Category: Environmental Stewardship

Climate-Change-Report-23For the past few years Pope Francis has made it clear he considers climate change to be an essential issue of concern. In his recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, he wrote that climate change is one of the “principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” Has Francis been able to convince American Catholics to share his concern?

Maybe so. A new Pew Research survey shows that Catholics, along with people who are unaffiliated with major religions, are more likely to agree with the pope’s position than are Protestants in the U.S.

pollution“The rules don’t apply to me,” is a favorite maxim of toddlers, narcissists, and government officials. This is especially true of the legislative branch, which frequently exempts itself—and its 30,000 employees—from federal laws that apply to the rest of us.

But just as often government at all levels simply ignores laws it finds too burdensome to comply with. A recent study published last month in the American Journal of Political Science titled “When Governments Regulate Governments” found that “compared with private firms, governments violate [the U.S. Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act] significantly more frequently and are less likely to be penalized for violations.”

Researchers David Konisky and Manny Teodoro viewed records of more than 3,000 power plants, 1,000 hospitals and 4,200 water utilities. Some of their findings include:

Ahhhh, the Left! So often passionate, so obstinately assured of the rightness of their secular crusades mounted under the variety of flags and anthems espousing “social justice” and “environmental sustainability.” And, unfortunately, so often just plain wrong.

Such is the case with As You Sow, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and other shareholder activist groups that each year apply their supposed religious authority to the proxy resolutions they submit to major companies. Certainly, AYS and ICCR investors believe from the sanctuary of their respective progressive bubbles that they’re working for the benefit of humankind when it comes to such topics as climate-change mitigation and genetically modified organisms. Yet, nothing could be further from reality viewed through the lenses of science, religion, economics and common sense.

For the purpose of this post, let’s take a look at the work AYS and ICCR apply against GMOs. Both shareholder activist groups are affiliated with Inside GMO coalition – AYS as an acknowledged member and ICCR listing Inside GMO as a featured resource. The Inside GMO website portentously lists the organization’s purpose:

Large agribusiness and chemical companies oppose our right to know when foods have GMOs. These are the same companies that put GMOs out on the market without adequate testing – turning us all into lab rats in a giant science experiment.

GMO Inside is a campaign dedicated to helping all Americans know which foods have GMOs inside, and the non-GMO verified and organic certified alternatives to genetically engineered foods. We believe that everyone has a right to know what’s in their food and to choose foods that are proven safe for themselves, their families, and the environment.

GMO Inside gives people information and tools, and provides a place for a growing community of people from all walks of life, to share information and actions around genetically engineered foods.

Sigh. It gets worse. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, October 15, 2015

664975_084I saw The Martian this week and was struck by the number of resonant themes on a variety of is issues, including creation, creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, exploration, work, suffering, risk, and civilization.

I won’t be exploring all of these in the brief reflections below, but will simply be highlighting some salient features. The film communicates something seriously important about the threefold relations of human beings: to God, to one another, and to the creation.

There will be some potential spoilers in the discussion below the jump after this line.

Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

While it has been pointed out repeatedly by your writer and others in this space that Pope Francis’ Laudato Si contains much to recommend it for the beauty, compassion and depth of spirituality contained within, there remains much that is problematic. For example, there’s this:

At the same time we can note the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.

All this is consistent with Pope Francis’ warning that fossil fuels are contributing to climate change, but what he should be advocating for is energy abundance rather than this:

There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gasses can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.

Yet, how does the Pope reconcile his call for reduction of fossil-fuel use with his call for cleaner water and increased green space in the following quotes?

Here’s Pope Francis on water:

RS cover from 2014

RS cover from 2014

On Sept. 10, Rolling Stone magazine published a long article titled “Pope Francis’ American Crusade — The pope takes on climate change, poverty and conservative U.S. clerics.” From the title alone you could tell where this was headed. Predictably, the magazine asserted that “deeply alarmed by the power of Francis’ message, an entire network of -right-wing Catholic organizations has been increasingly willing to push back against the Vatican.” In ticking off members of this “network” it said this about the Acton Institute and yours truly:

Then there’s the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which is run by a Catholic priest named Robert Sirico — he’s the brother of actor Tony Sirico, best known for his portrayal of Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos — and hosts forums with titles like “Government: Less Is More.” Sirico recently wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal attacking “Laudato Si'” for its “decided bias against the free market and suggestions that poverty is the result of a globalized economy,” though he failed to disclose the hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations Acton has received from extraction-industry giants such as Exxon Mobil and the Koch family.

I wrote a response to this article and sent it to Rolling Stone editors but they, not surprisingly, declined to publish it. Here it is in full:

To the Editor:

News Flash! Admitted pro-market think tank accepts donations from pro-market supporters. (“Pope Francis’ American Crusade — The pope takes on climate change, poverty and conservative U.S. clerics,” Sept. 10).

Of course this revelation is presented in Mr. Mark Benelli’s – what was it, op-ed, news analysis, hit piece? – as something far more sinister, implying, but not saying, that somehow The Acton Institute is controlled by the dark financial interests of evil capitalists, instead of the reality that (1) we hold to a position and (2) we invite others who hold to the same or similar positions to support us.

The deeper journalistic problem with this piece is its sheer superficiality in understanding Catholicism or what the Acton Institute (which, incidentally, is an ecumenical organization that works with people ranging from like-minded Evangelicals to observant Jews) does. This is understandable given that Mr. Benelli relies to a great extent for his research on the hyperbole from the fainting couch of one M.S. Winters who writes a breathless blog for the Rolling Stone of Catholic journalism, the National Catholic Reporter. (more…)

bt-resourcesThe very first command God gave to humanity was to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Overall, I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job on that “increase the number” since we currently have over 7.3 billion people on the planet. Where we fall short of keeping the command is in the “subdue it” part.

As the ESV Study Bible explains,

Here the idea is that the man and woman are to make the earth’s resources beneficial for themselves, which implies they would investigate and develop the earth’s resources to make them useful for human beings generally. This command provides a foundation for wise scientific and technological development . . .

Innovations in agriculture have helped make it possible to feed more people using fewer resources, especially farm land. But there may be cultural innovation that could help just as significant: Overcoming the aversion Westerners have to eating bugs.

In the West we mainly get our protein from livestock, such as cattle and chicken. Cows taste great but they are extremely resource-intensive: it takes about 18-22 months and two acres of land for each cow, and one pound of steak requires 1,800 gallons of water. That makes it difficult to rely on them as a protein source for a growing population.

In contrast, “minilivestock”, such as crickets, require much fewer resources: Every six weeks, you can harvest 55-65 pounds of cricket meat from a 4 x 8-foot pen, and one pound of cricket protein requires only one gallon of water.