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March 19th, 2015

The Universal Common Good: Our Common Home

hope

Allegory of hope; Oil on canvas, Francesco Guardi, 1747.

While it is anyone’s prudent guess at this point, on the likely umbrella or core messages within the Eco-encyclical expected in June or July 2015; Pope Francis has spoken on various occasions about the need for a radical new financial and economic system to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation. The threats that arise from global inequality and the destruction of the environment are interrelated; and they are the greatest threats we face as a human family today.

At a Latin American and Asian peasants meeting in October 2014, Pope Francis said: “An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.  The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth.”

The idea of a new economic order has long been the clarion call of the sustainability movement, but any true system change – means trade-offs and with win-lose outcomes there is no simple reform formula that will work for all countries. Countries will need creative experiments and to “learn by doing” so as to find the right low carbon path. In essence, a multi-pronged approach is needed to get to a new social economic order: market-led responses (technological innovation, price adjustments, etc.), government-led responses (e.g. regulations, carbon-pricing, etc.) and value-based responses (e.g. getting people to rethink their priorities). (Bill Barron, 2009)

To start with the market response, the British government’s Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (2006), said that climate change was the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen. It’s a market failure because polluters have been allowed to treat the atmosphere as theirs – cause untold damage without footing the bill. This market failure can be corrected by putting a price on carbon: via market-led responses such carbon trading, technological innovation and pricing of ecosystem services.

Though the carbon market has many inherent structural flaws, it is useful to remember that markets are not only favoured for their economic efficiency, but also because they are an effective means of mobilising large numbers of people towards common societal goals (Hirschman 1977/1997). An interesting example of ‘learning by doing’ is how China is developing a carbon trading market via seven pilot emissions trading systems (ETS), which are serving as testing ground for a national ETS to be implemented after 2016. If those trading schemes were to be linked, China could become the second largest cap-and-trade programme, aside from the European Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

Another vital approach is that our governments respond with appropriate regulatory frameworks, both international and national, so as to stimulate innovation and change. Public investment is needed on a huge scale, in fuel efficiency, building efficiency, infrastructure, transportation and renewable energy. To do this, governments must engage more directly with the private sector on investments and carbon markets and climate funds should work in conjunction with one another. (see World Bank 2010).

The real test will be how regulations will be enforced, which ultimately will mean significant government intervention and central planning. An idea that reeks of socialism to Neoliberals and climate deniers. But the reality of climate change is that central planning and collective action will be needed, on an unprecedented global scale.

Alongside responses by government and business; tantamount to galvanizing action is the ‘value led approach’ that shapes a community’s conscience and action. What Pope Francis’s encyclical will add then, according to Cardinal Turkson when he spoke recently at the Trócaire 2015 Lenten Lecture: “At the heart of this integral ecology is the call to dialogue and a new solidarity, a changing of human hearts in which the good of the human person, and not the pursuit of profit, is the key value that directs our search for the global, the universal common good.”

Turkson’s thoughts on integral ecology echo what Oxfam said in 2012: “Any vision of sustainable development fit for the 21st century must recognise that eradicating poverty and achieving social justice is inextricably linked to ensuring ecological stability and renewal” – A Safe and Just Space for Humanity.

But ultimately, what Pope Francis’ encyclical will do is link Roman Catholic teachings to protecting life with preserving the environment and his support for climate action will be a much needed catalyser. After all, who else but religious leaders can talk about our moral duty, about  the need for a change of human heart – for mercy and compassion to act on climate change? I hope that the encyclical will serve as a sturdy roof for our common home, and will as Turkson said can “help to orient and integrate us as humans within the wider universe, to identify what is most important to us, what we revere, sustain and protect as sacred.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 5.30.55 PMThis blog post is written by Ciara Shannon, a GCCM founding member and Asia Coordinator for OurVoices.net, the international, multi-faith climate campaign.

 

 


 

 

March 12th, 2015

Where did the World go Wrong with regard to Climate Change?

One particular objective of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) is: “to advance the Catholic relationship between faith and reason, especially as it relates to adaptive decision making in areas of climate change policy”.

The topic of Faith and Reason, deals with many issues; relationship of Faith to Science, Philosophy, History and Anthropology etc. There is one particular question that I would like to deal with in this blog: what is the root cause of the ecological crisis, what went wrong, or where did we go wrong? Finding an answer to this is of vital importance, because it can point us in the right direction as to a solution.

Everybody has an implicit, if not explicit answer to that question. A common answer among Christians is: we are basically a flawed species – a variation on the doctrine of Original Sin. If we accept this as the explanation then the solution is to pray, or do nothing since nothing can be done, or be converted in some way.

Recently, I revisited my philosophy studies, (something I never thought I would do!), and came across a very interesting proposal as to where Western Civilization went wrong. It brings us back to the pre-modern 13th and 14th centuries the debate between Realism and Nominalism. (Don’t run away, yet!). This involves St. Thomas Aquinas (Realism) and William of Ockham (Nominalism).

St. Thomas Aquinas - picture sourced from: thomasaquinas.edu

St. Thomas Aquinas – picture sourced from: thomasaquinas.edu

Aquinas (d.1274), using the Philosophy of Aristotle, brought about a great synthesis between faith and reason. It is one of the flowering achievements of Medieval Culture. The compatibility of faith and reason was symbolized in the drawings on many pulpits of the time – the book and the branch symbolizing Revelation and Nature as two ways that God was speaking to us. Richard Tarnas,  summed up this achievement:

Aquinas … affirmed the Creator’s providential intelligence and the resulting order and beauty within the created world. …the more the world was explored and understood, the greater the knowledge of and reverence for God would result…. Nothing that was true and valuable, even if achieved by man’s natural intellect, could ultimately be foreign to God’s revelation, for both reason and faith derived from the same source.[1]

However, this wonderful synthesis did not last long. It was challenged and displaced by Nominalism that attacked the connection between reason and faith. Ockham (d. 1349) felt that Aquinas’, synthesis between nature and grace threatened God’s Transcendence and Omnipotence. How could God still be all powerful if He was confined by the laws of nature? Knowledge of God, according to Ockham, could only be attained through Revelation – faith and grace, not through natural reason.[2]

Nominalism soon became the dominant way of thinking about Nature and with the Protestant Reformation, Nominalism received a boost: as the thought of nature being a source of revelation was anathema to Luther who stressed Scripture alone, scripura sola. Then, we had the dispute with Galileo and other thinkers. The condemnation of Galileo, created a rift between faith and reason. The Church and the thinkers of the day, parted company, with the Church confining itself to ‘revealed truths’ and the thinkers, free to explore Nature, without any religious or moral restraint.

With Francis Bacon’s scientific method of inquiry based on experimentation and inductive reasoning – as the only way of knowing and then Rene Descartes famous “I think therefore I am” – both consolidated the Nominalist denial of any inherent value or meaning in Creation. The triumph of reason then became complete with the European Enlightenment. The so-called ‘enlightened’ age saw the emergence of the Nation State, based on reason, free from the shackles of Church and Monarchy.

Thus, Nominalism unwittingly laid the foundation to a Church that no longer focussed on Nature as a source of Revelation about God; and for a long time this meant they had nothing to say about the destruction brought about since the Industrial Revolution.

If this is our problem, then it points to a solution where we need to recover a world-view where Nature is intrinsically valued, as revelatory of the Divine. As St. Columban said “if you want to know God, know creation”. The good news is that, in our times, such a world-view is possible because of the putting together of a story of creation, based on the scientific evidence.

The Church today has no problem, in principle, with the evolutionary story of creation, but work needs to be done in developing and propagating such a world view. Thomas Aquinas will undoubtedly be happy, as it will mean a re-affirmation of his Realism over the Nominalism of William of Ockham!

[1] Richard Tarnas: The Passion of the Western Mind, Understanding the Ideas that have shaped our World View, Pimlico, Random House, London, 1991.

[2] See Tarnas pp 206=207.

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 10.22.09 AMThis blog posting is written by Fr John Leydon, a GCCM founding member, a Columban Missionary in the Philippines and the Director of Center for Ecozoic Living and Learning (CELL) which he co-founded in 1998.

 


 

 

March 8th, 2015

Why do I Fast?

In preparation for the U.S. Lenten Hunger Fast for Climate Justice on March 16th which is part of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) Climate Lenten Fast, I have written this blog to share my reasons for joining in the fast.

Picture credit: heartsandmindsbooks.com

Picture credit: heartsandmindsbooks.com

“What are our faith, our words and our history worth if not translated into action, sacrifice and redemption?” This is the first line of the statement that was issued by fasters in the USA who in November 2013 started a hunger fast for immigration reform. We started out as 6 fasters. By the last day almost 200 people had joined in the tent on the National Mall, some for a day or more and three for 22 days. Over 10,000 people joined the fast as solidarity fasters across the country. The statement sums up why people of faith fast. Jesus tells us that to love God we must love our neighbor, and to love our neighbor we must be willing to sacrifice everything. We join in fasting and praying not only to do penance but to sacrifice out of love and with a spirit of hope.

Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who was also a palaeontologist and geologist, believed that the prime energy of the universe is love. Sister Ilia Delia OSF describes love as “unitive energy that unites center to center, generating more being and life. Love is not a thought or an idea; it is the transcendent dimension of life itself, that which reaches out to another, touches the other and is touched by the other. When we do not share in the fields of love, when we do not feel the concrete existence of another, we can easily abstract the other into a number, a data point, or even a joke.”

Francis of Assisi said: “If you have people who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have people who will deal likewise with their fellow humanity.” The idea of caring for all creation was not some paternalistic concept of having dominion over creation. St. Francis believed in the inter-connectedness of all creation, a wholeness of being with the earth and all of her inhabitants. Francis understood this inter-connectedness from a spiritual perspective. Today, through quantum physics, we know that everything in the universe is connected. Each particle and every molecule are bound together.

As spiritual people we are called to conscience to act for justice through sacrifice and spiritual witness. Fasting has been part of faith traditions and justice movements from the Hebrew prophets to leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi and Cesar Chavez. Fasting is a way of connecting with God. We are fasting as a way of following these examples, and we pray and hope that our elected officials will heed our call to end this moral crisis of destroying Gods creation.

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God stated: “This is the fast that I choose: to loosen the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your homes; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”

We are experiencing the results of an economic system based on the principal of separation, not connectedness. A system based on individual greed, not the common good. We have seen the devastations caused by our lack of solidarity with each other and all of God’s creation. It is because we value our relationship with God and God’s creation that climate change is for people of faith a profoundly spiritual, ethical, and moral issue. Francis of Assisi recognized God’s work in creation, and loved it. He celebrated the beauty of God in creation, and loved God all the more for this gift. Francis’ relationship with creation is best understood within the broader context of his religious journey.

Fasting and prayer are not ways to earn God’s favor by our good intentions or good works. God’s grace has been fully given to us. We can’t earn it by doing extra things or by giving up certain other things in fasting. Christian beliefs only become faith when they are put into action. If the fast doesn’t motivate us to fight injustice, then it is not a proper fast!

As people of faith we are called to use our prophetic voices to speak for those least able to defend themselves -people living in poverty, children, future generations and all creation, all who will suffer the most from climate change. Fasting is a form of action to re-awaken our consciousness, our souls, and join all creation in a story of connectedness, not a story of separation.

Peace and all good.

patThis blog is written by Patrick Carolan, a GCCM founding member and Executive Director of Franciscan Action Network (FAN). This blog is also featured in the FAN blog site and is published with permission.

 


 

March 4th, 2015

Why People of Diverse Faith Should Support the Eco-Encyclical

What happens when a rabbi and a Roman Catholic lay ecclesial minister start talking about Pope Francis’ forthcoming ecological encyclical?

Click and read to learn Why People of Diverse Faiths Should Support the Eco-Encyclical.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 8.54.27 PMPhoto credit: Creative Commons

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 6.58.12 PMThe linked article above was featured in the Huffington Post on March 3rd 2015 and was written by Jeff Korgen & Rabbi Lawrence Troster who are engaging Catholic and Jewish communities with OurVoices.net. Jeff Korgen is also a GCCM founding member.

 


 

February 28th, 2015

Native American Land is Disappearing Because of Climate Change

From Fr. Roch’s porch, one sees acres of dead trees lying limply, killed by salt water intrusion from the storm surge. Eerie forests like this one dot the bayou county of south Louisiana’s coast.

Father-Roch-Naquin-on-Isle-de-Jean-Charles

Fr. Roch is an Isle de Jean Charles native, a retired Roman Catholic priest and coastal restoration advocate. Leadership runs in Fr. Roch’s family, his great-great-grandfather Jean Charles founded the island settlement, and he helped found the Bayou Interfaith S Community Organization (BISCO), laying the groundwork for the organization in the late 1980’s.

As Fr. Roch surveyed the shrinking archipelago, he explained how the island began to disappear:

“What hastened the erosion process was, first of all, when they leveed the Mississippi River. Then, to make it worse, they blocked Bayou Laforche, in Donaldsonville, that connects with the Mississippi River and brings a lot of fresh water to this area, all the way to the Gulf. We used to have real good soil, farming land, and grow all kinds of good vegetables. But then they started exploring for oil in this general area. So marsh buggies would cut through the marshes and make tracks. I mean, they leave like a highway, almost. So they went criss-crossing the marshes and all. There’s also a whole mess of pipelines this way, at each end of the island. So they hastened the erosion because they dug those canals. It was like building a new highway. It allowed more traffic to come in and faster. They were not blocked from the current -once the currents get in there, I mean it just started eroding, eating it away.”

Fr. Roch also noted painfully, that the manmade canals provide enables a storm surge to travel further into the marsh. In this area, storms do not have to be as strong to destroy. A Category 5 storm would carry everything to higher land and someday, these homes will be gone. Water will cover the land and off-shore oil drilling will begin on what was once the Isle de Jean Charles.

According to a U.S. Geological Survey report, each year between 1985 and 2010, sixteen and a half square miles of Louisiana disappeared into the Gulf of Mexico. This erosion includes much of the Isle de Jean Charles, a small island once populated by 100 Houma Native American families. Now, only 25 households remain.

BISCO leaders point to the island as an example of what’s in store for the state if coastal erosion and storm surge remains unchecked. The situation is a bit like the story of the people of Carteret Islands, located near Australia, who must resettle before rising tides finish the job of destroying their homes. Their story is the subject of a documentary film, Sun Come Up, widely promoted by the Catholic Climate Covenant. American audiences have expressed deep concern over the plight of the Carteret Islanders.

Have environmental leaders noticed that the same type of eviction-by-climate-change is happening here in the United States? Not so much…but BISCO has.

Scientists have developed some encouraging schemes to slow down the erosion, but one of the most promising ideas has emerged locally. BISCO is now using its clout to draw attention to local retired engineer and tinkerer Webster Pierce. His “Wave Robber” apparatus not only stops erosion – it reverses it!

The Wave Robber is deceptively simple. It’s an eight foot wide, five foot tall plastic structure with ascending stairs punctured by semicircle holes like cartoon mouse holes. It is designed to be placed right at the shoreline, where the waves break. When waves hit the box, they lose kinetic energy and never reach the shore. It’s the same principle behind dropping giant rocks in the Gulf: if the waves hit something other than the shoreline, they don’t erode it. But what’s different about the Wave Robber is that when water, containing tiny amounts of sediment, enters the “mouse-holes” the sediment collects, adding land, in the same way a dripping faucet adds up to gallons of water. “I’m mining for sediment,” Webster explained “Like you mine for gold. I’m mining for sediment.”

BISCO’s promotion of the Wave Robber attracted the attention of the University of Louisiana and with BISCO’s help; this pilot project may be replicated throughout the Gulf Coast. The hope is that land will be returned – several grains of sediment at a time. It may be too late for residents of the Isle de Jean Charles, but perhaps just in time for other Houmas living in the bayou country of coastal Louisiana.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 6.58.12 PM Written by Jeff Korgen, GreenFaith, Campaign Advisor and Founding Member of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM).

 

 


 

February 25th, 2015

Catholics completed first week of Lenten Fast for Climate Justice

Today the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) announced that over 1000 Catholics in over 50 countries have committed to fast and pray for climate action as part of the Lent Fast for Climate Justice. The traditional fast on Ash Wednesday (February 18) commenced the global effort. For every subsequent day of Lent, the GCCM have different countries signed up to fast, in some cases two countries per day.

Since Ash Wednesday, the following countries have completed their fast day: Peru, Zambia, Tanzania, Hong Kong, Nigeria, and Japan.

The first country to fast after Ash Wednesday, Peru, is one of the countries most at risk from climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Emissions Scenarios and Stern Review. Temperatures are calculated to increase in this South American country between 0.7°C and 1.8°C by 2020 and between 1°C and 4°C by 2050.

The other nations that fasted this week also have troubling predictions because of climate change: from more intense typhoons in Japan to lower crop yields in Zambia where agriculture accounts for 20 percent of the nation’s GDP and 71.6 of employment.

This Lent Fast for Climate Justice urges Catholics to unite on climate change. It also calls for decisive action for a fair, ambitious and legally binding global agreement in the COP 21 summit at Paris to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degree Celsius, relative to pre-industrial levels. We ask that Catholics in every country pray and fast for our troubled Earth and especially those who are affected most by climate change; the poor and those who live along coastal communities.

After the fast Christian Rafael Ipanaqué Quispe of Lima Peru shared, “This fast was very important to me because it was an opportunity to get in touch not only with God through prayer, but also with his great work Creation, nature. After this experience I am much more committed to promoting environmental awareness within the Church and to share knowledge with my brothers and sisters in faith. We cannot be indifferent to the social, environmental and climatic reality presented to us. We have to act!”

Sister Julia P. McLouglin, a sister of Notre Dame de Namur stated that her inspiration from fasting came from one of her sisters, Sister Dot Stang. “… Sister Dot Stang was martyred in Brazil because she stood up for the peasants in trying to protect their land from wealthy loggers who have chopped the forests mercilessly.  She became an irritant to wealthy loggers who then paid some men to kill her.  Returning home one evening 3 men were waiting for her.  While she read the Beatitudes they put five bullets into her and left her dying.  This event has made me more conscious of how wasteful many of us, myself included, can be with the world’s resources and of how precious land is to us – a gift from God.”

The GCCM fast is part of the 365 day #FASTFORTHECLIMATE which began the 1st of December 2014, the start of COP20 in Lima, and will continue until the 30th of November 2015, at the beginning of COP21 in Paris. #FASTFORTHECLIMATE participants this week included representatives from diverse environmental organizations in Canada and theUS , including David J. Parker, longtime Canadian politician and Green Party Member. The GCCM Climate Justice Fast is also in collaboration with the Green Anglicans Carbon Fast and Our Voices Climate Fast

 


 

February 18th, 2015

TODAY, ASH WEDNESDAY, MARKS THE START OF OUR 40-DAYS LENTEN FAST IN 40 COUNTRIES

The Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) announced today that more than 40 countries will take part in a 40-day Lenten fast for climate justice, from Ash Wednesday, February 18th, to April 4th. Participants in the Lenten fast are praying for unity on climate change within the Catholic church and asking world leaders to take all steps possible to meet the goal of a global temperature increase of less than 1.5 degrees Celsius (relative to pre-industrial levels), by means that include a fair, ambitious, and legally binding global agreement in the COP 21 summit in Paris.

On a personal level, the GCCM 40-day fast encourages participants to fast from both food as well as reduce their use of carbon i.e. reduce their use such as oil, electricity, plastic, paper, water, and toxins and recycle during Lent.

The movement chose fasting for its first worldwide action because, “Pope Francis made it clear from the start that all people need to act as ‘protectors of creation.’ We encourage Catholics around the world to unite, pray and fast in solidarity with those who are most affected by the changing global climate,” stated Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the U.S. based Franciscan Action Network.

Yeb Saño, who is the Climate Commissioner from the Philippines who captured the world’s attention with his own fast during U.N. meetings following Typhoon Haiyan, said: “The power behind fasting lies in its purity of purpose and the sense of selflessness necessary to embark on fasting. This is the power of the fast—because it is meant for our aspirations of a better world.”

Jacqui Rémond, Executive Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia added: “It is important that we call for a strong climate agreement that keeps global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 °C – this threshold was in the first three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments and also in the IPCC Fifth Assessment report (AR5). A world even at 1.5°C warmer would mean more severe droughts, flooding and sea level rise, increasing the risk of damage from storm surges and crop loss, as well as food and water security issues. Vulnerable human coastal communities and species across the world especially need to be protected.”

Ciara Shannon, coordinator of Our Voices in Asia stated: “Amidst our busy, consumption led lives – fasting during Lent is a great opportunity to reflect and abstain. The GCCM Lenten Fast also includes the option to do a carbon fast. This gives us a great opportunity to think about the food itself, how it is grown, how much water is used, how it is transported and then packaged. It always shocks me the amount of emissions that are involved.”

The GCCM 40 day Climate Justice Fast is part of the 365 day #FASTFORTHECLIMATE which has been happening since the 1st of December 2014 the start of COP20 in Lima and will continue until the 30th of November 2015, at the beginning of COP21 in Paris. The GCCM Climate Justice Fast is also in collaboration with the Green Anglicans Carbon Fast and Our Voices Climate Fast.

 


 

January 14th, 2015

THE GCCM LAUNCHED TODAY AND WILL BE PRESENTED TO POPE FRANCIS THIS WEEK IN THE PHILIPPINES

Today, Catholic organizations and leaders throughout the world have announced their collaboration as a movement working toward a sustainable climate future. Comprised of laity and clergy, theologians, scientists and activists, the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) released a statement containing their beliefs and mission. The statement supports Catholic environmental teachings and calls for prayer and action among the world’s Catholic population, making it the first time that such a global movement of Catholics gathers to work together on climate issues.

The GCCM launch coincides with the trip of Pope Francis to the Philippines this week where he will meet survivors of super typhoon Haiyan, which is considered to be related to climate change. Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, will present the movement and its statement to Pope Francis in Manila.

Lou Arsenio, who is the Ecology Ministry coordinator at the Archdiocese of Manila and a founding member of the GCCM, explained: “The movement plans to promote networking and sharing of information on climate change among Catholic organizations across national borders, to enhance a greater understanding of Catholic teaching on care of God’s creation, and to respond to Pope Francis’ and other church leaders’ concern about climate change. We invite all Catholic individuals and organizations to join this effort, both to raise awareness about this important issue and to act within the public sphere.”

This announcement takes place at a time when the Catholic community is expecting the upcoming encyclical about ecology, which will spark a lot of interest among the laity to reflect on our relationship with God’s creation and its relationship with social issues.

 

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