The First (March 2016)
‘Caring for our common home’
Sharon A Bong
A virus that makes us infertile?… a highly contagious airborne pathogen that could do so by altering us genetically seemed to be belong to another world… Inferno [was created] as a kind of modern-day catalyst for global renewal – a Transhumanist Black Death… [where] one third of the population will continue to be sterile for all time.
Pope Francis has suggested women threatened with the Zika virus could use artificial contraception, saying “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil” in light of the global epidemic.
Thankfully, the first text does indeed “belong to another world” – the world of fiction and thankfully, the second text is not fictional. The first text, an extract from Dan Brown’s Inferno, of The Da Vinci Code fame, refers to the eponymous sterility virus unleashed by a scientist to unnaturally cull the human race. The second text is newsworthy as the Pope endorsed the use of contraception for women infected with the Zika virus as birth effects include babies born with abnormally small heads. In doing so, the Pope delves into relativism; where “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil,” having an abortion is.
What both texts have in common are out-of-character human responses to a crisis and epidemic, respectively; human overpopulation that is unsustainable for the earth and the Zika virus as a “worldwide health emergency” as declared by the World Health Organisation. Both men, one fictional and the other, the religious leader of the Catholic Church, are men of compassion.
Human intervention brings to mind the much-lauded encyclical letter “Laudato Si’. The text is lauded as it is the first encyclical letter that is devoted to climate change and climate justice and builds on the ecological visions of Pope Francis’ predecessors. It comprises six chapters and 246 articles: ‘What is happening to our common home?,’ The Gospel of Creation,’ ‘The human roots of the ecological crisis,’ ‘Integral ecology,’ ‘Lines of approach and action,’ and ‘Ecological education and spirituality.’
In the sixth subsection of Chapter 1 on ‘Weak responses,’ Pope Francis consolidates the concept of climate justice where “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (LS, 49). Weak responses to these cries include “certain politics of ‘reproductive health’” (RH) as a response to overpopulation (LS, 50), that is listed alongside “ecological debt” between the global north and south (LS, 51), “techno-economic paradigm” (LS, 53) and a “deified market” (LS, 56).
Caring for our common home calls for us to discern the full ethical implications of human culpability, capability and compassion in living out what it means to be human in a human-centred creation. Only then can we then truly acclaim, “Laudato Si” – praise be to you!
 Dan Brown, Inferno (New York: Anchor Books, 2013), 578-580.
 Agencies, “Vatican to relax contraception ban,” The Star, February 20, 2016, 23.
 Pope Francis, “Encyclical Letter Laudato Si of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home,” May 24, 2015, accessed July 14, 2015, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.