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The Pope's Encyclical Letter

The two main theses of the Pope's writing are we should be acting in the interest of all humans not just ourselves and that we should be acting in the interest of the planet.

We should take the life, dignity and universal rights of all humans to heart in all our interactions with another person. The heart, love, dignity and respect are all the ends to our life and that the system only works if we do this for each other. Society is a common good and it only works if everyone makes the effort to participate. To be good people and good to each other. The Pope makes specific connects to the global economy and says that our gains, pleasures and walk through life should not cause or take advantage of some one else's hardship.

Similarly, I think, we must also be stewards of the earth. That it is a common good that gives beauty and glory to all who witness it. We are a brotherhood that must respect and take care of the planet. Not exploit it for personal, short term gain. And like society, it only works if we all participate and work together to preserve an amazing gift.

There is clearly Kantian ethics at play here with a strong Marxist anti-capitalist sentiment. The Pope makes some pretty strong proclamations but does not suggest booting capitalism to the curb. Just reshifting the focus to trim the barbs of capitalism's less desirable characteristics.

Being the paternal figure he is, he calls everyone out and declares that we are all accountable. Manufacturers and big business. Small business, farmers and ranchers. And you and me.

But achieving these goals are possible if we make the right changes through sustainable consumption, protecting the environment, respecting sovereignty and the treatment of others.

We must be keen to take only our fair share. Conspicuous, blind consumption has to end. I don't think anyone needs to go without or give up the comforts of a modern American life. But we need to shift towards efficient, educated consumption. This movement is well underway but there is so much more to know. For every product I buy ideally I'd like to know how the materials were sourced and how production was conducted. Was it done sustainably and clean with no slave labor? Were workers paid a dignified wage? And we need technology and a way of life that reduces consumption for the same amount of comfort. More bang for the buck. This includes water, energy and raw materials. Reusing and recycling aren't a solution but they can form part of a solution.

Production should be sustainable. This includes farming that does not destroy the ocean or soil. That produces healthy, tasty food. Manufacturing that uses sustainable energy and reduced externalities. And businesses need to be cognizant of the products they are buying and how they provide their own goods and services. For the consumer we need a way to measure how well a business can accomplish their ends without destroing the environment or hurting others.

Sovereignty is an interesting issue. Countries run by dictators, have massive debt or are bullied by neighbors suffer without need. Third world countries need the infrastructure to develop and provide a quality life for citizens. And we need countries to commit to protecting natural habitat and providing their own sustainable methods of production and consumption.

Lastly, we need to treat other human beings as ends not means. They are not robots or objects. They are whole people exactly like you. We all have a right to respect, life and dignity. What we need to realize is that how we spend our money has a direct impact on people. We are accustomed to low cost products. Folks ought to have a working wage and a good life. I don't mind paying a little more (10-30%) for someone to be comfortable. It doesn't impact me much but it sure helps them. And if possible allowing for fulfilling work and ownership.

For myself I think I can do better through more sustainable consumption, healthy living and discipline. I can commit to the following principles:

  • Buy boutique, handmade, local, seasonal goods
  • Buy products that have worker Protection
  • Simple Living. Stay within my means.
  • Buy renewable power
  • Consider externalities
  • Use less water
  • Fuel efficient car, use public transit
  • Protect the land
  • Balanced eating
  • Eat quality ingredients
  • Buy products that were sustainable produced
  • Buy ethically raised food
  • Cleanliness
  • Treat people with dignity and respect

To put a figure on this these are my consumption targets for 2015:

  • 20% (mostly whole grain) carbs
  • 20% protein (meat and seafood)
  • 50% nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit, eggs and beans
  • 10% dairy
  • 2 desserts/wk
  • 5 drinks/wk
  • No coffee after 1pm
  • Moderate fat intake


  • 2 workouts/wk
  • Glasswork once/wk
  • Walk to/from work


  • 25% local, handmade or from USA
  • 25% fairtrade, worker protected and ethically raised/produced
  • 25% organic or freerange food
  • 4 earths total consumption (based on a survey that I used to consume 5-7 earths)


  • 25% renewable power
  • 25% sustainable materials (how to measure this?)
  • 25% sustainable production (how to measure this?)
  • 10 showers/wk
  • 25% total miles public transit/walk
  • 25% recycled waste


  • Donate to land conservation. Pay taxes (to support govt sponsored conservation).
  • Buy higher quality, tastier food.
  • Live a clean lifestyle.
  • Treat people with respect.

The planet and humanity are gifts. This incredible place we live didn't have to happen, but it did. We should protect it and enjoy it. The rate we are going things are going to get pretty nasty even by the end of our own lifetime so it really is in our best interest to be stewards of the earth and brothers to each other.

Let us appreciate the mystery and beauty of the earth.

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