Douthat on Pope Francis’s Call to action on Environment and More


1.      Pope takes a stand on the great argument of our time between dynamists and catastrophists

2.      Dynamists: Modernity a success story whose best days are ahead

         a.      21century modernity is successful civilization advancing towards a future better than the past

         b.      Problems can be solved by innovations and continuing on our ever-richer, ever more liberated course

         c.      Left dynamists put faith in technocratic government

         d.      Right dynamists put faith in genius of free market

3.      Catastrophists

         a.      Global civilization is morally bankrupt and more and more environmentally despoiled

         b.      Things can’t go on as they are; trajectory we are on will end in crisis/disaster

         c.      Current arrangements are foredoomed

         d.      Only true revolution can save us

4.      Francis is a catastrophist

         a.      Pope’s statement not just case for taking CC more seriously

         b.      He criticizes whole technological paradigm of our civilization and all the economic and cultural ways we now live

         c.      ??Believes the 500 year modern scientific mind-set is a mistake

         d.      Need new political authority

         e.      Frank contempt for existing global leadership class

         f.      While hopeful at times, it is basically apocalyptic: “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth.”

5.      Douthat’s critique

         a.      ***Pope ignores that global poor have become steadily less poor under the system he decries and this fact has complicated implications for environmentalism

Remarkable Declines in Global Poverty, But Major Challenges Remain


         b.      If you believe in large families (as Pope does?), then perhaps you need a more dynamist view of human future

         c.      How can the planet sustain the steadily growing population the Catholic vision of marriages/fecundity implies if resources so constrained and tech solutions are so limited?

                  i.      Perhaps his ideas about reduce consumption and different type of economy answer this objection

6.      Douthat stagnationist position

         a.      Although CC is real, it may not mean our current world system is unsustainable but only that we will face chronic, manageable problems

         b.      Proposes a view in between other two:

                  i.      Stagnationist position, a sustainable decadence, where problems Pope identifies percolate but never reach a world-altering boil

         c.      If so, deep critique our civilization deserves will have to be advanced w/o threat of imminent destruction

         d.      Fear here is not that evils of our age can’t last, but that they actually can.

Study Questions

1.      What is the difference between a dynamist and a catastrophist?

2.      Which one is the Pope according to the author?

3.      Which one are you and why?

4.      Describe the in between position the author suggests (stagnationist). Does that seem the most likely to you?