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One Year Later

December 31, 2011

On this last day of 2011, I think it is worth going back to the beginning of the year and revisit Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the World Day of Peace:  If you Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation.   Here are a two relevant passages:

In 1990 John Paul II had spoken of an “ecological crisis” and, in highlighting its primarily ethical character, pointed to the “urgent moral need for a new solidarity”. His appeal is all the more pressing today, in the face of signs of a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously. Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.

Sad to say, it is all too evident that large numbers of people in different countries and areas of our planet are experiencing increased hardship because of the negligence or refusal of many others to exercise responsible stewardship over the environment. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reminded us that “God has destined the earth and everything it contains for all peoples and nations”. The goods of creation belong to humanity as a whole. Yet the current pace of environmental exploitation is seriously endangering the supply of certain natural resources not only for the present generation, but above all for generations yet to come.  It is not hard to see that environmental degradation is often due to the lack of far-sighted official policies or to the pursuit of myopic economic interests, which then, tragically, become a serious threat to creation. To combat this phenomenon, economic activity needs to consider the fact that “every economic decision has a moral consequence”  and thus show increased respect for the environment. When making use of natural resources, we should be concerned for their protection and consider the cost entailed – environmentally and socially – as an essential part of the overall expenses incurred. The international community and national governments are responsible for sending the right signals in order to combat effectively the misuse of the environment. To protect the environment, and to safeguard natural resources and the climate, there is a need to act in accordance with clearly-defined rules, also from the juridical and economic standpoint, while at the same time taking into due account the solidarity we owe to those living in the poorer areas of our world and to future generations.

In the year since then, nothing significant has been done to address the concerns raised by the Pope.  Every Republican running for president denies the reality of global warming.  This includes the two Catholic candidates, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.    The Durban Conference managed only to agree that in 12 years we should come to an agreement.   Canada has withdrawn from the Kyoto Accords.   In the meantime, artic sea ice is melting, glaciers are retreating, and more and more extreme climate events occurred.

So as we move into 2012, I offer you the following video which does an admirable job of summarizing the problem and the lies and distortions which keep many people from even acknowledging the problem.

I pray that the words of our Holy Father might be heard in the year to come:

Protecting the natural environment in order to build a world of peace is thus a duty incumbent upon each and all. It is an urgent challenge, one to be faced with renewed and concerted commitment; it is also a providential opportunity to hand down to coming generations the prospect of a better future for all. May this be clear to world leaders and to those at every level who are concerned for the future of humanity: the protection of creation and peacemaking are profoundly linked! For this reason, I invite all believers to raise a fervent prayer to God, the all-powerful Creator and the Father of mercies, so that all men and women may take to heart the urgent appeal: If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.

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6 Comments
  1. January 1, 2012 8:38 pm

    I especially liked Schneider’s line near the end:

    “How are we going to deal with this problem and others like it, if it requires public understanding so they can send the right value signals to our representatives, when they are completely knocked off their pins by this cancophanous fraudulent debate in which all parties are given equal weight that they don’t deserve? We have got to take back the airwaves,…”

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 2, 2012 2:26 pm

      I agree. The degree of “fraudulent debate” is especially noticeable on any larger blog, such as at America Magazine. Every time there is a post about climate change, someone shows up and trots out the same shopworn lies and distortions.

  2. January 2, 2012 4:17 pm

    Schneider expresses anger at the situation in which climate deniers, seem unable to comprehend how much evidence backs the scientific consensus, nevertheless get equal voice in the “marketplace of ideas” as it exists today. Obvious minority self-interest and demagogic deceptions still thwart fact-driven action. This is clear evidence that something’s badly broken in the way our society currently makes collective decisions, and we can only pray that someday things will be better.

    In his “Revelation Space” series, science fiction writer Alistair Reynolds describes a method of voting in which a massive computer tracks voter “performance” and gives higher weight to people who demonstrate careful analysis of issues. I can’t find the exact quotes (probably in The Prefect), but IIRC the voting algorithms track how often the voter sides with the majority, and how well the voter’s minority votes correlate with what are later seen to be prudent choices. Total transparency of the voting system and universally high levels of education keep the system from being dragged down by inflexible majorities or taken over by hypervocal minorities.

    Obviously our technology, education systems and collective sense of social responsibility haven’t developed to the point where such weighted voting is possible without risk of massive voter fraud. The concept nonetheless intrigues me, that “one citizen, one vote” may at some point not be the best way to manage a society. Compare, for example, the process by which opinions and biases are managed on Wikipedia pages.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 2, 2012 4:26 pm

      “Schneider expresses anger at the situation in which climate deniers, seem unable to comprehend how much evidence backs the scientific consensus, nevertheless get equal voice in the “marketplace of ideas” as it exists today. Obvious minority self-interest and demagogic deceptions still thwart fact-driven action. This is clear evidence that something’s badly broken in the way our society currently makes collective decisions, and we can only pray that someday things will be better.”

      I wonder to what extent this is a reflection of the anti-intellectualism prevalent in American political discourse. If you read the comments produced by climate-change deniers, there is often this sense of outrage and horror that decisions are going to be taken away from “us” (average American citizens) and given to “experts” whose very expertise seems to disqualify them (in the eyes of the commentators) from making these kinds of decisions. The solution is not to impose technocratic government, since “experts” are often chosen based on ideological criteria. But it does raise the question of how we should weight opinions in this or other discussion which requires either expert knowledge or the patience to sort through expert opinion.

    • January 2, 2012 10:52 pm

      “The concept nonetheless intrigues me, that “one citizen, one vote” may at some point not be the best way to manage a society.”

      Egads Frank is it Halloween? I have to confess I was horrified by your contemplation of weighted voting. Even with the terrible frustration involved in forming a concensus in an admittedly corrupt system, I can’t imagine any good comming from what amounts to the gerrymandering of power and influence. Aren’t we assigning individuals some fraction of human dignity as we through the whole concept under the bus?

      • January 3, 2012 10:57 am

        Tausign:

        I think your comment is correct, that no good would come of weighted voting in the society we know today. Driven by the will to power and influence, some minority would find some means of abusing the system to nefarious ends.

        However, voting and weight in voting is not the same thing as human dignity. I suspect that “voting == human dignity” is a perspective based on years of indoctrination in a country which is at least nominally democratic. Yet in the US, we routinely have less than half the electorate participating in general elections (see the Wikipedia page on “Voter turnout”). Of the people who do turn out, I guess (my personal opinion here) that fewer than half actually make an informed decision based on analysis of the facts. Only a small percentage of voters actually make a serious decision.

        So my conclusion is that the system we have to day does in fact unequally distribute power and influence. Sometime in the future, a more advanced society than ours (technologically, educationally, and spiritually) might be able to face this fact, and respond appropriately to ensure transparency and accountability on the part of that small percentage who actively make choices. This hope is closely tied (in my mind, anyway) to the promise of a Kingdom of God, where we all face God and reality ,and respond appropriately. Faith, rather than shrinking back into fear and delusions. I’d write in more, but it’s time to go to work,…

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