The pope has some blunt opinions about taking care of the Earth.

It's not a stretch to say that Pope Francis has been a bit of a surprise.

Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images.

Let's see. First, there was the fact that the previous pope, Benedict XVI, stepped down — the first resignation since 1415. So that was already a pretty big deal.


Then the Vatican elected, of all people, this guy — a Jesuit, which had never happened before; a person from the Western Hemisphere, which had never happened before; and a non-European, which hadn't happened since the 700s!

Then the surprises continued, with his remarkably tolerant statements about gay priests and atheists (although he's still pretty conservative on other topics, like birth control and trans people).

One very pleasant surprise, at least for me, has been just how much Pope Francis seems to care about the environment.

Pope Francis addressing the United Nations in 2015. Part of his message was confronting climate change and ecological degradation. Photo from Bryan Thomas/Getty Images.

Science and religion haven't always gotten along. But when it comes to the environment, Pope Francis has been an outspoken supporter. On Sept. 1, the Catholic Church's World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (which he started, by the way), Pope Francis said: "We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour."

When we take care of the Earth, we're taking care of each other too.

"Human beings are deeply connected with all of creation. When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings," the pope said.

Environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change affect people all across the world, and Francis pointed out that it's disproportionately people who are already suffering — such as the poor or refugees — who bear the brunt of it.

Droughts and other natural disasters are likely to become more severe and common as climate change worsens. Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.

Thus, fixing the environment goes hand in hand with addressing other problems.

"To give polluted water to someone who is thirsty doesn't make sense," Vatican panelist and author Terrence Ward said. "You have to clean it up first."

Pope Francis even gave examples of what we can do to make the world a better place.

He suggested consuming less, showing care for other living things, and planting trees, for example. He also highlighted the 2015 Paris Agreement as a step forward and advocated for citizens to push for "even more ambitious goals."

Pope Francis even suggested that caring for the planet should be added to the seven Corporal Works of Mercy, which would put taking care of the Earth on the same level as charitable actions like feeding the hungry and giving alms to the poor.

It's tremendous to see this marriage of mercy, responsibility, and environmental stewardship broadcast to such a large audience.

After all, there are more than a billion Catholics in the world.

Although maybe we shouldn't be too surprised that the pope's so concerned with the environment. After all, he did take his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi. And while the pope said it was because of St. Francis' care of the poor, St. Francis does just so happen to be the patron saint of animals and ecology, too. Just saying.

Heroes

Comedy legend Carol Burnett once said, "Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head." She wasn't joking.

Going through childbirth is widely acknowledged as one of the most grueling things a human can endure. Having birthed three babies myself, I can attest that Burnett's description is fairly accurate—if that seemingly impossible lip-stretching feat lasted for hours and involved a much more sensitive part of your body.

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via SNL / YouTube

Christopher Walken is one of the greatest actors of his generation. He's been nominated for an Academy Award twice for best supporting actor, winning once for 1978's "The Deer Hunter" and receiving a nomination for 2002's "Catch Me if You Can."

He's played memorable roles in "Annie Hall," "Pulp Fiction," "Wedding Crashers," "Batman Returns," and countless other films. He's also starred in Shakespeare on the stage and began his career as a dancer.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

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