St Barnabas Anglican Church, Warrington
Caring for our Common Home
Notes for Session 4
These notes are based on chapter 5 of the encyclical Laudato Si', Lines of Approach and Action.
"[In this chapter] we shall try to outline the major paths of dialogue which can help us escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us."
1. Dialogue on the environment in the international community.
"An interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affect us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries. Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan... Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water."
"Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challenges facing our world. Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities."
"...recent world summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations because, due to lack of political will, they were unable to reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environments. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro is worth mentioning. It proclaimed that 'human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development'. Echoing the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, it enshrined international cooperation to care for the ecosystem of the entire earth... [but]... The principles which it proclaimed still await an efficient and flexible means of practical implementation."
"International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good... Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility."
"Some strategies for lowering pollutant gas emissions call for the internationalisation of environmental costs...[but]... there is a need for common and differential responsibilities."
"The strategy of buying and selling 'carbon credits' can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help to reduce the emissions of polluting gases worldwide."
"For poor countries, the priority must be to eliminate extreme poverty and promote the social development of their people. At the same time, they need to acknowledge the scandalous level of consumption in some privileged sectors of their population and to combat corruption more effectively. They are likewise bound to develop less polluting forms of energy production, but to do so they require the help of the countries which have experienced great growth at the cost of the ongoing pollution of the planet."
"Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed... Relations between States must be respectful of each other's sovereignty, but must also lay down mutually agreed means of averting regional disasters which would eventually affect everyone."
"The growing problem of marine waste and the protection of the open seas present particular challenges, What is needed, in effect, is an agreement on systems of governance for the whole range of so-called 'global commons'."
"The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty."
2. Dialogue for new national and local policies.
"Questions related to the environment and economic development can no longer be approached only from the standpoint of differences between countries: they also call for greater attention to policies on the national and local levels,"
"A politics concerned with immediate results supported by consumerist sectors of the population, is driven to produce short-term growth. In response to electoral interests, governments are reluctant to upset the public with measures which could affect the level of consumption or create risks for foreign investment."
"[Cooperatives] are able to instil a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land. They are also concerned about what they will eventually leave to their children and grandchildren."
"Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment... On the national and local levels much still needs to be done, such as ways of conserving energy... New forms of co-operation and community organisation can be encouraged in order to defend the interests of small producers and preserve local ecosystems from destruction."
"...continuity is essential because policies related to climate change cannot be altered with every change of government... A healthy politics is sorely needed, capable of reforming and co-ordinating institutions, promoting best practices and overcoming undue pressure and bureaucratic inertia...even the best mechanisms can break down when there are no worthy goals and values, or a genuine humanism to serve as the basis of a noble and generous society."
3. Dialogue and transparency in decision-making.
"An assessment of the environmental impact of business ventures and projects demands transparent political processes involving a free exchange of views... It should be linked to a study of working conditions and possible effects on people's physical and mental health, on the local economy and on public safety... The local population should have a special place at the table; they are concerned about their own future and that of their children, and can consider goals transcending immediate economic interests... This is especially the case when a project may lead to a greater use of natural resources, higher levels of emission or discharge, an increase of refuse, or significant changes to the landscape, the habitats of protected species or public spaces."
"The Rio Declaration of 1992 states that 'where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a pretext for postponing cost-effective measures', which prevent environmental degradation. This precautionary principle makes it possible to protect those who are most vulnerable and whose ability to defend their interests and to assemble incontrovertible evidence is limited."
"There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good."
4. Politics and economics in dialogue for human fulfilment.
"Today in view of the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life. Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only re-affirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery."
"Once more we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximising profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations?"
"Whenever these questions are raised, some react by accusing others of irrationally attempting to stand in the way of progress and human development. But we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development."
"...we need also to think of containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late. We know how unsustainable is the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity."
"Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress."
"What is needed is a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and inter-disciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis. Often, politics itself is responsible for the disrepute in which it is held, on account of corruption and the failure to enact sound public policies."
"A strategy for real change calls for re-thinking processes in their entirety, for it is not enough to include a few ecological considerations while failing to question the logic which underlines present-day culture. A healthy politics needs to be able to take up this challenge."
5. Religions in dialogue with science.
"Any technical solution which science claims to offer will be powerless to solve the serious problems of our world if humanity loses its compass, if we lose sight of the great motivations which make it possible for us to live in harmony, to make sacrifices, and to treat others well."
"Believers themselves must constantly feel challenged to live in a way consonant with their faith and not to contradict it by their actions. They need to be encouraged to be open to God's grace and to draw constantly from their deepest convictions about love, justice and peace... The majority of people living on our planet profess to be believers. This should spur religions to dialogue among themselves for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor, and building networks of respect and fraternity."
"An open and respectful dialogue is also needed between the various ecological movements, among which ideological conflicts are not infrequently encountered. The gravity of the ecological crisis demands that we all look to the common good, embarking on a path of dialogue which demands patience, self-discipline and generosity, always keeping in minds that 'realities are greater than ideas'."