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Interest in protecting environment up since Pope’s 2015 encyclical

21 / 05 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

Just before Pope Francis released Laudato Si’, an encyclical, or formal letter from the pope, on the environment, on May 24, 2015, global concern for the environment seemed to be on the wane. Environmental scientist Malcolm McCallum had recently co-authored a paper that surmised as much, based on an analysis of Google search terms going back to the early 2000s. “I threw in [the search term] ‘environment,’ and ‘environment’ was falling through the floor,” McCallum, an assistant professor at Langston University in Oklahoma, said in an interview. His findings jibed other recent studies on the publication of books and surveys of student attitudes. But after the papal encyclical, which was subtitled “On Care for Our Common Home,” McCallum decided to take a second look at the Google Trends data, examining how people in dozens of countries around the world were using search terms like “conservation,” “biodiversity,” “climate change” and “pollution.” Pope Francis, pictured here in 2014. Image by Jeffrey Bruno via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0). McCallum’s analysis suggested a marked and sustained change in interest after the encyclical’s release. “Sure enough, it shot through the roof,” he said. “I was actually very surprised.” On May 20, days before the fourth anniversary of the release of Laudato Si’, McCallum published his findings in the journal Biological Conservation, covering the period from 2012 up through 2017. Francis’s call to tackle environmental issues isn’t altogether new for the Roman Catholic Church. Though not a biblical scholar by training, McCallum found evidence that…

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