Sunday, June 14, 2015

Note to the Observant

The coming June 18th publication of Laudato Si will reaffirm our moral responsibility for the Earth.  Whether that responsibility comes from religious belief or concern for our world and all its creatures depends on each, but the obligation to the present and the future remains. Laudito Si comes from St. Francis of Assisi's Canticle of All Creatures

On his trip to the Philippines earlier this year Pope Francis tied the two concerns together
You are called to care for creation not only as responsible citizens, but also as followers of Christ!
The Pope, of course, takes this to be a religious obligation
As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.
Moral framing is basic, not only to climate issues, but all environmental concerns.  It would be a grave mistake to anticipate Laudito Si as being solely about climate change as many political types are (and worthy of derision they are too).  We are of the Earth and have the obligation to preserve it for the future.  Attempts to decouple the Earth and humans are futile, scientifically silly and morally corrupt because of the damage such an attempt would cause. Stephan Gardiner summarized this for climate change, but his statement is equally valid for all other ecological problems driven by humans.
. . .  the presence of the problem of moral corruption reveals another sense in which climate change may be a perfect moral storm. This is that its complexity may turn out to be perfectly convenient for us, the current generation, and indeed for each successor generation as it comes to occupy our position. For one thing, it provides each generation with the cover under which it can seem to be taking the issue seriously – by negotiating weak and largely substanceless global accords, for example, and then heralding them as great achievements – when really it is simply exploiting its temporal position. For another, all of this can occur without the exploitative generation actually having to acknowledge that this is what it is doing. By avoiding overtly selfish behaviour, earlier generations can take advantage of the future without the unpleasantness of admitting it – either to others, or, perhaps more importantly, to itself.
 There is, of course, a tension in many religions, between millennialism and care taking, Those who think the end of the Earth is nigh, or, alternatively, that they will dwell in a heaven after but a short time on Earth, are prey to neglecting their current world.  Eli's guess is that Laudito Si will stress that a strong component of where and wither will be the care that is taken in this world, preserving it for the future.

Elizabeth Kolbert, in considering technological enthusiasm for settling Mars has some telling words for the Ecomoderists who are advocating separating humans from nature
Every sensate being we’ve encountered in the universe so far—from dogs and humans and mice to turtles and spiders and seahorses—has evolved to suit the cosmic accident that is Earth. The notion that we could take these forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, and hurl them into space, and that this would, to use Petranek’s formulation, constitute “our best hope,” is either fantastically far-fetched or deeply depressing.

As Impey points out, for six decades we’ve had the capacity to blow ourselves to smithereens. One of these days, we may well do ourselves in; certainly we’re already killing off a whole lot of other species. But the problem with thinking of Mars as a fallback planet (besides the lack of oxygen and air pressure and food and liquid water) is that it overlooks the obvious. Wherever we go, we’ll take ourselves with us. Either we’re capable of dealing with the challenges posed by our own intelligence or we’re not. Perhaps the reason we haven’t met any alien beings is that those which survive aren’t the type to go zipping around the galaxy. Maybe they’ve stayed quietly at home, tending their own gardens. 
Finally, Eli recommends some reading of the National Catholic Reporter in the coming weeks.  It already has much on the forthcoming encyclical from the standpoint of the Catholic Church.


Russell Seitz said...

In making common cause, the Vatican and The New Yorker have no certain knowledge on which they can depend.

We need their appeal to authority about as much a fish needs an encyclical.

EliRabett said...

Obvviously Russell never dines at the Vatican or the Algonquin.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Yeah, just because the Pope has a master's in chemistry and is advised by a Vatican council on science doesn't mean... I mean, er...

Hank Roberts said...

> no certain knowledge on which they can depend.

That's good. They understand this is science, without certainty.

Russell Seitz said...

Eat at the Algonquin? You might as well go drinking at the Vatican.

Eli should scan some fifty year old back issues of America rather than The National Catholic Reporter, since immanentizing the eschaton seems a current obsession of some climate warriors on the Jesuitical Left

FLwolverine said...

The question of Pope Francis' degree came up over on Dr Rood's blog (Wunderground) and this article was posted:

It is true that Pope Francis studied chemistry and worked as a chemist prior to entering the seminary. But Jorge Bergoglio never graduated from university prior to entering the seminary.

"For Bergoglio's generation, a university education was still something pretty much beyond the reach of his social class," explains Jesuit Fr. Arthur Liebscher, associate professor of Latin American church history at Santa Clara University. "Although Argentine education is completely free of charge, there was an elitist air to finishing a licentiate or doctorate. Bergoglio took advantage of what was available, and it wasn't bad."

What he did do was graduate with a título in chemistry from the Escuela Técnica Industrial No. 12*, which is a state-run technical secondary school. In the Argentine system, "the título (same word used for a secondary diploma or a university degree) was earned at about age 19 after an extended secondary program," Liebscher said. "Not everyone who goes to secondary school gets one of those diplomas, and the título really represents something beyond our high-school diploma, something akin a certificate from a community college in the U.S."

In Liebscher's opinion, "the education offered in such Argentine schools is quite a bit better, certainly in Bergoglio's era, than what we'd find in a North American high school."

EliRabett said...

Eli, being a New York Bunny, has, of course, both eaten and drunk at the Algonquin. Moth eaten but redolent of good snark.

EliRabett said...

FL, FWIW, here is a curriculum for chemical technicians in Argentina

There are some links to course web sites.

Hank Roberts said...

It is reasonable to hope that if there were any socialist countries left in the world, they also would be held to the same high standards for protecting the planet. Ideally, some demonstration that development can lift people out of poverty without degrading the environment would be fascinating, if such a natural experiment were available to try.

Oh, wait:

"... December 25, 2007
Through accidents of geography and history, Cuba is a priceless ecological resource. That is why many scientists are so worried about what will become of it after Fidel Castro and his associates leave power and, as is widely anticipated, the American government relaxes or ends its trade embargo."

That stands in the great tradition of burying the interesting stuff where it won't be noticed by most readers, of course. Some ledes are born to be buried.

Remember the last time a Pope visited Cuba, and the day's news?

Hank Roberts said...

Oh, hey, that 2007 story is worth a longer quote. Natural experiment in conservation economics is, indeed, coming to a planet near you:

"... Conservationists, environmental lawyers and other experts, from Cuba and elsewhere, met last month in Cancún, Mexico, to discuss the island’s resources and how to continue to protect them.
Cuba has done “what we should have done — identify your hot spots of biodiversity and set them aside,” said Oliver Houck, a professor of environmental law at Tulane University Law School who attended the conference.
In the late 1990s, Mr. Houck was involved in an effort, financed in part by the MacArthur Foundation, to advise Cuban officials writing new environmental laws.
But, he said in an interview, “an invasion of U.S. consumerism, a U.S.-dominated future, could roll over it like a bulldozer” when the embargo ends...."

Whaddaya say, capitalism? Can you prove the ecologists wrong, for once? Perhaps last chance to shine. Let's see a development plan to do it right, for once.


Anonymous said...

> Whaddaya say, capitalism? Can you prove the ecologists wrong, for once?

Hearing the challenge, Eco-hipsterists are brushing their Grrrowthed mustaches with their invisible hands.

Chris_Winter said...

I admire Elizabeth Kolbert's writing, and I share her support for biodiversity. She's right that we humans are part of nature. However, the linked article by her contains some indefensible positions. This is really not the place to debate them. Let me just say, regarding her last sentence, that if the gardens those hypothetical alien beings tend are anything like ours, they'll need routine space travel to divert the rocks that otherwise would fall on their heads.

Mal Adapted said...

Hank: "'an invasion of U.S. consumerism, a U.S.-dominated future, could roll over it like a bulldozer' when the embargo ends."

Castro's revolution was expressly against that very thing, and the embargo was an adjunct to US-backed counterrevolution. The question is whether the new generation of Cuban leaders will have the strength to resist a resurgence of that temporarily-defeated counterrevolution.

Susan Anderson said...

Wonderful Kolbert quote. How great minds think alike (not). Nonetheless, all best with heart. Despite all the magic thinking, I'm with Monbiot in hope on this one:

"If the acknowledgement of love becomes the means by which we inspire environmentalism in others, how do we translate it into political change? But I believe it’s a better grounding for action than pretending that what really matters to us is the state of the economy. By being honest about our motivation we can inspire in others the passions that inspired us."

(back in the kumbayah for the moment ... but skeptical at best of magic thinking)