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Story WFDD September 28, 2015

Pope Calls for Climate Change Action

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Image by Justin Catanoso. Italy, 2015.
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Latin America's first pope derides our "throw-away" culture while offering a stern prescription for...

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Media file: farm_valley_near_mine_site.jpg
This farm valley in southern Peru, just above the border with Chile, is threatened by the first mine ever proposed for a region—an open pit copper mine that protesters have stalled since 2009. Image by Justin Catanoso. Peru, 2015.

Pope Francis is coming to the U.S. this week. He will be the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday. The Pope has made some political adversaries as of late, after he released his encyclical, which is his moral document. In it he's called for swift action on climate change.

Wake Forest Journalism Professor Justin Catanoso has been reporting on the Pope's encyclical. He spent time in Peru this summer to find out whether the Pope's message will make an impact here and abroad.

"Peru is ground zero for the fight against global warming. It has one of the world's largest tropical forests, which stores a lot of carbon. They also have more biodiversity there than any country on earth" says Catanoso. "But they also have enormous environmental conflict because they're the world's treasure trove. The extraction industry is really big in Peru."

"If I could go to one country to test the premise of the Pope's influence, Peru would be the place to go," he adds.

Catanoso reports on the small town of Cocachacra, where local farmers have been in conflict with an international mining company. He said he was surprised about how few people were even aware of the encyclical, where three out of four Peruvians are Catholic.

"This is a long-term thing," says Catanoso. "Eventually, the people I spoke with said this will sink into policy."

He adds that the Pope's influence on the U.S. is even murkier, where his approval ratings plunged after releasing his encyclical, according to a recent Gallup poll, particularly among conservatives.

"He's going to appear before Congress and he's going to bring [climate change] up," says Catanoso. "And he probably won't get a very warm reception from Republicans."

Listen to the interview here.

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