Throughout Laudato Si’, Pope Francis decries what he calls the “throwaway culture.” At first blush, given the over-arching ecological theme of Laudato Si, this may seem to be solely a critique of wasteful consumerism. However, it is far more than that. It is a critique of a mindset and world view that discards people, promises, values and community bonds when they seem to lack immediately obvious or quantifiable value in the eyes of the world. Although this is a profoundly personal moral critique, it also provides a lens through which all laws and public policies might be viewed. Laudato Si’ asks readers to contemplate whether public attitudes toward utilitarianism shape laws and public policies in dangerous, even tragic, ways, as treasure may be blithely discarded. This essay begins by addressing Pope Francis’ explication of the many facets of the “throwaway” culture – both in and beyond Laudato Si’ – as he sees this problem as a pervasive one. It also explores what it may mean for law and policy-making if the “throwaway” culture is rejected – and what might replace it.
Lucia Ann Silecchia, Laudato Si’ and the Tragedy of the “Throwaway Culture,” CUA COLUMBUS SCH. OF LAW LEGAL STUD. RESEARCH PAPER No. 2017-2 (2017).