VI. Weak responses [53-59]




I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora & Newsvine and will add my comments over time. Pappa francescos 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do.

53. These situations have caused sister earth,
along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry
out, pleading that we take another course. Never
have we so hurt and mistreated our common
home as we have in the last two hundred years.
Yet we are called to be instruments of God our
Father, so that our planet might be what he desired
when he created it and correspond with his
plan for peace, beauty and fullness. The problem
is that we still lack the culture needed to confront
this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking
out on new paths and meeting the needs of the
present with concern for all and without prejudice
towards coming generations. The establishment
of a legal framework which can set clear
boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems
has become indispensable, otherwise the
new power structures based on the techno-economic
paradigm may overwhelm not only our
politics but also freedom and justice.

31 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common
Good (15 June 2001).

54. It is remarkable how weak international
political responses have been. The failure of
global summits on the environment make it plain
that our politics are subject to technology and
finance. There are too many special interests,
and economic interests easily end up trumping
the common good and manipulating information
so that their own plans will not be affected.
The Aparecida Document urges that “the interests
of economic groups which irrationally demolish
sources of life should not prevail in dealing
with natural resources”.32 The alliance between
the economy and technology ends up sidelining
anything unrelated to its immediate interests.
Consequently the most one can expect is superficial
rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and
perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment,
whereas any genuine attempt by groups
within society to introduce change is viewed as a
nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle
to be circumvented.

55. Some countries are gradually making significant
progress, developing more effective controls
and working to combat corruption. People
may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but
it has not succeeded in changing their harmful
habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing,
appear to be growing all the more. A
simple example is the increasing use and power

32 Fifth General Conference of the Latin American
and Caribbean Bishops, Aparecida Document (29 June 2007), 471.

of air-conditioning. The markets, which immediately
benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater
demand. An outsider looking at our world would
be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears
self-destructive.

56. In the meantime, economic powers continue
to justify the current global system where
priority tends to be given to speculation and
the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take
the context into account, let alone the effects
on human dignity and the natural environment.
Here we see how environmental deterioration
and human and ethical degradation are closely
linked. Many people will deny doing anything
wrong because distractions constantly dull our
consciousness of just how limited and finite our
world really is. As a result, “whatever is fragile,
like the environment, is defenceless before the
interests of a deified market, which become the
only rule”.33

57. It is foreseeable that, once certain resources
have been depleted, the scene will be set for new
wars, albeit under the guise of noble claims. War
always does grave harm to the environment and
to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are
magnified when one considers nuclear arms and
biological weapons. “Despite the international
agreements which prohibit chemical, bacterio

33 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November
2013), 56: AAS 105 (2013), 1043.

logical and biological warfare, the fact is that laboratory
research continues to develop new offensive
weapons capable of altering the balance of
nature”.34 Politics must pay greater attention to
foreseeing new conflicts and addressing the causes
which can lead to them. But powerful financial
interests prove most resistant to this effort,
and political planning tends to lack breadth of
vision. What would induce anyone, at this stage,
to hold on to power only to be remembered for
their inability to take action when it was urgent
and necessary to do so?

58. In some countries, there are positive examples
of environmental improvement: rivers, polluted
for decades, have been cleaned up; native
woodlands have been restored; landscapes have
been beautified thanks to environmental renewal
projects; beautiful buildings have been erected;
advances have been made in the production of
non-polluting energy and in the improvement
of public transportation. These achievements do
not solve global problems, but they do show that
men and women are still capable of intervening
positively. For all our limitations, gestures of
generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up
within us, since we were made for love.

59. At the same time we can note the rise of a
false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency

34 John Paul II, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 12:
AAS 82 (1990), 154.

and a cheerful recklessness. As often
occurs in periods of deep crisis which require
bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what
is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially,
apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and
deterioration, things do not look that serious,
and the planet could continue as it is for some
time. Such evasiveness serves as a licence to carrying
on with our present lifestyles and models
of production and consumption. This is the way
human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive
vices: trying not to see them, trying not to
acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions
and pretending that nothing will happen.

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