'Unusual' Alliances, Vibrant Democracy Needed to Fight Global Warming, Poverty

A banner calling attention to climate change is seen in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican June 28. Some 1,500 people marched to the Vatican in support of Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the environment. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Democracy must return to politics and unusual alliances must form in order to get the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle poverty, said a panel of speakers attending a Vatican conference.

But as people band together for change, world leaders will have to commit to real binding action at upcoming global summits on climate change and development because "there is zero tolerance for yet another failure being dressed up as a success for the cameras," said Naomi Klein, a Canadian social activist, author and filmmaker, who was invited to speak at the Vatican.

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The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, together with the international alliance of Catholic development agencies, CIDSE, presented the aims of a jointly sponsored meeting at a news conference July 1.

Titled "People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course," the July 2-3 meeting will seek to offer alternatives to current economic models that damage creation by bringing together 200 active leaders in the church, science and society for debate.

The gathering is using Pope Francis' recent encyclical, "Laudato Si,'" to guide reflection and a plan of action, the panel at the news conference said.

The papal document is "courageous," said Klein, because it challenges the "dominance-based world view" in an age that "lacks political courage."

"We're all used to politicians just backing down at the first sign of controversy," but there will be controversy when there are such powerful interests supporting the status quo, said Klein, who has been outspoken against unregulated capitalism and worker exploitation.

Describing herself as a "secular Jewish feminist," she said the encyclical deeply resonated with her, yet "it was a complete surprise" the Vatican invited her to speak at its gathering

Seeking to engage activists and experts who agree with the church on certain aspects of social justice, but not on other key life issues, the Vatican made "a particularly courageous decision to invite me here."

"I think it indicates that the Holy See is not being intimidated and knows that when you say powerful truths, you make some powerful enemies," she said.

Responding to concerns the Vatican would invite a speaker who opposed the Catholic Church in her support of artificial birth control, Klein said her speaking at a conference targeting poverty and climate change was "an alliance on a specific issue, not a merger."

"When you are faced with a crisis of this magnitude," concerning poverty and global warming, "people have to get out of their comfort zones" to join forces, she said.

Bernd Nilles, secretary-general of CIDSE, said "we need to build these unusual alliances" in order to unite the broadest base around "one very important question to humankind."

"We as Catholics alone, the Catholic Church, we cannot stop climate change, we cannot protect all people alone, we need to collaborate with all faiths, with all kinds of people who really want to make a difference," he said.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the pontifical council, wrote in his introductory remarks that democracy needed to be re-established in today's "political dimension" in order to let the people, rather than special interests, have "control over the economy and finance."

His remarks, which were read aloud at the news conference since he was unable to attend, said the biggest obstacle to change was not a lack of economic, scientific or technological progress or knowhow, "but rather (something) within our minds and hearts."

Klein said everyone, especially world leaders, should read the pope's entire encyclical, not just summaries and "listicles."

"Read it and let it into your hearts" because "today we have only two roads in front of us: difficult yet humane and easy yet reprehensible," she said.

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J Cabaniss
2 years 10 months ago
Given that we have the weight of an encyclical calling for us to accept the science behind the theory of AGW, it would be reasonable to assume the scientific question have been resolved, and all that remains is finding the political will to address the problems, but while that might be a reasonable assumption it would be an inaccurate one. The science is anything but settled, and as the hiatus in warming continues into its 18th year, each passing month only increases the separation between theory and fact. Still, given that AGW is an article of faith for so many, perhaps it is not too surprising that Catholics are being told to accept on faith that it is true, although it is a bit weird to think of faith as a basis for resolving questions of science.
Dale Lature
2 years 10 months ago
and denial seems to be an article of faith for you, given your dogged repeatingof the "unsettled science" meme, which is , itself, not supported by science. Given that the science's strength of consensus is of a degree much greater than it is for nearly every other "accepted consensus" is something you apparently STILL CHOOSE to ignore , the "article of faith" is yours, bud.
J Cabaniss
2 years 10 months ago
If the scientists agreed with you you might have a point, but apparently even those high up in the AGW hierarchy recognize a problem when they see it.
The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. - Kevin Trenberth, 2008
This comment was made seven years ago, and, given that warming has still not returned, they are no closer to explaining it now than they were then. Eighteen years without warming is a recognized problem. At least it is recognized among scientists.
So far, no one has been able to provide a compelling answer to why climate change seems to be taking a break. We're facing a puzzle...This is a serious scientific problem...If things continue as they have been, in five years, at the latest, we will need to acknowledge that something is fundamentally wrong with our climate models. A 20-year pause in global warming does not occur in a single modeled scenario. - Hans von Storch, 2013
"Puzzles", "problems", and things that are "fundamentally wrong" are not what one generally associates with settled science.

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