Australian news, and some related international items

Pope Francis calls global action to save the environment

PopeThe Guardian view on Pope Francis: an unlikely voice for the environment, Guardian, 2 Sept 16  Editorial We need more than enlightened self interest to save the planet  It is less than a week since the International Geological Conference declared that we should recognise that we entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, in around 1950. The changes that we have made to the planet are now irreversible and their effects will continue for millennia to come. None the less, this may prove to be the shortest of all geological epochs, since there is no guarantee that humans, who made it, will survive the results of their own activity.

Not for the last 2.5bn years or so, since the cyanobacteria filled the earth’s atmosphere with free oxygen, poisonous to almost every other form of life at the time, has any one species had such an effect on the environment as we have done. But we are not bacteria. We are the only species capable of reflecting on our impact. We have moral agency. We can foresee the likely consequences of our actions, consider them, and then make choices. In relation to the environment, these choices have frequently been wrong and show little sign of being right in time to save us from very large and damaging climate change.

The problem is a classic one of game theory and it is one that liberal democracies are ill-fitted to handle. Trust and co-operation would lead to the best result for everyone, but each player or nation state will benefit more in the short term from a policy of selfishness and treachery. The shortness of electoral cycles in the rich world means that almost all governments need economic growth today, whatever the cost to be repaid with cruel interest in the future. That will be someone else’s problem, just as the effects of climate change now appear to be someone else’s problem, until these other people start fleeing war, starvation and disease and turn up at the edges of the richer world.

Climate change is a global problem, and it can only be countered by some kind of global consciousness and a sense of the common good that embraces the whole of humanity. This is where the efforts of the world religions become important. …….

Enter Pope Francis, who has swung the weight of his papacy behind the environmental movement in an unprecedented way. He is not alone. All of the organised world religions now have a strong environmental consciousness. All of them are affected. To be a world religion is by definition to have adherents among both the unimaginably poor and the unimaginably wealthy. However, Pope Francis has devoted considerable effort and political capital to the attempt to construct a coherent theory that can show how damage to our environment also harms us, and not just our hypothetical descendants. This really matters. Self-interest will only work to the common benefit if it is understood that we ourselves are mutually dependent creatures who harm ourselves when we harm one another…….

what his latest initiative imaginatively suggests. Care for the environment is henceforth to be considered by faithful Catholics as a “work of mercy” – what the outside world would call a charitable act. They are called to “a grateful contemplation of God’s world” as a spiritual discipline, but also to the kind of small, slightly inconvenient gestures like recycling, using public transport, or even just turning off unneeded lights, which by themselves are almost meaningless, but when practised by billions of people make a real and very necessary change.

All of these, he says, are to be understood as “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”; and while the world undoubtedly needs huge and dramatic actions to break the cycle of exploitation and climate change, it also needs ordinary people to play their part with just such simple acts.

September 3, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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