Pope’s call to ac­tion on cli­mate

Fran­cis’ en­cycli­cal links global warm­ing to hu­mans and de­cries un­sus­tain­able cul­ture of con­sump­tion.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Monte Morin and Christina Boyle

Pope Fran­cis on Thurs­day called for im­me­di­ate changes in hu­man be­hav­ior to fight global warm­ing and save the en­vi­ron­ment, say­ing dam­age caused by con­tem­po­rary lifestyles could leave fu­ture gen­er­a­tions in a world of filth.

In a pow­er­fully worded en­cycli­cal, the leader of the Ro­man Catholic Church chas­tised those who would deny a hu­man con­nec­tion to cli­mate change. Fran­cis de­clared that the planet was in­deed grow­ing warmer and that the dan­ger­ous trend was due largely to a cul­ture of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion.

Trag­i­cally, he said, peo- ple have grown in­creas­ingly self-ob­sessed, ever more dis­tant from na­ture and alarm­ingly pre­oc­cu­pied with tech­no­log­i­cal nov­elty.

“Dooms­day pre­dic­tions can no longer be met with irony or dis­dain,” Fran­cis wrote in the highly an­tic­i­pated en­cycli­cal, or teach­ing doc­u­ment, re­leased Thurs­day. “We may well be leav­ing to com­ing gen­er­a­tions de- bris, des­o­la­tion and filth. The pace of con­sump­tion, waste and en­vi­ron­men­tal change has so stretched the planet’s ca­pac­ity that our con­tem­po­rary lifestyle, un­sus­tain­able as it is, can only pre­cip­i­tate catas­tro­phes.”

At a Vat­i­can news con­fer­ence, Car­di­nal Peter Turk­son, who wrote a draft of the doc­u­ment, said hu­man­ity is fac­ing a “cru­cial chal­lenge” that needs to be ad­dressed through di­a­logue.

“For Pope Fran­cis it is im­per­a­tive that prac­ti­cal pro­pos­als not be de­vel­oped in an ide­o­log­i­cal, su­per­fi­cial or re­duc­tion­ist way,” he said.

Metropoli­tan of Perg­a­mon John Zizioulas, rep­re­sent­ing the Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­ar­chate and the Ortho­dox Church, said the en­v­i­ron-

men­tal cri­sis was also a spir­i­tual prob­lem caused by the rise of in­di­vid­u­al­ism and a greed for per­sonal hap­pi­ness.

He warned that it could leave fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to in­herit a dam­aged world if not ad­dressed.

“The pur­suit of in­di­vid­ual hap­pi­ness has been made into an ideal in our time,” he said. “Eco­log­i­cal sin is due to hu­man greed, which blinds men and women to the point of ig­nor­ing and dis­re­gard­ing the ba­sic truth that the hap­pi­ness of the in­di­vid­ual de­pends on its re­la­tion­ship with the rest of hu­man be­ings.”

He said the eco­log­i­cal cri­sis was grow­ing in con­junc­tion with the spread of so­cial in­jus­tice. “We can­not face suc­cess­fully the one with­out deal­ing with the other.”

A draft of the more than 180-page doc­u­ment ti­tled “Laudato Si” (Be Praised) had been leaked to the Ital­ian press this week, but even long be­fore that, par­ties on both sides of the highly politi­cized global warm­ing de­bate had been pre­par­ing for its re­lease.

Pres­i­dent Obama said he looked for­ward to dis­cussing the is­sues with the pope.

“I welcome His Ho­li­ness Pope Fran­cis’ en­cycli­cal, and deeply ad­mire the pope’s de­ci­sion to make the case — clearly, pow­er­fully, and with the full moral au­thor­ity of his po­si­tion — for ac­tion on global cli­mate change,” Obama said in a state­ment re­leased by the White House.

Rhea Suh, pres­i­dent of the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, said the pope’s mes­sage ap­plied to ev­ery­one re­gard­less of their faith.

“We all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity, as the pon­tiff re­minds us, to do bet­ter — by the planet and by our fel­low hu­man be­ings,” Suh said. “We all are pay­ing a high price for ris­ing seas, ex­pand­ing deserts, blis­ter­ing heat, with­er­ing drought, rag­ing wild­fires, f loods, storms and other hall­marks of cli­mate change. But some are bear- ing a greater bur­den.”

Craig Groves, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Science for Na­ture and Peo­ple part­ner­ship, said the group ap­plauded the pope “for stand­ing up for the fun­da­men­tal val­ues of na­ture.”

“We also welcome the ground­ing of the church’s views in science,” he said.

Those who dis­pute the cause and pace of global warm­ing roundly crit­i­cized Fran­cis for weigh­ing in on the topic. Some said they hoped he would not take the next step and lobby for a new cli­mate treaty at the United Na­tions cli­mate change con­fer­ence in Paris this year.

“De­spite the media’s por­trayal, this is ul­ti­mately not a cli­mate change en­cycli­cal, as only 2% of the en­cycli­cal deals with cli­mate at all,” con­ser­va­tive pub­lisher Marc Mo­rano wrote in a state­ment re­leased by the Heart­land In­sti­tute. “The irony is that the peo­ple who are laud­ing the pope’s po­si­tion on cli­mate dis­agree with just about ev­ery­thing else he stands for.”

At the Vat­i­can news con- fer­ence, Turk­son ad­dressed crit­ics who say that Fran­cis should not weigh in on mat­ters of science.

“That the pope should not deal with science sounds a bit strange, since science is in the public do­main,” Turk­son said. “It’s a sub­ject area that any­one can get into.”

Asked how he would re­spond to con­ser­va­tives who say they will lis­ten to Pope Fran­cis on mat­ters of spir­i­tu­al­ity but not about pol­i­tics or eco­nom­ics, he said that they had “free­dom of choice” to make the dis­tinc­tion, but that he did not agree there should be an “ar­ti­fi­cial split” be­tween re­li­gion and public life.

In a fi­nal com­ment di­rected at po­lit­i­cal fig­ures who might crit­i­cize Fran­cis’ in­ter­ven­tion in the cli­mate change de­bate, Turk­son said, “I would imag­ine that when they them­selves be­come politi­cians ... with­out be­ing sci­en­tists, they will not say or ut­ter a word about science.” His com­ments were met with loud ap­plause.

In the en­cycli­cal, Fran­cis said that this “postin­dus­tri- al pe­riod may well be re­mem­bered as one of the most ir­re­spon­si­ble in history,” and that the cause of degra­da­tion was “pro­foundly hu­man.”

A “dis­or­dered de­sire to con­sume more than what is re­ally nec­es­sary” as well as a “use and throw away cul­ture” were at the root of the prob­lem. He likened this self-ob­ses­sion and un­con­cern for na­ture to abor­tion.

“How can we gen­uinely teach the im­por­tance of con­cern for other vul­ner­a­ble be­ings, how­ever trou­ble­some or in­con­ve­nient they may be, if we fail to pro­tect a hu­man em­bryo, even when its pres­ence is un­com­fort­able and cre­ates dif­fi­cul­ties?”

A Pew Re­search Cen­ter sur­vey pub­lished Tues­day found that U.S. Catholics were as di­vided over the topic of global warm­ing as were Amer­i­cans gen­er­ally, and that these dif­fer­ences fell heav­ily along po­lit­i­cal party lines.

Although about 7 in 10 U.S. Catholics said they be­lieve the planet is get­ting warmer, this view was much more preva­lent among Catholic Democrats, 85% of whom said we live in a warm­ing world. Among Repub­li­cans, how­ever, slightly more than half of Catholics were in­clined to agree, re­searchers said.

The trend was sim­i­lar when it came to the ques­tion of whether Catholics be­lieve hu­mans are caus­ing global warm­ing. Although slightly fewer than half of all U.S. Catholics said they be­lieve this is the case, 62% of Catholic Democrats and 24% of Repub­li­cans agreed. The re­sponse was nearly iden­ti­cal when U.S. Catholics were asked whether they be­lieve global warm­ing is a very se­ri­ous prob­lem.

Among the U.S. public as a whole, belief that global warm­ing is oc­cur­ring is nearly twice as com­mon among Democrats as Repub­li­cans (86% to 45%), ac­cord­ing to Pew re­searchers.

In ad­dress­ing a so­lu­tion to hu­man-caused cli­mate change, Fran­cis wrote that “tech­nol­ogy based on the use of highly pol­lut­ing fos­sil fu­els — es­pe­cially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser de­gree, gas — needs to be pro­gres­sively re­placed with­out de­lay.”

The same in­ge­nu­ity that pro­vided hu­man­ity with ex­tra­or­di­nary tech­no­log­i­cal progress has so far proved in­ca­pable of deal­ing with grave en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial prob­lems world­wide, Fran­cis said. This fail­ure pointed to a deep need for hu­man­ity to change its re­la­tion­ship to na­ture, but also to one another. Free-mar­ket poli­cies that ig­nored dam­age to peo­ple or the en­vi­ron­ment must be changed, while in­come and re­source in­equal­i­ties also need to be ad­dressed.

What was needed, Fran­cis wrote, was a global con­sen­sus that could lead to the plan­ning of sus­tain­able and diver­si­fied agri­cul­ture; bet­ter for­est and marine man­age­ment; de­vel­op­ment of re­new­able and less pol­lut­ing forms of energy; and uni­ver­sal ac­cess to drink­ing wa­ter.

Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, peo­ple must aim for a new lifestyle, the pon­tiff wrote.

“Hu­man­ity has changed pro­foundly, and the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of con­stant nov­el­ties ex­alts a su­per­fi­cial­ity which pulls us in one di­rec­tion. It be­comes dif­fi­cult to pause and re­cover depth in life. If ar­chi­tec­ture ref lects the spirit of an age, our megas­truc­tures and drab apart­ment blocks ex­press the spirit of glob­al­ized tech­nol­ogy, where a con­stant flood of new prod­ucts co­ex­ists with te­dious monotony.

“No­body is sug­gest­ing a re­turn to the Stone Age,” he wrote. “But we do need to slow down and look at re­al­ity in a dif­fer­ent way, to ap­pro­pri­ate the pos­i­tive and sus­tain­able progress which has been made, but also to re­cover the val­ues and the great goals swept away by our un­re­strained delu­sions of grandeur.”

Bul­lit Mar­quez As­so­ci­ated Press

POSTERS bear­ing mes­sages for Pope Fran­cis greet re­cy­clers at a dump in Que­zon City, in the Philip­pines. Free-mar­ket poli­cies that ig­nore dam­age to peo­ple or the en­vi­ron­ment must be changed, the pope said.

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