The Capital Times’ Editorial Board Agrees: Pope Francis Right to Ring Alarm Bells on Climate Change

Francis

Madison Capital Newspaper’s Editorial Board of The Capital Times endorsed Pope Francis’ June 18 Encyclical on Climate Change last week, citing the pope’s recommendation for “cultural revolution” to correct what the pope also said is a “structurally perverse” economic system, exploiting the poor to benefit the rich, turning Earth into an “immense pile of filth”, the pope said.

The following appeared verbatim in The Cap Times’ newspaper and on Madison .com on June 24, 2015 as an opinion and commentary of The Cap Time’s Editorial Board:

Pope Francis is Absolutely Right about Climate Change

“I would like to enter a dialogue with all people about our common home,” writes Pope Francis in the remarkable encyclical on climate change that he has addressed to “every person living on this planet.”

The pope will bring that dialogue to the United States in September and, to our view, he cannot arrive soon enough. Francis is adding to the debate about environmental challenges and responses a sense of urgency that has, for the most part, been missing from the discussions of climate change among the political and economic elites in the United States.

“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain,” explains the Catholic leader, who argues that the scientific and practical proof of global warming is as undeniable as it is unsettling.

“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” Francis argues. “In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”

The pope’s message must be heard in the United States — especially in Washington, especially on Wall Street — as it challenges the superstitions and fantastical thinking of those who still try to deny the human role in creating climate change. And in addressing the crisis.

Some of the deniers are so out of touch with reality that they do not understand what the pope is talking about. Rick Santorum, a clueless conservative who is waging another doomed-to-fail campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, rejected the new encyclical with a bizarre announcement that the pope should “leave science to the scientists.”

Santorum has company in the reality-free zone. A supposedly more serious contender for the Republican nomination, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who like Santorum is Catholic, says, “I don’t get economic policies from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope. I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

Bush’s fellow front-runner for the Republican presidential nod, Scott Walker, has what Mother Jones magazine refers to as an “inglorious history of anti-environmentalism” in Wisconsin, where the governor recently refused to join a chorus of objection to a move by the Republican-controlled state Board of Commissioners of Public Lands to bar its staffers from engaging in official discussions about climate change. (No thanks to Walker, that idiotic policy was subsequently changed.) And when Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing group funded by the Koch brothers, asked politicians to sign a document devised to restrict government action to address climate change, Walker signed the pledge “to oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.”

The ignorance revealed in the statements and actions of political careerists like Santorum, Bush and Walker is such that they may be beyond redemption — at least as regards the climate change debate. They do not seem to understand that the pope is relying on science; Janos Pasztor, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for climate change, says of the pope’s stance: “We have a situation in which science and religion are totally aligned.” Nor do they seem to understand that Francis is not taking a political stand; he is making a moral statement that recognizes an environmental and social circumstance that is denied only by those who persist in placing politics above the facts.

“We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental,” writes Francis.

That crisis is “aggravated,” the pope explains, “by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels.” But it is made worse by indifference of political and economic elites to the condition of those who are already being harmed by climate change, especially the poor who cannot retreat from the disasters that are already playing out and that will grow worse without a radical change of course.

Instead of recognizing that the poor will be the first and the most harmed victims of the environmental catastrophe that is in the making, corporate-aligned political and economic elites in the United States are so neglectful that, the pope writes, “when all is said and done, (the poor) frequently remain on the bottom of the pile.”

Ultimately, of course, we will all be on the bottom of the pile — unless our political and economic responses to climate charge are altered.

Polling shows that, despite massive misinformation campaigns financed by fossil-fuel companies and self-interested billionaires, the American people are beginning to recognize this reality. According to CNN, more than 70 percent of Americans believe the planet is growing warmer, while roughly half now attribute that warming to human causes.

The politicians may resist for a bit longer, but the people are ready for honest leadership on the environmental and economic issues that are arising in an age of considerable climate change. They are ready to ask, as Pope Francis does, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” They are ready for the insight that says, again as the pope does, “The question not only concerns the environment in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal.”

What the pope proposes is more than mere awareness, however.

Francis seeks action — a “bold cultural revolution” that “(rejects) a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that the problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals.”

The pope is absolutely right when he argues that the “invisible forces of the market” will not steer us out of the ditch into which market fundamentalists have steered the planet and its people. But enlightened thinking about the environment along with new approaches to the economy will. This is the promise, and the possibility, that Pope Francis will bring to the United States.

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About Mike Neuman

Environmentalist; Father; Senior Citizen; Husband, School Crossing Guard; Green Bay Packer Fan; Wisconsin Badger Fan; Animal Lover; Humanitarian

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