Sunday, September 27, 2015

Climate Sunday: Climate is a Moral Issue

The Pope visited the US, and particularly my own city this weekend, so I am going to frame this post in light of the Pope's visit, and his urgent message, downplayed to the US Congress, but stated a bit more forcefully to the UN--We have got to do something about this climate change.

Marco Rubio, presidential candidate and Catholic, reminds us that the Pope "is not a politician". Bless his heart.

Jeb Bush, presidential candidate and Catholic, advises us that the Pope "is not a scientist".

The Pope is the head of the state called "Vatican City" (can you say that Marco Rubio?--Knew you could!) and represents a religion whose adherents number over a billion. You tell me that guy isn't any kind of  politician, I will laugh at you for a long damn time. The Pope also is qualified to understand science. Actually, notwithstanding the Galileo stuff, the Catholic Church is pretty reality-based regarding science. Teilhard de Chardin and Gregor Mendel were notable religious who advanced the cause of human scientific knowledge. It's not unheard of for the Church to be ahead of the curve--look at all the educational facilities and hospitals the Church has created. They aren't anti-knowledge (says the Catholic-adjacent militant agnostic).

So the question that might remain for the faithful is whether they recognize the Pope to be discussing climate change as a moral issue, as opposed to a scientific or political statement--because the Pope is not infallible on the political and scientific levels, but for the moral stuff? He's the go-to guy for the faith.

I'm not sure this Pope has a non-moral setting, though. He has gone out of his way to make common cause with the "least of these"--with the poor, with the prisoner, with the sinner. He has gone out of his way to be nonjudgmental, to make annulments easier for regular folks to get, to forgive people who have gotten abortions, to even say "Who am I to judge?" regarding the lives and dignity of LGB priests--and I think he has the potential to evolve this radical understanding of the human condition and the need of people to love and be loved, to accept and be accepted, even further. He is not perfect, but I get him. Everything he does is from a moral sense. He knows we are fallible and fuck up--but we can do better.

And this is what he is saying about how we treat this planet. We are easily accepting of the idea that the planet is ours to exploit and give so little thought to the future generations who will live on this planet. We are given this beautiful creation--but we shit it up for something as trashy and temporary as money. And our disregard of planetary health is a disregard of the lives of the poor, who live closest to the land, and suffer when the land suffers.

There is more to our lives and human dignity than wealth. There is the question of whether we are right now making decisions that cause bad health, famines, or even death for other people--and that is very much a moral issue. When executives at Volkswagen, for example, decided to game the EPA regulations because they thought they could get away with it--they made a moral decision that could result in sickness for asthmatics and people with emphysema by making air quality poorer. In other words, they actively made a decision that did harm to real people. Their customers, and people who live where air quality is affected. This corner-cutting bullshit isn't just a capitalism issue--it's a moral question.

This discrepancy was discovered by the EPA, but the House, who heard the Pope's speechification, doesn't really think the EPA should have the power to do things. Like game out the cost of climate change that is happening, as even Exxon could have told you 30 years ago. (And FYI--the costs seem to be significant. In many ways. ) It's sort of like the House has collectively decided they "can't handle the truth". But that truth affects everything, from agriculture to energy costs,  from job and economic security, to national security. It spurs wars and refugee crises. It is a real problem, and hell yes, it is a moral issue.

And maybe that isn't what you got from the Pope. But it's what I say--this is a moral issue. It very much is. And if you want to know whether I, the militant agnostic, want to go with the politicians like Bush or Rubio--no. I think the Pope is right on this one.

No comments: