The Water Crisis Is Real, So Put Down That Bottled Water
Francis—the first pope from the developing world—highlights the broad impact that climate change is having on the poor, but he takes steps to emphasize some specific impacts. One chapter looks at the water crisis, saying that global warming has depleted freshwater resources, while industrial activity and chemical pollution has polluted drinking water in poor places. Building on the theme of limiting consumption, Francis laments that, "in some places, there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market."
A water shortage could have huge ramifications for agriculture and public health, he says, adding, "It is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century."
Pesticides Pollute and GMOs Are a Complex Issue
Francis takes on pesticides in a section of the encyclical focused on "pollution, waste, and the throwaway culture." After noting that daily exposure to pollutants can create serious and even deadly health risks, the pope says that "fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and agrotoxins in general" cause pollution that impacts everyone.
Francis also delves into the controversy over genetically modified organisms. The pope notes that genetic modification of plants and animals is not a new phenomenon but one that exists in nature and has also been carried out by humans for years. "It is difficult to make a general judgement about genetic modification (GM)," the encyclical says.
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But Francis still strikes a note of caution: "Although no conclusive proof exists that GM cereals may be harmful to human beings, and in some regions their use has brought about economic growth that has helped to resolve problems, there remain a number of significant difficulties that should not be underestimated." Francis warns that "the expansion of these crops has the effect of destroying the complex network of ecosystems [and] diminishing the diversity of production."
The Pope Thinks You Should Ride the Bus
Francis links the quality of life in cities to how we get around. Too many cars on the road cause traffic jams and pollution and suck up fossil fuels, the encyclical notes, adding that overreliance on cars also leads to the construction of more roads and the paving over of the natural environment to create parking lots.
Riding the bus or the metro may be the antidote, the encyclical suggests. "Many specialists agree on the need to give priority to public transportation," the document reads, while praising the efforts that some countries have made in recent years to improve their public-transit networks.