Pope Francis Embraces Circular Economy

By Maclain Pinkerton, US BCSD Summer Intern

The circular economy now has the backing of a papal mandate, thanks to Pope Francis's June 18th encyclical letter ("Laudato Si") concerning the environment. In only 2 years of papacy, Pope Francis has made headlines for his many progressive (and at times controversial) opinions regarding poverty, homosexuality, and interfaith dialogue. His newest focus is on the environment, decrying wasteful use of materials and endorsing the science behind human-driven climate change.

Stating that "Mother Earth... cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her," Pope Francis acknowledges the negative impacts of unsustainable economic practices. His request for ecological reform heavily promotes the transition to a circular economy, demonstrated by his views that "our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources... while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them."

He also stresses the importance of action vs. attitude by saying that "people may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption." He isn't speaking just to Catholics, but to everyone, saying "Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production, and consumption."

Pope Francis chose his name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment. He reflects this with his groundbreaking opinions on environmental reform, the full text of which can be found here. Perhaps this new Catholic doctrine will give zero-waste initiatives around the world a much-needed dose of divine intervention.

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