You don’t always see high hosannas to Catholic popes in The New York Review of Books, a literary intellectual magazine once dubbed the ground zero of Radical Chic.
But there’s the headline, in big red letters, on the cover of its August issue: “The Pope & The Planet” (subscription required). The writer is none other than Bill McKibben, one of the nation’s leading — if not the leading — environmentalist. And Laudato Si’, he says, merits the highest of hosannas. It is not just the hugely influential document many in the media have called it. Instead, it moves beyond “a narrow and focused contribution” to the climate debate to become “nothing less than a sweeping, radical and highly persuasive critique of how we inhabit this planet — an ecological critique, yes, but also a moral, social, economic and spiritual commentary. “
Pope Francis claims our very way of understanding human life and activity and our relationship to the earth has “gone awry,” McKibben writes, and completely agrees. The changes required of the world, both argue, are revolutionary.
You know many were surprised earlier this month when Crux reported that the leftist, feminist, and Jewish Naomi Klein was invited to speak at the Vatican on climate change. Yet her selection made complete sense.
Klein’s latest book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” argues, essentially, what the pope does: that fighting climate change means a wholesale refiguring of the world’s economy, particularly American capitalism. Klein has said that Republicans — who often dismiss human impact on climate change, and most recently, the pope’s perspective — understand this better than many Democrats. Naively, she says, some Democrats seem to believe we can recycle our way back to a healthy earth.
Now Pope Francis joins Klein in arguing for the same kind of dramatic economic upheaval McKibben has written about for years.
The question now, McKibben writes in “The Pope and the Planet,” is whether Francis can push this revolution along or whether his words, quoting scripture, will fall “as seeds on rocky ground.”