Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home


on Sunday, 04 October 2015. Posted in Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home, Environment


Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home, the first papal document devoted entirely to ecology, has generated considerable interest and debate since its publication in June 2015. The encyclical is at once an exploration of the various environmental crises facing the world, a radical critique of current economic models, a call to action, and a reminder of the values which underpin Christian concern for the environment. 

Ecological Economics and Politics in the Ecology Encyclical

on Sunday, 04 October 2015. Posted in Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home, Environment

PdfIconEcological Economics and Politics in the Ecology Encyclical

Donal Dorr

The ecology encyclical, Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home, issued by Pope Francis in June 2015, is a very wide-ranging document. It is a call for ‘an ecological conversion’ in the areas of economics and politics – and also in the spheres of spirituality, theology, culture, and education. In this article, I shall focus only on the pope’s challenge to governments and to all of us to establish an ecologically oriented economics and politics.1

Ecological Economics

At the heart of the transformation called for in the encyclical is the replacement of the present-day market-dominated economics by a truly ecological economics – or what Francis calls an ‘economic ecology’ (§ 141). He is calling for a rejection of the ‘deified market’ (§ 56). This is a term which he later explains by referring to ‘a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals’. (§ 190)

In the same paragraph, he points out that, ‘Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about … the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.’ In that situation, he adds, ‘biodiversity is considered at most a deposit of economic resources available for exploitation ...’. (§ 190)  

An important account of one crucial aspect of an ecological economics comes in the following passage:

Preparing the Road to Paris

on Saturday, 03 October 2015. Posted in Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home, Environment

PdfIconPreparing the Road to Paris

John Sweeney


Some of the younger activists at a recent United Nations Climate Conference sported tee shirts which read: ‘You have been negotiating about climate change since before I was born!’. Indeed, the seemingly intractable negotiations which began with the First Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Berlin in 1995 have been in essence a spectacular failure. These negotiations have been unable to deliver a global agreement capable of offering hope to the next generation that the inexorable rise in greenhouse gas emissions can be contained at a level that does not endanger their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the entire planet. 

This kind of agreement is, however, at last within reach – or is it? The forthcoming 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, from 30 November to 11 December 2015, is eagerly anticipated as offering the prospect of an agreement capable of bringing about reductions in carbon emissions sufficient to limit the rise in global temperature to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. A rise in temperature in excess of this would commit the world to unavoidable ‘dangerous climate change’. 

Careful ‘choreography’ has produced an expectation that, at last, what Pope Francis referred to as the ‘Care for Our Common Home’ will be prioritised over narrow national self-interests and powerful vested interest groups. The background to this prospect and the chances of success are addressed in this article. 

Environmental Initiatives by Church Groups in Ireland

on Friday, 02 October 2015. Posted in Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home, Environment

PdfIconEnvironmental Initiatives by Church Groups in Ireland

A previous issue of Working Notes devoted to environmental questions (Issue 72, October 2013) included articles describing initiatives by four Church groups in Ireland aimed at protecting and enhancing the natural environment. 

In this issue, we publish articles outlining the ecology work of a further six groups. The first article describes the work of the Presentation Sisters in Ireland. Following this, there are articles on four church communities (Carrigaline Union, Church of Ireland; Clonakilty Methodist Church; Fitzroy Presbyterian Church; Rathfarnham Quaker Meeting) which have received an ‘Eco-Congregation Ireland Award’, and on a fifth (Balally Catholic Parish) which is shortly to receive an Award. The Eco-Congregation Award is open to church groups throughout the island of Ireland which have been working on ecology issues for a minimum of two years. Applications are assessed on the basis of environmental work undertaken under four headings: spiritual, practical, community and global. 

Eco-Congregation Ireland is an all-Ireland, inter-denominational project, which aims to provide information, resources and support for individuals and church groups wishing to become involved in awareness-raising and practical action in relation to environmental questions. The initiative is supported by the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Methodist Church and the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland (Quakers) (see:; see also, Catherine Brennan, ‘Eco-Congregation Ireland’, Working Notes, Issue 72, October 2013


The Role of Social Enterprise in Renewable Energy Production

on Thursday, 01 October 2015. Posted in Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home, Environment

PdfIconThe Role of Social Enterprise in Renewable Energy Production

Gerard Doyle


Natural resources – water, energy and fertile soil – are fundamental to our life on earth. Many environmentalists – for example, Tim Jackson1 – believe that at the heart of the environmental crisis we are experiencing, and which is manifesting itself in so many ways, lies over-consumption of the earth’s resources. In 2009, for example, it was estimated that humans were extracting and using in excess of 50% more natural resources than was the case thirty years previously.2 

This level of consumption is leading to deforestation, species extinction at an alarming rate, shrinking of our natural water resources and climate change. In order for people in both developed and developing countries to live fulfilled lives, there is need to reduce over-consumption wherever it occurs and, in essence, to live more sustainably. Failure to do so will lead to increased pressure being exerted on ecosystems and may ultimately result in large swathes of the earth becoming uninhabitable.3

In his encyclical letter, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis documents the relationship between environmental degradation and global inequality.4 He speaks of the requirement to replace the culture of consumption with a more humane and ecological model of economic development which meets all of humanity’s essential needs.

This article asserts that social enterprise can play an important role in addressing many aspects of the environmental crisis. The particular focus of the article is the contribution which social enterprise can make towards combating climate change through the development of renewable energy projects.

We tend to think that law defines what crime is. This makes sense because contemporary legal codes are concerned with marking out the territory where conduct is permissible by specifying the conduct that is outlawed. Yet the earliest bodies of law – consider for example, the Torah or Hammurabi’s Code – are at least as committed to articulating the good as proscribing the bad... Read full editorial

Working Notes is a journal published by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The journal focuses on social, economic and theological analysis of Irish society. It has been produced since 1987.