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Nathan SchneiderMay 31, 2017

I just put my 1-year-old to sleep. He went down easily. He doesn’t know it yet, and won’t understand it for years I suppose, but minutes before he fell asleep, White House sources revealed that President Trump intends to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. The man who will probably be my son’s first image of what a leader looks like has chosen a short-sighted, confused, greedy version of the present, or of past greatness, over the future of the planet that my son and his friends, and their children, will inherit.

There’s no sense anymore in bothering to cite the scientists’ numbers or to reproduce charts or to quote from “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis’ encyclical that Mr. Trump received from its author’s hands just a week ago. The debate is over, and it has long since ceased to be a real debate. Even the former ExxonMobil chief executive officer who is Mr. Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, became the last, best hope that the president would opt to stick with the climate deal. Paris was never enough, but it was the one step that virtually every country on Earth could agree to start with. It stood for a rare, almost impossible hope that global consensus might be possible for a species otherwise embracing its own suicidal fragmentation.

Paris was never enough, but it was the one step that virtually every country on Earth could agree to start with.

“Suicide,” actually, isn’t the right word. My son isn’t choosing the planet he will be getting. The unborn children to come certainly aren’t. Nor are the vast majority of living, grown human beings. Mr. Trump’s fleshy shell will be rot and decomposure by the time the climate truly turns to chaos. This is war—the war of one generation on those that follow it, and we are led reluctantly into battle against our descendants by a despot determined to ignore the outcry of his scientists, his citizens and even his most oil-stained advisers. We need to call it what it is.

I don’t relish the prospect of war. I am one of those Catholics with serious reservations about our church’s “just war” teaching—about whether a war can ever be just. Our God is a Prince of Peace who bears no arms. But we need not affirm the justice of a war to recognize that it is happening. The Catechism of the Catholic Churchdefines an act of war more stringently, I think, than many who claim the banner of just war theory admit. It says, “The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain.” That’s a high bar, but Mr. Trump is roaring far above it. This is what we are up against. This is it.

This is war—the war of one generation on those that follow it.

When such damage is underway, we cannot stand by or claim refuge in our complaints as we grudgingly take part. “Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions,” the catechism continues. “One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide.”

The command has gone out now: We are to proceed with the destruction of the planet, in the name of some imagined greatness of the past, to preserve the privileges of the most privileged country on Earth. We are to refuse coordination, cooperation, restraint and consensus. We are to deny our children, born and unborn, the planetary gift we received, from our parents and from our God. We cannot.

Once, in the West Bank, I attended a march, a Palestinian protest against Israeli soldiers involved in yet another land grab. At the front of the march were children, barely old enough to run ahead, carrying a flag and leading the chants—”Palestine will be free!” I asked a mother why the children go first. Isn’t it unsafe? Those soldiers have guns, and they are known to fire them on marches like this. She told me that the children go first because it is the fight for their future, more than anyone’s. They can’t put it off. They have to learn. This is their life, their survival.

I wished it didn’t have to be so, and I know she wished that more than I did, but that’s what occupation means. That is what it means to be at war.

By the time my son wakes up—from this nap today, or in a few years from his blessed innocence of world affairs—I hope the war will have ended without a shot. I hope it can be won for him with beautiful nonviolence, leaving behind stories that will help him grow up proud of his people. I hope we can love the enemy, as God commands us. But the war can’t be won without seeing it for what it is, and for what it now demands of us—the grown, the living.

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Marie Griffin
6 years 12 months ago

I love every word of this article, Nathan, but you didn't write this--or anything like it--before a heartless "despot" (your words) was elected. White Catholics supported Trump over Clinton 60% to 37%, and, no doubt, most of America's readership falls in that demographic. If you had written so powerfully in October, maybe you could have changed some minds. As you so rightly point out, Trump's policies will hurt, perhaps kill, many people yet unborn, all over the world, but the Catholic church has supported Republicans, even one 2x divorced and an admitted adulterer, because of its limited view of the "right to life." If your son reads this article someday, he should also know that YOU had a forum with a critical audience to say something before before November 8, 2016, and you did not use it when it mattered. I am sorry I have to write this, because your words here are great, but we both have to admit it's more than a little late.

James Haraldson
6 years 12 months ago

Yeah right. Like anyone at America actually cares about the unborn, or the truth for that matter. Certainly not when they characterize the environmental benefits of increased economic activity yields in the long term as a "war" against the environment.

Stuart Meisenzahl
6 years 12 months ago

Another overwrought piece filled with phrases like "This war-the war of one generation on those that follow it". Your misplaced admiration for the Palestinian Mother putting her children out in front of potential danger reminds one of the Islamist mothers praising their children for becoming suicide bombers. Such an Honor for the family to have such a martyr!

You give the Paris Agreement a status that it's signatories have deliberately refused to give it.....a status that belies your sense of loss.
It is not binding.!

Please explain if the Paris Agreement is so fundamentally important, then why didn't President Obama bring it to Congress as a treaty which would be binding.? Note that the 2015 Copenhagen climate meeting could get no international consensus to create climate treaty status. So the international community by punting in Paris has sought refuge in a non binding agreement.

Please explain why the defense of the Paris Agreement is constantly based on ..."Well it isn't actually binding!" ....."so you don't really need to withdraw. To do so is an unnecessary slap in the face"

If the Paris Agreement is so vital then why does it give China @15 years to even start to control its emissions?... and even then it is not bound to do so.

Please explain was there a Paris Agreement cost/ benefit analysis done by the Obama Administration?
What exactly is the cost /benefit analysis for the Paris Agreement.....and don't forget to calculate the economic impact on the poorest people of the soaring cost of energy for heat and light (recall Candidate Obama bragging that his policies of closing down coal would send energy prices soaring) Also don't forget the overall negative impact on manufacturing as a result of higher energy prices.

The environmental lobby has deliberately ignored the natural gas fracking revolution and how that development has simply swamped their prior predictions of Co2 emissions, not to mention the massive savings generated from industrial energy usage of natural gas.

Finally you state:
"The command has gone out now: We are to proceed with the destruction of the planet".......
Let's first get a grip: despite your article decrying the Trump Administration decision ...... at the time of this writing at 7:45 pm on May 31 2017, the White House has not actually issued any final decision on the Paris Agreement .....or whether it will be ignored or disavowed in whole or in part. Seems like you didn't have much time to consider what Trump has done with the Paris Agreement since at your writing he had not yet even taken any action on the topic.

Jean Miller
6 years 12 months ago

I echo Marie Griffin's thoughts totally. It is a shame and ironic that we how hear complaints re Trump's policies and how they violate our "Catholic ideals" i.e.: treatment of Refugees (homeless), food stamps and meals on wheels to be cancelled,(feed the hungry). health care for millions to be in jeopardy (right to life). And on it goes. Many of the responses to this seems to indicate the message of the social gospels of Jesus somehow got lost.

Morton Abercromby
6 years 12 months ago

This is easily the silliest and most sanctimonious article I've read since the last time I was at this Website.

Colin Donovan
6 years 12 months ago

You have to love liberals. The (unratified) Paris treaty was nothing more than "Mission Accomplished" for the Left. Like the ACA and so many Obama "triumphs" they were largely exercises in self-righteousness that balanced, in a consequential fashion, support for "reproductive choice," same-sex lifestyles and marriage, gender ideology generally, and forcing religious believers at home and in other countries to adopt the new social ethics. The United States will no doubt continue to regulate the environment in accordance with the political consensus of recent decades that clean water, clean air and clean energy are social goods, but that there are also more fundamental ones, such as human life, freedom, and the natural family.

Douglas Fang
6 years 12 months ago

I really appreciate your strong language in this article. I completely understand your frustration and despair as you witness this drama unfolding. As I write this comment, POTUS Trump just announced the withdrawal of the US from the Paris agreement. I listened to most of his speech. It was so ridiculous and dishonest beyond description.

I see the same level of despair expressed in this article where the title says it all “Scarier than the Living Dead”

This is exactly I see how the hardcore Trump supporters behave. For them, the complete destruction is preferable to allowing things to keep going in the current direction. This is a desperation that is utterly inexplicable to those who are currently toward the top of the income and education scale (or to those of us who still have a working brain and heart and some flicker of faith in humanity and in God – my words)

Bruce Snowden
6 years 12 months ago

America Magazine offers subscribers online latitude, encouraging an open exchange of ideas and opinions in postings, respectful in delivery, even heartfelt, as I see Nathan Schneider’s honest expression of his opinion on President’s Trump’s latest decision on environmental sensitivity to be. This being true I consider unwarranted the criticism of what Mr. Schneider has said in his excellent article. The President’s tendency at all times leans towards something akin to the spectacular. Is that the right word?

Such behavior is unhelpful and non-productive towards removing and repairing man-accelerated environmental damage to our Common Home, “Sister Earth” even if removal and repair issues are intrinsically cyclical, happening naturally as a built-in clean and repair “filter-system” perhaps part of the God-intended environmental evolutionary process. Humanity knows how to mess up things don't we, to near collapse, saying in effect what Adam and Eve said of each other, “He/She, made me do it!” So many unwilling to accept personal responsibility for our part in the somber environmental toll of bells, blindly believing that what they see and hear is only normal, not their fault relishing the angelic singing if you wish!

I listened to the President’s explanation today, on the whys for his rejection of the Paris Accords and in a certain way it did make some sense, although, since President Trump unashamedly often rubs shoulders with exaggerations in the interest of the supposed supremacy of the U.S. I don’t feel entirely comfortable with his explanations for pulling out of the Paris Accords. However I do give him credit for his apparent willingness to reenter discussion with other Nations of environmental necessities, or if necessary to launch out into the deep alone. Let’s see what really happens.

Thanks Mr. Schneider for you your contribution, with which I substantially agree. Please God your young son will in his time experience environmental tranquility in a world that readily acknowledges that every leaf is a poem, every grain of sand a song!

Kevin Murphy
6 years 12 months ago

"Fleshy shell?" "Rot" and "decomposure?" Don't they edit at America?

JR Cosgrove
6 years 12 months ago

This article is another example of

Scare and Shame

that is prevalent in so many articles on America. It is all hysteria and little evidence and reason. Where have the Jesuits of old gone?

Does Mr. Schneider know what is in the Paris Climate agreement? I doubt it and I doubt any of the editors and other authors here know. The first thing the editors should do is investigate what is likely to happen and lay out the likely scenarios.

This hysteria has nothing to do with the climate/temperature of the planet. It is all about politics and money. That is why the approach is

Scare and Shame.

Lisa Weber
6 years 12 months ago

Withdrawing from the Paris agreement on climate change is just one more irrational action by an administration devoted to ignorance and power. A person does not need to understand the science about climate change to know that being wasteful is wrong in and of itself. Harming the earth is wrong in and of itself. Those older than 50 should be able to see the effects of climate change that are evident in their own lifetimes. Nothing about the efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuel is difficult to understand.

The real problem with the current administration in the White House is its love for power, its defense of ignorance and corruption, and the complicity of the Republican party. Yes, it is a war. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church in the USA chose the wrong side during the election because of its own love for power. The question for those of us in the Church is how to act within the Church and the nation to address the sins we committed in allowing this to happen.

Douglas Fang
6 years 12 months ago

A very good in-depth article about the 180 degrees change in the policy of the Republican leaders with regard to climate change.

It is unbelievable to see Senator and presidential candidate Mc Cain in his video to stand up and “sound the alarm on global warming”.

Similarly, it was utterly surprised to see Mr Trump in 2009, had joined dozens of other business leaders to sign a full-page ad in the The New York Times urging Mr. Obama to push a global climate change pact being negotiated in Copenhagen, and to “strengthen and pass United States legislation” to tackle climate change.

In summary, the whole campaign to discredit the evidence and danger of climate change is purely based on greed, deception, and political corruption.

Shame on you, Mr Trump and your blind followers, to do such a thing against the common good of human kind. There is no truth, honesty, and charity in such an act!

Peter Nerman
6 years 11 months ago

The more I see of that man the more I think, He probably doesn't like people at all. Then again I think maybe they all talk bad about Him. Maybe He wants less people, less intelligent people, a handful of rich elite, I wish I did not think that but again I see and read who He appointed head over schoolsystem, fired FBI people, had them not leak to media, well it is partly out in Sweden...Then Stockmarket goes down when He comes over in case He wants to fill up. Those companies that work basically in Russia are way prosperous. It is interesting How one man can manipulate stockmarket so much. When it comes to not caring for nature however, those warmwaterpipes can explode underground. The whole earth erupts in an explosion and cars and houses are destroyed and water leaks out and people could get hurt so when one is not taking care of nature wisely one could have an accident like they had in Ukraine in Kiev. Pray for Your president, it is not easy to govern a country. It is easier to start a war than to stop a war.
Has it not always been the rich against the poor and the rich old care less about nature if they care not about people. If a president care not about people then maybe He should retire. From my blog on renewables for a better world. A greeting

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