helping with diseases in Africa and Asia. Is that aggressive enough?
+33 # futhark 2015-06-27 19:26
All your suggestions are unnecessarily barbaric, brutal, and uneconomical. The humane means of birth control have been available for centuries and the most convenient and effective for decades. Experience has shown when both men and women are educated and politically empowered, they will autonomously decide to limit their number of offspring. This is particularly true where the welfare of the elderly has been assumed by society at large, rather than left for family and friends.
+19 # lfeuille 2015-06-27 19:57
Quoting futhark:
All your suggestions are unnecessarily barbaric, brutal, and uneconomical. The humane means of birth control have been available for centuries and the most convenient and effective for decades. Experience has shown when both men and women are educated and politically empowered, they will autonomously decide to limit their number of offspring. This is particularly true where the welfare of the elderly has been assumed by society at large, rather than left for family and friends.

And in spite of what the Pope gets right, he still refuses to accept the need for birth control and the connection between both poverty and climate change and over population. Harsh and coersive measures are unnecessary if birth control is easily available and in a lot a countries, especially in Latin America the church is the main impediment to that happening.
+22 # Thinking 2015-06-27 20:54
Yet the wealthier countries, which have full access to birth control and many have stable populations, are the ones that are disproportionat ely harming the environment and climate. The global poor, which has some population problems, still contribute little to climate change and environmental disaster because they can't afford fossil fuels and other earth-damaging technology. Population is a problem with too many individuals in wealthy nations living without regard for others.
+8 # Kootenay Coyote 2015-06-27 20:02
bigkahuna671 is being ironical, no?
+16 # NAVYVET 2015-06-27 20:39
I wish that the blindered Christians and their anticlerical critics understood the reformers of the Middle Ages, who didn't freak out over birth control. The great theologians agreed that it was beneficial to a mother's health, including John of Paris, Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham (who also supported women's suffrage). Nor was abortion considered a mortal sin by the Church or by reformers or heretics. But using the primitive, Galenesque pseudo-medicine of the era, which lasted until the late 19th c, they deplored the grave dangers to women using the only remedies at hand. Even so, the usual belief was that the fetus had no soul until the quickening--usu ally the end of first trimester. At worst, early abortion was a venial sin, and it was often overlooked entirely in the 12th-14th centuries when women's rights were expanding rapidly.

Unfortunately the male-domineerin g, capitalist-enco uraging, imperialist, slaveholding Renaissance princes, whether Catholic or Protestant, ended the finest ideas and reforms of the Middle Ages--destroyin g most of Europe's Parliaments. Birth control as a sin was invented by reactionary Catholic and Protestant fanatics of the 18th and 19th century. They promulgated a false social version of Newtonian physics, turning life into a materialistic, mechanistic either-or fallacy--as if we were machines with nothing more subtle than engines with an on-off switch! Aquinas must have been grumbling in his grave.
0 # economagic 2015-06-28 11:57
I missed this one yesterday, or maybe just got here before it was posted. It makes me wish yet again that I had put more effort into my classes in Medieval and Renaissance History in school.
+1 # bmiluski 2015-06-29 13:18
navyvet....let' s not forget that the reactionary Catholic and Protestant fanatics of the 18th and 19th century were men who hated and feared women and used childbearing as a way to control them.
+6 # Merlin 2015-06-27 21:02
bigkahuna671 2015-06-27 19:03
I suspect you are not Catholic or at least are unaware of the Catholic church's ban on contraception and their emphasis on procreation.

I suspect that it was these things that wdcarrier was referring to in his post.

In my view a push by the Catholic church to use contraception would go a long way to curbing excessive, often unwanted births.
+4 # Seadog 2015-06-28 12:14
Actually, the best thing we could do for pop. control is to raise living standards significantly for billions on the planet. It's been proven that this by itself lowers family size. The question is how do we do this ethically, unlike the way we , the Chinese and the Indians are presently doing it. Increasing the "common good" isn't just about more food or more living space for a family it's also managing to keep the air and water clean while doing it. It's not going to do anybody any good in the long run if the planet for instance is allowed to heat above 2 C in the near future. The externalized costs for all this "human progress" becomes regressive at a certain pt. if the actual costs are not dealt with. If putting in pollution controls to eliminated CO2 for instance is cost prohibitive as Conservs. claim it is then Coal, OIL and Nat. Gas are too expensive to use and should be immediately abandoned as energy sources. They cannot have it both ways.
0 # bmiluski 2015-06-29 13:13
Really, kahuna.....this is all you can think of. How small....kahuna .
+13 # Kootenay Coyote 2015-06-27 20:02
Yet again: while sane population management would be a good thing in general, the problem is not simply 'too many people': it is too many people in certain cultures that use hugely excessive amounts of resources & produce similar amounts of pollutants in the process. & we all know who that is.....
+6 # Merlin 2015-06-27 21:03
Kootenay Coyote 2015-06-27 20:02

We need attention to both problems.
+15 # NAVYVET 2015-06-27 21:42
You are referring, I assume, to the United States, which is the biggest user and waster of resources on the planet. No other country, or even combination of countries, comes close to our "hugely excessive" abuse of resources, or our immoral production of pollutants.
+5 # economagic 2015-06-27 20:53
Hardin later recanted many of the unqualified claims of his own "encyclical," acknowledging in particular that they applied only to an UNMANAGED commons. Such commons were between rare and non-existent for most of human history and all of pre-history. A good many mainstream economists are still blissfully unaware of the significance of the 2009 Nobel award in economics, the first to a woman, for a lifetime of research into how "common pool resources" can be AND HAVE BEEN managed sustainably for tens of thousands of years.

Some such resources have of course been depleted or destroyed through simple lack of knowledge of the systems involved. We no longer have that excuse in most cases of significance. Human beings are not universally wise, but neither are we universally foolish. Unfortunately, in order to become a mainstream economist one must undergo a program of indoctrination that is almost diametrically opposite to that which anyone desiring to become a physicist, chemist, biologist, or even psychologist or sociologist must undergo. They didn't get their claws on my until I was nearly 50, with a strong background in STEM including an undergraduate degree in physics. As a result I never drank the Kool-Aid, or only a very little of it which I eventually spit up.
+5 # Texas Aggie 2015-06-28 11:15
And a look around you will confirm that most of our "commons" is indeed de facto unmanaged. There may be laws and regulations to try to manage the commons but, by and large, they are ineffective. Examples abound:

Duke Energy and the NC water system
Appalachian mountain top removal
Chemical plants in TX and LA killing people
Nuclear waste creation with no storage
Top soil loss
Ocean dead zone creation
Reef and wetland destruction
Mining and drilling in the Arctic, public lands, urban areas, etc.

AND GLOBAL WARMING, for crying out loud.
+2 # Texas Aggie 2015-06-28 11:02
Getting all huffy about overpopulation without recognizing that the biggest part of the problem is the quantity of resources that each unit uses. If everyone used the same amount of resources that Americans do, the world would have self-destructed long ago. If everyone used the same amount of resources that a subSaharan African uses, there is still room for more people.

To go on about overpopulation without acknowledging that our resource use is much more responsible for environmental damage than even the Chinese are, is basically trying to shove our responsibility off on other people. And there is a certain degree of racism there as well.
-8 # davidr 2015-06-27 18:36
Lakoff is talking about two separate things here. One is framing (the language used to express ideas about nature). The other is morality (the judgment of whether we are right or wrong as we interact with nature).

On framing, yes, it does matter, at least a little bit, how the environment is described. We get a sense of someone's disposition when they choose between the words "life" and "economy", for example. It will be a good sign if the Pope's term, "home", is generally adopted around the world.

I do not, however, share Lakoff's enthusiasm for invoking morality in this matter. Our environmental crisis is global, and notwithstanding the Pope's rhetorical stance, there is no transnational morality. The term has no meaning. No such thing has yet evolved except in very narrow rules, like the Geneva Convention, and often honored in the breech.

What obtains among nations is not morality, but interest. What are the rewards & penalties of conservation? Upon what compulsion must the nation act or abstain? What help can allies provide? What risks are presented by competitors? How near is the nation to international isolation or social collapse? These are compelling questions, and more importantly, they're the only kind of question that nations ask, ever.

When a nation ponders what is right, it is never asking a moral question. It is wondering what will work best in its own advantage.
+13 # NAVYVET 2015-06-27 20:41
Usually the materialists have overpowered the moralists since the rapaciousness of European expansion began, but just look at the results!
+13 # Thinking 2015-06-27 21:01
"there is no transnational morality"

I am not sure I understand your point. Of course there is transnational morality. We see it when we buy products based on moral principles or when nations affect trade based on moral principles e.g. slavery or human rights. We see it in the TPP debate. We see it in labeling products with country of origin or with quality measures that are often moral. We see it when voters make choices based on morality rather than self-interest.
Nations are a collection of people. When the people act based on morality, the nation naturally does too.
-2 # davidr 2015-06-28 01:06
I appreciate your comment. I should have said "international, " not "transnational. " My point is, first, that Lakoff is talking about a global matter inextricable from national concerns and simply insoluble except through international action. Can't happen any other way. My second point is that nations do not conduct international affairs on any moral basis. Examples to the contrary are so trivial as to be meaningless in the context of which Lakoff speaks. The fact is that nations conduct their affairs entirely on the basis of interest. When I hear climate change discussed in moral terms, by the Pope or anyone else, I am not encouraged. I do not concur with Lakoff that morality is a helpful "frame." If the global environment isn't made to be a question of profound national interest and addressed in such terms, then the fanciest moralizing won't mean shit.
+1 # Texas Aggie 2015-06-28 11:24
There is indeed international morality. For example, while Cheney/Bush started the Iraq war for what they perceived as national interests, they would never have been able to sell it without appealing to people's international morality. The same goes with the present appeal to protecting Afghan women as an excuse to prolong the Afghan war.

If you want, you can reduce national interests to personal interests of the PTB who control national policy. So on that basis, national interest doesn't exist either.
0 # davidr 2015-06-28 16:13
I don't follow you. The Iraq War was a war for oil & US Middle Eastern hegemony. What was the moral dimension? Revenge for 9/11? Saddam's a bad man? Excuses & propaganda don't register a moral dimension. Quite the contrary. A pretended morality only demonstrates the absence of a genuine one.

National interest exists all right. If it didn't there wouldn't be treaties, there wouldn't be wars, there wouldn't be borders, distinct currencies, colonies, empires and a lot more.

But you are quite right that the national interest amounts to a consensus of the powers that be, which I call "elites" in a response to "economagic" below. My question is this: Why in hell, facing imminent environmental catastrophe, would we not appeal to the INTERESTS of the powers that be, instead of the MORALITY of the powers that don't be?
+7 # economagic 2015-06-27 21:02
"Our environmental crisis is global, and notwithstanding the Pope's rhetorical stance, there is no transnational morality."

I disagree. I am not going to tackle that one head on tonight, but I think many philosophers would agree that there are some universal standards, often ignored or hedged but nonetheless accepted at face value, so available for appeal as aspirational benchmarks if nothing more.

"When a nation ponders what is right, it is never asking a moral question. It is wondering what will work best in its own advantage."

Unquestionably. But the denial of any reality does not cause it not to exist. AGW is Exhibit A, with evolution and cosmology B and C,and myriad others behind them. It does not require "belief in" a "supreme being" to recognize that the reduction of human existence to self interest (as in mainstream economics) or to chemical reactions (as by James Watson of Double Helix fame) is absurd, and simply wrong.
+2 # davidr 2015-06-28 01:41
I don't mean to say that individuals are not morally concerned, nor that such concern is uncalled for. But global climate change is way, way, way beyond the capacity of individuals to solve. If it can be solved at all, only nations acting concertedly can do so, and nations conduct their affairs exclusively on the basis of interest. Morality is not a useful term of international relations. If we want to believe that climate change will be addressed by the richest countries because of its immoral effects on the poorest countries, well, we'll believe anything.
+1 # economagic 2015-06-28 11:55
I was not suggesting that you were denying individual morality, but questioning your claim that "there is no transnational morality," and questioning a reductionist approach at an individual or societal level. We could argue indefinitely over definitions and make no progress toward the objective we both support, namely limiting global warming in all its ramifications by massive collective action starting a decade or three ago.

I also recognize that nations are not merely the sum of their individual citizens, but have drives and objectives of their own that many citizens find repugnant. You may be familiar with the outlier anthropologist of the 1940s-1960s, Leslie A. White and his claim that "culture is a thing 'sui generis' [of its own kind]." I agree. But while the movements of nations are definitely not any simple function of those of the individuals they comprise, they are ultimately the result of the decisions and actions of those individuals.
0 # davidr 2015-06-28 13:54
Quoting economagic:
…the movements of nations are definitely not any simple function of those of the individuals they comprise, they are ultimately the result of the decisions and actions of those individuals.

Yes and no. National interest (e.g., US national interest for familiarity's sake) is, I would say, a consensus of elites. There are some identifiable individuals among those elites, but by and large, they are (or serve) groups & institutions. Among them I would place senior military staff; civilian national security apparatus; Cabinet Departments of State & Defense; high officials in the Executive Branch; senior membership & staff of Congressional Committees on Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Finance, Ways & Means, Appropriations, etc.; certain government agencies, specialized journals, think tanks & university departments concerned with global affairs, science, technology, etc.; high counsels of American business, industry & finance; & other contributors of expertise or opinion from time to time.

A consensus of these elites forms an operative view of geopolitics, the so-called "national interest." The individual souls who contribute to this consensus are in themselves moral actors. But the consensus so conceived, the national interest, is amoral (and btw often badly misguided).

Ordinary private citizens, insofar as they vote, have a miniscule impact on the national interest, because only a tiny segment of the elite ever stands for election.
+15 # Charles3000 2015-06-27 20:41
Both Lakoff and the Pope are guilty of understatement with their identification of earth as "our home". It is much, much more than a "home". We are literally and factually a part of the earth and air. If you looked at a list of the chemical composition of soil plus air and the composition of the human body you would have difficulty identifying which was which. That is what we are. That is where our bodies came from. Plants used soil, air and sun energy to grow their bodies into transformed shape and appearance and we or our parents then consumed those materials and we grew from a cell to an embryo to fetus and finally a human body, transformed again in appearance but still composed of the same substances. We are literally earth and air, nurtured by sun light that walks around. Deep down in our psyche I think we know that but our hubris tries valiantly to suppress it. We want to distance ourselves from dirt, to stay clean. Even when we die we are guarded from rejoining where we originated by burial vaults and fancy caskets but eventually nature has its way and we rejoin our origin in the eternal recycling back to the soil and air, becoming available to repeat the cycle from soil to vegetation to life forms that are literally from the soil and air. That is what we are and earth is a lot more than home. We are literally a part of it.
+14 # NAVYVET 2015-06-27 21:02
I agree, and such a realization enhances the need for moral solutions. We definitely need a TON of re-regulation and new regulation of commercial industry, and the return of stolen "property" to the common good--especiall y to the indigenous peoples who have suffered the worst since the predatory privateers began their endless rapes in the Age of (so-called) "Discovery" of lands that were already settled and well-managed.
+7 # Merlin 2015-06-27 20:56
davidr 2015-06-27 18:36
“I do not, however, share Lakoff's enthusiasm for invoking morality in this matter.”
“What obtains among nations is not morality, but interest.”

Correct me if I misunderstand your view.

You are saying that because this moral view, espoused by Lakoff and the Pope, is not currently subscribed to by the leaders of the nations of the world, that it is either invalid, or won’t work, which makes it inane or wrong. You subscribe to the idea that the way things currently are, (interest in selfish preservation, both personally and internationally ,) is not only the way it is, but the way it should be, and that that view should not be questioned in any moral sense. Morals don’t apply.
+3 # davidr 2015-06-28 02:20
I don't think we have the luxury of time to concern ourselves with anything but current forms of international relations, i.e., based exclusively on interest, as they have been since nations have existed. I see the encyclical as useful in signaling to the international right wing, particularly in this country, that the Vatican will no longer acquiesce. But insofar as its terms are moral, I don't believe it offers any guidance in formulating (nor motivation in pursuing) a national policy on climate. I will offer very long odds that national security concerns will drive our response to global warming more than anything else, especially a moral sympathy with the rest of humanity. And that doesn't particularly bother me, because responding is more important than why we respond.
+2 # wdcarrier 2015-06-27 21:02
Unfortunately, so many of the respondents still believe it is technically possible to put a gallon of glass marbles in a quart jar.
+1 # Kwamined 2015-06-28 04:08
One can hope that the Pope is a vegetarian. Then his encyclical will pack more punch.
+3 # elkingo 2015-06-28 10:17
Several years ago, the Dali Lama said, (Hello Dali, and it helps here to adopt a Tibetan accent) "Look at moon! Beautiful! But you cannot live there! Too cold! We must save our only home: this world!") (Partial paraphrase)
+2 # elkingo 2015-06-28 10:49
I hasten to add that of course population control (another global component) is endemic to rescuing the environment and hence habitability for life at all - hell, it IS an element of the environment.
+2 # elkingo 2015-06-28 11:06
There goddamn well had better a "common interest" or we are sunk..Holding out for the primacy of "national interest" shows subordination to the "capitalist fallacy' - divisive, alienating - isolating into nations - etc. The nation state is a lethal anachronism. And if indeed it IS some kind of law of nature, i.e.a genetic imperative to form identifiable and defensible groups, we'd still better goddamn well overcome this: because these embracive survival issues are physically planetary, not parochially "national".
0 # davidr 2015-06-28 13:27
Of course the people of the world have a common interest. What's more, the nations of the world have a common interest. I am quite firm on that. What I deny — and what I think would be very difficult to demonstrate — is that nations are moral actors. I further deny that anything other than international, nation-state action can avert environmental catastrophe. Hence, I disagree with Lakoff that a moral frame for discussing climate change is helpful. At best, it's a bank shot: move the peoples' conscience, and they will move their respective nations. Good luck. We'll have the climate of Venus long before that happens.

The Pope is by profession a moralist, so he speaks in those terms, and I don't begrudge him their use. But he'll have found a better "frame" when he announces to the nations of the world, "Forget about the poor if you wish, despise your neighbor, refuse love, spurn the Church & deny God altogether, if that's what's in your hearts. I'm sorry for you, but hear this. Your economies die with the environment. Your wealth disappears. Your power evaporates. You will not maintain social order when 1 or 2 or 3 billion people must migrate out of low-lying or drought-stricke n lands. You do not have the money, you do not have the guns, you do not have the resources and cannot form a plan to rebound from such eventualities. Your nation is under existential threat, and only love of Mammon can save you. Go with Mammon."
+5 # Elroys 2015-06-28 12:04
George and the Pope get it right - at some point we must recognize our common interests, as human beings on this earth, as stewards of life and the earth. For some reason, homo sapien sapien was given this extraordinary gift - large brains. Certainly, squirrels and rabbits have brains also. Whales and dolphins are quite intelligent. However, we humans have "free gifts with purchase"- a brain that has the capacity to reflect, to gain wisdom and lessons learned; to empathize, love, create incredible art, technologies, etc. We truly have amazing capacities and in our midst are incredibly wise people. Unfortunately, very few of them are in positions of leadership and power - political, business or elsewhere. Power seems to be in the hands of those who actually have the least amount of wisdom - just look at those soon-to-be 14 Rs who have declared their candidacy for the most powerful position on the planet - POTUS. (The Ds are only somewhat better).
Those in power are, for the most part, beholden to those who have financial wealth and who are driven by the ":business-as-u sual" mindset and paradigm. It is this set of values and mindset that is destroying life as we know it - they are not moral people - they are very greedy self interested people who care about nothing but their own individual short term financial interests, and willing and able to amass fortunes at all costs - and I mean, "all costs."
0 # Pabchi 2015-06-29 11:11
George Lakoff endorses the Pope's encycical on environment.Che ck out Lakoff's book:Moral Politics where he spell out this stuff brililiantly.
0 # C. Winslow 2015-07-08 14:48
Glad to see that the first commenter, WD Carrier, mentioned Garret Hardin. It was not easy in 1968 to make the argument he made. Also, many kudos to Pope Francis and George Lakoff for the above article, especially the notion that the moral issue is a collective one, not just that of individuals. While it is true that policies for ecological sustainability and new ecologically sensitive technology will help us a great deal avert the doom that otherwise awaits us from uncontrollable climate change, it will also be crucial for individuals to undergo considerable behavior change if these policies and technologies are to have a salutary effect on the environment.

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