chapter  4
The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor
WithDarrel Moellendorf
Pages 16

Pope Francis’s remarkable encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ has as a central message the need to turn our ears and hearts “so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (49). A pro-poor environmentalism is very good news indeed. And while the teaching is, of course, a Roman Catholic one and contains elements that many non-Catholics would find objectionable, the central commitment to social justice and ecological concern is ecumenical and has broad appeal. Moreover, it is offered in the spirit of dialogue, not simply as dogma for all to follow. In this chapter, I critically discuss the reasons offered in Laudato Si’ for the twin condemnation of global poverty and environmental destruction. Additionally, although I reject the idea that human development can and should proceed in harmony with nature, I consider guidelines for a pro-poor social justice agenda if we take seriously the intrinsic value of nature. The kind of reconciliation suggested by the encyclical is, I think, implausible. Still, the pursuit of poverty eradicating human development should seek to limit the destruction of natural value. To fail to do so is to fail to respond adequately to the value of nature. I offer some preliminary suggestions for how to think about the pursuit of both poverty eradication and the preservation of natural value.