(Vatican Radio) A Catholic climate scientist and a secular Jewish feminist formed an “unlikely alliance” in the Vatican press office on Wednesday to present a two day conference entitled ‘People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course'. The conference, which will take place at the Pontifical Augustinianum University in Rome, includes some 200 political, religious and civil society leaders from all continents who’ll be discussing Pope Francis’ new encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ in light of a climate summit to be held in Paris next December.
The two day conference, which opens on Thursday, has been organised by the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council, together with CIDSE, an international alliance of Catholic development agencies. Philippa Hitchen has the details….
Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, known for her bestselling book ‘No Logo’, admitted she was surprised and moved to be invited to the Vatican to speak about ways of mobilizing public opinion and putting pressure on political leaders. The Pope’s encyclical, she said, is a poetic, but also courageous and common sense document that speaks not just to the Catholic world, but “for every person living on this planet”. It forcefully confronts the fact that our unbridled models of development and technological progress have unleashed “natural forces that are far more powerful than even our most ingenious machines”, yet many are still in denial about the path of environmental destruction we’re headed down. Even critics who accept the document’s moral authority and scientific data, she said, insist the Pope should leave the economic policy to the experts.
“I forcefully disagree. The truth is we have arrived at this dangerous place partly because many of those economic experts have failed us, wielding their powerful technocratic skills without wisdom. They produced models that placed scandalously little value on human life, particularly on the lives of the poor, and placed outsized value on protecting corporate profits and economic growth”
Echoing Klein’s warning was German scientist Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The new encyclical, he said, must not be reduced to a document on the environment but should be understood for the revolutionary way it links ecology on a par with poverty reduction, describing the planet's natural resources as “a common good of all and for all”
“This statement on the common destination of goods is for the first time in the history of Catholic social teaching, applied to global carbon sinks, which includes the oceans, the atmosphere, the forests and partially land.....the use of this Commons is a basic human right and its distribution is to be applied according to the principles of justice”
Another German, Bernt Nilles, General Secretary of the CIDSE network, which marks its half century this year, noted the Catholic Church already has a strong track record of campaigning on environmental and social justice concerns– including a statement of specific requests about ending fossil fuel dependency, presented by bishops to world leaders attending the last climate summit in Lima last December.
Ahead of the Paris summit, he said, hundreds of thousands of people are preparing to converge in a faith pilgrimage to insist the politicians come up with a “fair, ambitious, legally binding agreement” on moving from carbon to renewable energy economies in the next couple of decades. World leaders must hear the voice of the most vulnerable, Nilles said,, but as the Pope’s encyclical points out, this is also about me and my lifestyle too: that’s why CIDSE has launched a new website ‘Change for the Planet, Care for the People’ to help each one of us be a part of the growing global movement towards a more sustainable way of living.
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