What does Pope Francis mean by “rapidification”?

Posted by Alice L. Camille
Tuesday 12, September 2017 | Category:   Doctrines & Beliefs
Climate change
Unsustainable production, consumption, and disposal is NOT progress, the pope insists.

We humans have an expression for the pace that makes us impatient: “glacially slow.” Not too slow, we imagine, if you’re a glacier. The biological world moves at a pace quite natural to it, with the rhythm of seasons, centuries, and eons performing an ecological waltz that’s both graceful and, yes, glacial. But human history is running a marathon against time, our little lifetimes being the scale by which we measure what’s an acceptable momentum for change.

This intensified pace of social evolution leads to a phenomenon the pope calls “rapidification.” In Chapter 1 of his encyclical Laudato si, he expresses concern that “the myth of progress” accepts that our present technological juggernaut is sustainable, and that any collateral “ecological problems will solve themselves.” This confidence is irrational, the pope notes. Natural ecosystems are circular: taking, using, and returning goods for the next cycle of life. Human production, by contrast, is linear: taking resources, passing them through non-biodegradable, toxic, and radioactive processes, and returning hundreds of millions of tons of often poisonous waste to the earth.

Our rapidified consumption of resources is having immediate critical effects. The planet is warming. Glaciers are melting at a not-so-glacial pace. Sea level is rising, biodiversity is shrinking, and tropical forests are being lost. Overfishing threatens the oceans’ abundance. Essential resources such as water and agricultural production are waning in availability. Within a few decades, water scarcity is likely to affect billions of people. Animals and plants alike are migrating in an attempt to adapt. This dramatic shift affects human lives, as the poor too must migrate to survive.

The global migrations we’ve already seen, from south to north, are posing complex problems for countries that cannot or will not receive those in motion. Environmental degradation will only worsen these social pressures, setting the scene for more violence and new wars. As the pope says: “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together.”

Rapidification is a lifestyle that must be reconsidered. This is not to denounce progress. Unsustainable production, consumption, and disposal is NOT progress, the pope insists. A fundamental shift in our thinking is needed: to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. We need to think and act together. The planet is too small, and life is too fragile, to take sides.

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-31; Leviticus 19:9-10; 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 8:7-20; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Joel 1:16-20; Matthew 6:25-34; Revelation 22:1-5

Books: Care for Creation: A Call for Ecological Conversion, by Pope Francis (2016)

Apocalyptic Ecology: The Book of Revelation, the Earth, and the Future, by Mical Kiel (2017)

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