I couldn’t help but feel hopeful as the New Year dawned. “Surely,” I said to myself, “this year we can work together to make things better…” The recent World Summit on Climate Change in Paris was such a sign of hope for me. These days I pray constantly for peace with justice for all. I pray that we might all be people of peace, of gentleness, of compassion, of love…Right now the news of the terrible attacks on hundreds of women is sending shock waves throughout and beyond Europe. I know I cannot give in to the temptation to let go of hope. We need it more than ever now. I am thinking of those recent words of Pope Francis – God will have the last word and the last word is love (my version). We have to live as if that is true. I am praying that we can do this and do it together…
Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category
And as he drew near, when he saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If [only] you also had known on this day the things that lead to peace; but now it’s hidden from your eyes.’ Luke 19:41-42 (The New Testament, Nicholas King)
The first two verses of a recent Gospel reading are a powerful reminder to me of the vital need to seek those things that lead to peace. Those words couldn’t be more relevant in the light of recent news of horrendous acts of violence in several parts of our world. It is more important than ever to find ways of promoting peace and justice wherever it is lacking – including in my own heart. Recently, the concluding prayer for my morning prayer included these words: ‘Help us to look lovingly upon all people and events that come into our lives today.’ (People’s Companion to the Breviary, Vol II, p 31)
Perhaps, if we can look lovingly on everything that is happening these days, including terrible act of violence, we might begin to understand why they are happening and we might also begin to glimpse solutions that bring the peace we all long for.
It is likely that each of us is aware of small local gestures of love and care towards the environment and to those most immediately dependent on it. In the recent encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis reminds us that each individual must play their part in addressing climate change. He calls on governments and multinationals to take a lead, and he warns against ‘a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency'[LS 59].
Pope Francis also acknowledges that there are positive steps, some of which are significant and which give testimony to the fact that positive intervention is a possibility.
In some countries, there are positive examples of environmental improvement: rivers, polluted for decades, have been cleaned up; native woodlands have been restored; landscapes have been beautified thanks to environmental renewal projects; beautiful buildings have been erected; advances have been made in the production of non-polluting energy and in the improvement of public transportation. These achievements do not solve global problems, but they do show that men and women are still capable of intervening positively. For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love. [LS 58]
I would like to pick out just three recent good news stories that have appeared in the last week here in the UK – maybe you have others that you could add.
‘By the end of 2016, the company will establish a Lego Sustainable Materials Centre at the Lego headquarters in Billund, Denmark, with the aim to be manufacturing both the Lego toys and its packaging in sustainable materials by 2030.’ [cnet]
A more sustainable toy – Lego announces its intention to get rid of petroleum based plastics
Toys such as Lego are essentially luxury goods. The market for them is driven by branding and advertising. The decision to make a radical move towards sustainability probably indicates not only increasingly responsible manufacturing targets but also a growing pressure from consumers to buy sustainable products.
A tiny hamlet in Lancashire, NW UK has won a significant battle in its campaign to prevent fracking in the local area. Little Plumpton has just 13 residents. In an area where employment is limited and fracking could boost the economy, locals and others from across the region have mounted a determined campaign which has at least temporarily halted the proposed site.
The Chief executive of the Lancashire Chamber for Commerce, supported by Cuadrilla said “In turning down this proposal, councillors appear to have ruled with their hearts, rather than their heads, and ignored the reasoned arguments of those with genuine expertise in this industry. She said it was “bad news for local businesses”. The ‘no’ campaign has largely centered around the environmental impact of the proposed site.
Naomi Klein, a leading social activist and critic of capitalism will join Cardinal Turcson in leading a conference on the climate hosted by the Vatican.’Pope Francis recruits Naomi Klein in climate change battle’
This collaborative approach to the debate, and the engagement between the moral, ethical, spiritual and scientific aspects can only be positive. The debate on the environment ‘cries out for a moral voice’ [N Klein]
“The fact that they invited me indicates they’re not backing down from the fight. A lot of people have patted the pope on the head, but said he’s wrong on the economics. I think he’s right on the economics,” she said, referring to Pope Francis’s recent publication of an encyclical on the environment. [N Klein]
She went on to say that ‘the pope’s position as a “moral voice” in the world – and leader of 1.2 billion Catholics – gives him the unique ability to unite campaigners fighting for a common goal.’.
In the encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis repeatedly calls us to become aware not only of the immediate consequences of environmental degradation – deforestation, loss of habitats, etc. but also of the repercussions on the global community. In the paragraph quoted below he reminds us of the potential consequences of further multinational control of water resources.
Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.[LS 31]
I read an article recently which looks at the main findings of ‘A New Climate for Peace‘ – an independent report commissioned by G7 members. The report refers to climate change as “the ultimate threat multiplier” in fragile situations, and looks at how related issues such as food insecurity, migration and competition for water can leave fragile states and regimes unable to provide for their citizens.
International and national security is very much on the political agenda, and the report acknowledges that there are multiple factors involved in any conflict, but it also recognises the significant impact of food and water insecurity in conflict.
In the next few weeks I invite us to have a look as some parts of Laudato Si to consider areas of personal conversion that each one of us is called to. Pope Francis reminds us that awareness enables us to discover what can be done.
Following a period of irrational confidence in progress and human abilities, some sectors of society are now adopting a more critical approach. We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet. Let us review, however cursorily, those questions which are troubling us today and which we can no longer sweep under the carpet. Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it. LS19
Pope Francis invites us to reflect on our current situation so as to allow the suffering of the world to become our own suffering.
One area that is addressed in the encyclical Laudato Si, is that of our throw-away society.
We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard. LS22
Change is certainly needed on a macro level, with industry and governments playing a key role. However we are reminded that the individual cannot abdicate responsibility and there are small lifestyle choices that each of us can make.
Perhaps as a practical step each one of us might consider the waste produced in our households each week. Are there choices that we can make with regard to food, clothing, transport etc that might reduce our personal consumption of the earths resources? Here’s are just a few simple questions that might provoke reflection:
- Do we buy food with a lot of packaging?
- Do we repair or dispose of damaged goods?
- Do we compost or send to landfill?
- Is all recyclable waste separated in our house?
- Are we overly influenced by fashions – clothing, technology, etc?
The video addresses the question of manufacturing in a way that has less environmental impact.
It is worth watching all of this presentation if you havent already, but in particular I invite you to watch Prof Schellnhuber from 1:00:00 – 1:18:50. (Much of the video is in Italian but the interventions, including Prof Schellnhuber, are in English)
It is not poverty that destroys the environment, it is wealth, consumption and waste.
[Prof.John Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute]