Laudata Si’. Document for Global Good or Global Hegemony? You Decide. By Jim Poesl
I have been asked by a couple of my friends to read and comment on the Papal Encyclical on the environment Laudata Si’ that was issued this past week. I can’t discuss this without giving you some of my background. I’ve been an observer, student, and policy analyst for the last 30 years on this subject, and a delegate to one of the climate change conferences.
Throughout undergraduate and graduate schools, I was hard pressed like so many faithful Christians to articulate a Christian response to environmental arguments and philosophies. In reality there was little if anything for us that would give logical cohesive arguments on the environment--remember, these were pre-internet days. That has changed as of last week with Laudata Si’, mi Signor” or “Praise be to you, my Lord”.
The first five chapters of this document except for the incorrect references to sea level rising, and global climate change, outline a cohesive Christian support for environmental issues and debate. The document outlines most of the environmental issues of today from clean air and water, to general pollution issues. The document should be praised for this.
Being from North America we have an “Amero-centric” view of the environment where we have creature comforts and can worry about abstract environmental issues. There are other areas of the world where the environment is of little concern when compared to other issues. As Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn reported in their classic Fate of the Forest, it is a challenge for people in the undeveloped world to stop clear cutting and open burning of the forest to make room for livestock, when under that scheme they know where their next meal is coming from. While the other paradigm being forced on them by the developed world, is to invest in crops when there is a history of crop failure. In other words, real “kitchen table” issues vs. abstract “global climate change”. Which one do you think will get the priority for the average family in the undeveloped world?
A couple of my colleagues that work in the international environmental cleanup arena, state that other countries do not have a clue on basic environmental protection, like pollution and land use planning. This is where the church can be a force for good, and this document will go far to educate the public, through the churches.
Pope Francis should be lauded for his efforts in this document from a theological point of view. Unfortunately, it is with deep respect I must differ with him on several issues and solutions.
As with a lot of environmental health and safety issues, the problem solvers always revert back to what they know. Is it any surprise that someone who is the head of one of the largest and oldest international institutions (the Catholic Church), would seek solutions in other international organizations like the United Nations and other proposed international organizations? Not to me, his point of view is that international organizations are effective.
The problem with international organizations is that they soon become ineffective bureaucracies for political cronies and wealth redistributors to the detriment of the middle and lower classes, they specifically hold Western Democracies and the United States in contempt. Problems at the UN are well documented and widely circulated if you spend 30 seconds looking. Efforts in promote and surreptitiously implement its’ Agenda 21 have been to the detriment of everyone but the people making money or gaining power from it. Don’t believe me? Many of the green initiatives promoted by the government can be traced directly back to Agenda 21.
Global Climate Change. Back before widespread use of the internet in the 1990’s, before people could be connected and scientific inquiry double checked, it was easy to believe that scientists never lie, never distort, never have a political agenda, and of course never pursue financial gain. In the last 10 years we have experienced the following:
· Widespread reporting on the release of hacked e-mails of climate scientists stating that they exaggerated predictions, to gain funding (Public Choice Theory);
· Extensive documentation that climate monitoring stations are not set up consistently or appropriately, therefore having compromised data;
· Biased climate modeling;
· Peer reviewed articles that show that the proposed solutions will not address the defined problems, many even with tweaked climate models;
· Shouting down and marginalizing opposing scientific inquiry and debate;
· Predictions that haven’t come to fruition; and
· Al Gore and his supporters making billions on green technology and the carbon exchange with no benefit to the “problem” it purported to address.
The earth has cooled and warmed in its history for several reasons, all without your SUV and other human sources of carbon dioxide.
Sea Level Rise. Right now where I am sitting there was an ice sheet several miles thick, 20,000-25,000 years ago, the sea level was significantly lower because of this glacier that extended from the northeast, across the continent and around the globe. The sea level was lower, the ice melted when the earth warmed up, sea levels rose. This cycle has been going on forever. Don’t believe me? Go to South Jersey and along the coast, you will notice successive clay, silt and sand layers. Clay is deposited by slow moving water where the finer solids can settle out usually. The majority of the area between the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains was once an inland sea. Go and dig a hole, see for yourself.
Perhaps the biggest area of concern for the church is what I experienced in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). For years through undergraduate and graduate school one of the greatest impediments to "progress" for environmentalists was the church. The church, especially Catholics was seen as backwards, mainly because they are generally not in favor of population control through abortion and non-natural contraception. They believed the church had to be mitigated to irrelevance and still do. Rather than outright conflict, many of these groups look for legitimacy through the “blessings” of the church. So they worked to become members of the church hierarchy, which in the Protestant Churches is easy since they are locally controlled with few people wanting to sit on church councils. For the Catholic churches this has been at least a 50-year endeavor because of professionally trained clergy running most of the church.
When the ELCA began losing membership, the Lutheran Office of Government Affairs (the public policy arm of the ELCA) decided that they would among other things, jump on the global warming bandwagon and support UN initiatives including the Kyoto Protocol. Fifteen years out, these alignments have caused the church to lose credibility in part because the global warming crowd has been exposed. I spoke to several pastors on this policy change 10 years ago and they said they were not concerned. I wonder if they are concerned now? I fear the same fate for all churches because I fear this may be a “jumping the shark” moment to try to retain or regain relevance in the Western world. They do so at the risk of their own credibility. Simply put, if the church can’t be believed with respect to simple scientific inquiries and basic economic theory, what about the exceedingly more important subjects such as heaven, hell, damnation, absolution, and salvation?
Why is a Catholic Document important to a Missouri Synod Lutheran? As I see it, an attack on the Catholic Church is an attack on all the churches. Any document issued by a theologian of the caliber of a Pope should be one that deserves some consideration, even by non-Catholics. It has been reported that this encyclical was issued to the “Church” in general, not only for Catholics. This is one reason why the encyclical has gotten my attention, not only because of the subject matter (my academic field of study), but it is issued by someone with uber-credentials in Christian Theology.
There is a debate in the policy arena whether the public should know all the details about a subject. On one side the answer is a resounding NO, because the public cannot understand complicated scientific arguments and make a decision, so therefore they should leave policy decisions up to the experts and trust only them. The other side is that we should make all data available, and let the public decide. I come from the latter point of view; those who can understand should explain it to everyone else. In short, more communication, more debate, and taking it to the ballot box is what is needed. Why? Because we are being asked to vote for, fund, abrogate civil rights and restrict our choices to the groups backing green initiatives. There is often no oversight of these groups, and they are effectively accountable to no one. At least with a politician there is a chance of being voted out, not so with a bureaucrat.
Governments and activists will use this document to bully people into supporting self-destructive initiatives that will not solve environmental problems real or perceived. In short, Saul Alinsky tactics will be used to squelch debate. This is already happening in the Vatican.
What is my solution? A true, new American style Revolution and self-empowerment for the planet, a non-violent one. One of the main issues we have is that the elites, religious figures, and career politicians controlling everyone for their own benefit—not the public’s. We need a massive global public education campaign, an increase in scientific and economic literacy so we could at least call a spade a spade, and with the ultimate goal of become more self-reliant. Radical solution? Perhaps, but the successful people know that if you don’t set a goal, you have no hope of getting there, and you at least “move the ball” forward. This is how we arrived at this point; this is how we solve our collective problems. Here I stand.
Whether or not this document will be used for good or evil is totally up to us. We had better start paying attention either way, our future depends on it.