Will the Pope Talk Overpopulation & I=PAT?


As I am sure you have seen in the media, the Pope’s “papal encyclical” is due out tomorrow. As CNN explains, “Derived from the Greek word for ‘circle,’ a papal encyclical is a letter from the pope to Catholic clergy and laypeople around the world.” This one though, he hopes “will reach a wider audience, including world leaders meeting for several key environmental summits this year.” It is supposed to be the “first to focus exclusively on ‘creation care,’ the Christian idea that God gave humans the Earth to cultivate, not conquer.” 

So what will he advise we do to cultivate the Earth and solve climate change?

It’s More than Consumption Reduction

From what I have read, Pope Francis focuses on how overconsumption in wealthy countries is the problem. The answer: reduce consumption. Many scientists would say it is more than that, starting with physicist John Holdren and biologist Paul Ehrlich. In the 70s, then both at Stanford University, they set down in the journal Science a key formula that is at work when it comes to climate change.

It is the scientific formula known as I=PAT.  From Man Swarm, It means: “The impact of any human group on the environment can be usefully viewed as the product of three different factors. The first is the nI=PATumber of people. The second is some measure of the average person’s consumption of resources…Finally, the product of those two factors…is multiplied by an index of the environmental disruptiveness of the technologies that provide the goods consumed.

In short, (I) Impact = (P) Population x (A) Affluence (resource consumption) x (T) Technology, or I=PAT.”

The papal encyclical will likely focus on the (A) in this equation as the source of Impact. Will he touch the factor, (P)? Highly unlikely. If he gets into the number of humans as part of the problem, then that opens the door to having to discuss birth control. But as studies and analyses agree, we can’t lower Impact by only lowering Affluence – or by Technology alone. As Dave Foreman writes, “Population is the big dog in I=PAT.” This is an eye-opening and key discussion in Man Swarm.

In other words, when it comes to “creation care” what really needs talking about is the reduction of human numbers. Will the Pope go there? As a leader of the world’s largest Christian church that promotes pronatalist dogma – with reproduction at the center of it – don’t bet on it.

One thought on “Will the Pope Talk Overpopulation & I=PAT?

  1. I saw this Letter to the Editor in the SF Chronicle today ~ could not have said it better myself:

    “I think I speak for many people when I say I am heartened by a world leader with as much credibility as the pope taking a forceful position on global warming. Perhaps he is the only such leader who can speak and act exclusively on the basis of the morality rather than political expediency. Now if he would only address the real underlying cause: population explosion. If the nations of the world can act to reign in excessive consumption of hydrocarbon fuels, perhaps the Catholic Church could change its archaic policies on birth control and teach its followers to procreate responsibly.”

    David Matzinger, Menlo Park

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