Response to “After Copenhagen, Lessons from Rome”

Some months back in a Catholic environmental Yahoo group, a link to an article was posted – “After Copenhagen, Lessons from Rome.”  It was written by a Catholic law professor, and she is surely a very good person and good Catholic, who would not want life on earth to cease on account of our environmental misdoings.  She probably just doesn’t know a whole lot about environmental issues and global warming. 

My responses in the Yahoo group (not directed to her) were written in extreme haste and are pretty rough — I was not at my Carmelite best.  However, I thought I should share them here, because they bring up important issues, so here goes:

My 1st response to “After Copenhagen, Lessons from Rome” :

No time to read this thoroughly, but my initial thoughts…. That’s one of the problems with the “bandwagon” effect — all sorts of people jump on for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately we are no where near a bandwagon effect in the U.S. [re environmentalism], as they are in Europe. I say first get the bandwagon out of the barn, then as people get on it, instruct them in the correct, humane ways of thinking and doing. But it really looks pretty hopeless here in America — people have totally sold their souls to the devoils, and are burning the bandwagon, just out of spite to release more CO2 into the atmosphere, and kill some more people — that’s what our country does best, from killing off Native Americans to the whole world.

My other thought is that there ARE other enviro problems, and we should never neglect, say, local toxic contamination killing off the written-off peoples, like Latinos. As a white person I am totally ashamed.

Just had lunch Fri with Laura Perez, a Tejana who is doing a doc on the Mission, TX contamination site — the title, AMERICAN ORANGE (as in Agent Orange, which was producted in this still highly contaminated site smack dab in the middle of a residential area). See the trailer and interview with Laura — http://www.americanorange.com .

I’m thinking this is far worse than Love Canal or the Woburn, MA case (A CIVIL ACTION), bec this factory was purposely put in a Tejano neighborhood, where children played in the contaminated effluents.

And then there is Homeland Security that was recently planning to spray our entire valley with herbicide to kill off the carrizo cane (an invasive species that has taken over the Rio Grande River areas, where illegals and drugs get through) — stopped by community protest. We in the RGV are a written-off people. When will the rich white people realize they are also “written off” and start to do something, at least out of enlightened self interest?

 My next response, after reading the whole article:

More thoughts on this article:

It seems to me the author and perhaps the Holy Father lack ecological understanding. They don’t seem quite to grasp that we are all (all us various life species) in the boat together, and that enough tears in the web of creation or extreme warming could mean doom to us humans, at least re this material world.

I just gave a presentation this past week, and in mentioning species extinction (and we are in one of the 6 great mass extinction events of all time), I pointed out: If the bees go, we go too. There’s this place in China where the bees have gone extinct, and now they are faced with having to human-manually pollinate several crops. Imagine if all the food crops and trees of the world had to be manually pollinated. Bee hive collapse is a serious issue, but the common person without ecological thinking won’t realize it until foods start disappearing off the supermarket shelves. And even science doesn’t really grasp everything there is to know about the interconnectedness of species and species with earth systems. And this is why anthropologist Roy Rappaport in 1976 called for a spiritual reverence for creation (that goes beyond a mechanistic, scientific stance). He was an anthropologist, foremost concerned with people (as are ALL environmentalists I personally know), but an ecological anthropologists who understood that we don’t just live off of manna from the sky.

There are 3 environmental perspectives (I teach my students in “Environmental Crime and Justice”):

1. THE ANTHROPOCENTRIC PERSPECTIVE, focused on human victims of environmental harms, or the “brown” issues of toxic contamination sites and the “white” issues of toxic products,
etc.;

2. THE BIOCENTRIC PERSPECTIVE, focused primarily on non-human species, like “save the bald eagle” crew or members of World Wildlife Fund or the ASPCA (just an aside, in the 19th c. when a highly abused child was brought to the attention of the public, they didn’t have an org for children, so they got the ASPCA involved on her case…but that was probably bec horse and animal abuse was so public, and child abuse more private, and a man’s home was considered his castle). RE the “it’s the population to be blamed” is not so much a biocentric argument, but a blame-shifting argument from the left (sort of like “the economy comes first” and “GW isn’t happening” blame-avoiding argument from the right); and

3. THE ECOCENTRIC PERSPECTIVE, which views species and earth systems as interconnected. Harm one part, other parts may get harmed. What goes around comes around.

I guess a person might have a biocentric or even an ecocentric approach, and consider humans the scum of the earth, the problem to be eradicated (though I’ve NEVER known such persons in my life, tho I’ve heard about some fringe people like that) — which sort of reminds me of the Tamil saying, “If you spit up into the air, it will come down in your face” or you’d imagine they would have committed suicide by now (themselves being the problem they detest).  Most people who like animals I know of also like people, tho I’ve heard of such people who have turned to animals for affection, bec people have been very cruel to them. I think St. Francis said something to the effect, “A person who would treat animals cruelly, would do the same to humans.”

However is it completely impossible to have an anthropocentric perspective without that being contained within an ecocentric perspective, unless they are uninformed and have no ecological schooling at all. However, there are those solely concerned about pollution in their backyards (probably as it relates to lowering their property value), but couldn’t care less about global warming, species extinction, or acid rain. Well, if you spit up into the air, it comes right back down into your face, applies to those selfish anthropocentric types, as well.

Now for misinformation about global warming. One great thing I’ve found out about it over the past 20 years, is that you mitigate global warming, you mitigate a myriad of other environmental, economic, conflict/warfare, and spiritual problems. It is the umbrella issue, with only a very few things falling outside. Even nuclear power, supposedly a strategy to mitigate GW, is actually quite carbon intensive (if a complete ecological/economic study be done), not to mention it kills Navajo and Niger uranium miners, destroys their lands, and causes a huge amount of other problems.

There might be a few environmental problems not mitigated by the myriad of GW mitigation strategies, but with all the money saved by mitigating GW, that money could then be applied to solving those other environmental problems, probably with $$ to spare.

Furthermore, the following problems the author listed as unrelated to GW are in many cases knock-on effects of GW: “desertification, biodiversity, deforestation, natural disasters (if you can call all of them “natural”), access to food (I just did a paper on “Food Rights and Climate Change”). And then solutions to GW also include solving “depletion of natural resources, waste disposal, and the environmental threats posed by armed conflict [since mitigating GW, mitigates armed conflict].” The author really needs an education on these topics before spouting such things off, and referring to climate change mitigation as a “myopic vision.”

And finally her supposed concern for the poor — sounds like Bjorn Lomberg’s concern about malaria victims (& how money should go for that instead of mitigating GW — wonder if he actually sends his own money for malaria victims).  Anyone who knows anything about GW, knows it’s the poor who ARE RIGHT NOW and will be on into the future suffering the most from GW and its knock-on effects. Besides, all the money we save from mitigating GW could be used to eradicate malaria, or at least for those of enlightened self-interest stop its spread (and the spread of other vector diseases) into new territory as the globe warms.

When I read the word “subsidiarity” I think EWTN’s Fr. Sirico of the Exxon-funded Acton Institute. It’s a code word for keep gov off the backs of frankencorportations, so as to let them run rough-shod over the peoples of the world, gobble up all the resources, starve out the poor, and excrete pollution all over, esp in poor and minority areas.

But anyway I’ll be sure to tell Villager X in India not to get the electricity hook-up and a 40-watt tube light so his kids can study at night and hope to go to college, like our kids, bec he has to do is share to mitigate GW.  Those rotten wretche poor of the earth — shame on them for causing all the problems.

Of course, any dufus who gave GW some thought (which I don’t think the author did) would know that we people are the ones who have to solve the environmental problems. The whole idea of a carbon fee or tax, say, would be to encourage people to do the right thing; the possible role of gov is very small, and the role of the Holy Father, nil, since no really listens to him. However, as mentioned, I know of many many denialists who are so strongly committed to refusing to mitigate, they don’t mind losing money over it. They’ll pay the higher prices for gas & electricity, but they won’t turn off lights not in use and a kazillion other measures that would save them money. It’s war for them, and they’ll leave us all in their SUV tire-tread and gas fumes choking to death.

My final thought: The Holy Father is a great man, but he is perhaps just a tad too polite and/or naïve to spell out the reality of the situation. And the fact is animals are not evil, they are amoral, but we KNOW BETTER. And for that we are evil, very evil — there was Adam, then Cain, then us. It’s call “fallen nature,” not to blame God, for He did make us good. And it’s a really big uphill fight against our fallen nature, even with all of God’s grace and gifts, and gift of Self, Jesus, to do right and mitigate GW. I have doubts we’ll prevent us from killing us off this time. Good thing there’s heaven to look forward to, at least for those sincerely mitigating GW.

Well, at least the author didn’t bring up how environmentalism = neopaganism  🙂

Amen and Peace.

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2 Responses to “Response to “After Copenhagen, Lessons from Rome””

  1. Bill J Says:

    you said “It seems to me the author and perhaps the Holy Father lack ecological understanding.” Given your criticism of the Holy Father’s teachings, perhaps you should take “Catholic” out of the name of your blog. How do you decide what is “real” Catholic? The Pope isn’t “real” enough for you?

  2. lynnvinc Says:

    My understanding is that the Church’s teachings on faith and morals are infallible, not necessarily its knowledge of ecological science or climate science. And when you consider that science keeps changing, like climate catastrophe science has just become more robust (see below), that’s a wise position.

    My own interpretations of BXVI’s environmental writings is that he has adequate understanding (tho he may not have a Ph.D. in relevant environmental sciences and physics), but the way other people — such as Silecchia, the Acton folks, and CatholicCulture.org — interpret his environmental writings makes it appear that he might perhaps lack understanding. But I think it’s more the case that THEY lack understanding.

    So if those folks are right re BXVI’s environmental writings then perhaps BXVI does lack understanding. But then I would guess he lacks adequate understanding re a lot of issues, like the life cycle of snails, etc. He’s not expected to have a doctoral degree in each and every field.

    OTOH, if my interpretations of his writings is correct, then he does have adequate (if not doctoral level) understanding.

    RE anthropocentric, biocentric, and ecocentric approaches to the environment, that is a case of different definitions and conceptualizations. I was even thinking of writing something on “the great traditions” and “little traditions” of environmentalism. As an anthropologist and a Carmelite I’m into the “little traditions” or what the common people are into, their anthropocentic, biocentric, and ecocentric approaches. I think all or most of these folks, whatever their focus, are pro-human and anthropocentric at their base. It’s just that some people feel called to protect the animals. I was thinking of devising some test using hypotheticals, like supposing a baby rabbit and a human baby were drowning, but you could only save one, which would you save. Or, ratcheting it up, supposing a baby ____ (the very last of its species, except one of the opposite sex) were drowning, and a human baby were drowning, which would you save? My guess is that the vast majority if not all of these little tradition enviornmentalists would opt for the human baby. But I could be wrong. And if I am, then we have our work cut out (which can be done while saving the environment — you don’t kill people in order to save their souls).

    The Holy Father in his writings (which very few common folk read) seems to be addressing the “great tradition” environmentalisms (or perhaps both), such as that of Matthew Fox or other high faluting scholars — of whom the common folk know nada or next to nada, and I don’t even know much about them, bec I just don’t find their writings interesting to waste time on, even if I disagree with them. Yes, these educated knot-heads say the darnedest things (as on the Art Linkletter show), like “we need to worship the earth forces to save the earth,” or “the world would be better off without humans,” etc. They’re sort of like small children who just haven’t thought things through very well. And it is good and right that the Holy Father address these sternly, the way a parent reprimands his children.

    However, I think I’m within Catholic thinking, but I have to confess I don’t have a doctorate in theology. So I’m simply striving to do my best here. If Catholics are for death, then I’m out. If they are for life, then I’m in.
    _________________________________
    Climate Catastrophe Science has just gotten more robust:

    “Earth may be too hot for humans by 2300: study”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/earth-may-be-too-hot-for-humans-by-2300-study-1970969.html

    based on the study:

    “An Adaptability Limit to Climate Change Due to Heat Stress” http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/04/26/0913352107.full.pdf

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