The United Nations’ climate panel warns in a new report that humanity has only a dozen years to mitigate climate change or face global catastrophe—with severe droughts, floods, sea level rise and extreme heat set to cause mass displacement and poverty. This is not in any way a so-called a “doom and gloom” prediction; but rather, it is a very real prognosis based on the best scientific modeling by the best scientists living on the face of the earth today. The validity of those models has been shown time and time again by the extreme weather disasters that have been borne out over the first 18 years of this century. To deny this reality and the seriousness of continuing with the status quo “business as usual” way of living so many countries are aspiring in light of this forecast is tantamount to digging our own graves and the graves of billions of today’s children and and future humanity. It’s unconscionable. As we continue to burn fossil fuel which were produced over millions and billions of years, the residuals, including greenhouse gases, soot and other products of petroleum products seem to vanish, and we are consuming in the U.S., record amounts of “stuff” and go on endless exotic trips Henry David Thoreau would have scorned them for doing that.
A small portion of the world’s population continues, in the last two centuries, to almost double the heat barrier surrounding Earth, called its “atmosphere”, enslaving all succeeding generations to an environmental unlike its former brilliant self. While most the pre-industrial revolution atmosphere always had sufficient volumes of heat-trapping gas to keep the average temperature above 0 degrees C., too much of will make the average temperature too high, much higher than can be used for sustainable living.
Earth could very well end up like all the other known planets in the universe – devoid of all forms of life. And we here living in the 21st century have no choice but to accept the entirety of the blame. We must no longer plead ignorance or pretend someone other than ourselves is to blame. The fault lies squarely one we humans who are living today, and of course the way we live.
The landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns “dramatic action” over the next 12 years – beginning immediately = is absolutely imperative for earth’s temperatures at the surface to remain sufficiently moderate and to avoid the possibility of “catastrophic” consequences to human life within just 12 years! The IPCC report concludes that global average temperature (throughout the year) must not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), above and beyond which global catastrophe could unfold, “at an extremely rapid pace, and that ignoring this finding could prove suicidal for most forms or life on the planet.
Every time more carbon dioxide is released back into the earth’s atmosphere – whether it be from burning gasoline in automobiles, from jet fuel combustion in jet airplanes, coal or natural gas burning in power plants, or to use in heating homes, businesses, factories and institutions; or in diesel powered transportation or construction machinery, the earth’s atmosphere captures the radiant heat coming of the surface after the Sun’s rays strike the surface, The carbon dioxide and other “released” greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for decades, centuries or even millennium, strengthening the earth’s atmosphere and keeping what would have otherwise been released to outer space.
Our Federal, State and Local Governments Have Failed Us All, Big Time, on Human Caused Global Warming, the Many Increasingly Severe and Costly Extreme Weather Events Occurring this Century Already, and Projected to Continue Worsening Global Warming Impacts, Which Will Especially Affect Every Child Living Today, and Every Other Creature that Lives on the Surface Now and in the Future
Our country’s and other countries’ federal, state and local governments continue to be negligent by not sufficiently taking on the necessary actions to bring human-caused global warming and the countless impacts of global warming caused climate changes, extreme and dangerous weather occurrences, rising and changing oceans, lakes, rivers and the many regions of the world. Concerted and effective actions by all citizens of the world that will bring about the necessary reductions in emissions from all people, businesses, organizations, institutions and governments to protect all who live on Earth and future inhabitants of Earth. The actions are already late. However, the adage that such actions are “better late than never” most certainly applies since to continue adding to the already accumulating volume of those gases in Earth’s biosphere (atmosphere and water bodies) is most definitely going to amplify the negative and increasingly dangerous physical,social and economic changes to our world and planet.
A famous civil rights leader, who lived in the last century and who’s birthday is celebrated every January in the United States, and recognized as an official U.S. holiday, once said: “the time is always ripe to be right” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). That is equally applicable to everyone fighting global warming by reducing their daily, monthly and annual greenhouse gas emissions to a flat minimum, and without anymore delay!
The Dalai Lama Teaches Fellow Tibetans and City of Madison, Wisconsin, and Later in the Week, Geneva, Switzerland on the “Oneness of Humanity”
The Worldwide Goals of All of Humanity Achieving Peace of Mind through Love, Compassion, Meeting their Responsibilities in Reducing and Adapting to Climate Change, Helping Others, and “the Oneness of Humanity” Highlighted the Dalai Lama’s Discussions Lead by The Dalai Lama in Madison, Wisconsin and Geneva, Switzerland
When the Dalai Lama arrived at the Madison Masonic Center in Madison, Wisconsin on March 8, 2016, a small group of Tibetans with flags and placards were waiting quietly to welcome him. He was met as he stepped out of his car by President of the Wisconsin Tibetan Association (WTA), Tsetan Dolkar, about 1,050 people, including 700 Tibetans, were gathered to listen to him speak inside the Masonic Temple. Sharpa Tulku moderated the occasion and first introduced children of the WTA who cheerfully sang a song of gratitude to the Dalai Lama. Amdo Yeshi Gyamtso read a report summarizing the activities of the Association.
In her introduction, Tsetan Dolkar spoke particularly about students’ achievements in a wide range of studies up to and including PhD. She noted the Dalai Lama’s advice that compassion is essential for our survival as human beings. She expressed thanks to everyone who had contributed to making the occasion possible.
Local Congressman Mark Pocan stepped forward to offer the Dalai Lama a traditional white silk scarf, and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi introduced the Dalai Lama to the audience. The Dalai Lama’s three major commitments to the promotion of human values: (1) to ensure human happiness; (2) harmony among religious traditions and (3) preservation of Tibetan Buddhist culture. Executive Parisi said that as a mark of support, the Tibetan flag is flying alongside the Stars and Stripes over the Dane County Executive Building for the duration of the Dalai Lama’s visit.
The Dalai Lama:
“Indeed, it is a great honor for me to have the opportunity to meet all of you Tibetans and friends of Tibetans here. We’ve been in exile now nearly 57 years, but wherever we are local people have been friendly and supportive. Here, too, the local administration and friends have shown us genuine warm feelings, as well as support for our just cause. Thank you.
“I am glad to hear that our community here has a sense of responsibility both as Tibetans and as local citizens. In Tibet people still face great difficulties, which is why it is important that we preserve our identity. This is not just a matter of how we look, but of knowing our own language, how to use it and the significant body of knowledge, the Nalanda tradition, it is capable of expressing. In the past, only monastics, not laypeople, really studied these things. This needs to change. Already nuns have taken up the study of classic texts and several of them will shortly be awarded Geshe degrees.
“I have also been encouraging laypeople to study the classic texts. You young people should try to do that too. It will enrich what it means to be a Tibetan, which is what maintaining our identity is about.”
The Dalai Lama said that whenever he meets other people he considers himself to be just one among 7 billion human beings. He said that on that level there are no differences between us, whether you think of nationality, faith or whether people are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. He remarked that we are all born the same way, and brought up in the shelter of our mother’s affection. This is why all 7 billion human beings have the same potential to cultivate warm heartedness. Equally, scientific findings that constant anger, fear and hatred undermine our immune system applies. It’s common sense, he continued, that families where love and affection thrive are happy even when they are poor, but families, who, despite their wealth, are riven with jealousy and suspicion are miserable.
The Dalai Lama said the prospect of humanity being more peaceful depends on individuals being peaceful within. He affirmed that because of our brains we are capable of thinking ahead and planning for the future. Through education and awareness we can cultivate physical health and a calm mind. He said we need to cultivate compassion, yet modern education tends to focus on material development rather than fostering inner values. This is why it’s important to find ways to incorporate ethics and human values into our education, something the Dalai Lama said he is committed to support.
He explained that as a Buddhist monk his second major commitment, at a time when the unthinkable is happening and people are killing each other in the name of religion, is to promoting religious harmony. He said this is possible because the common aim of all religions is to foster affection and build friendship. He declared that he has many friends among Christians, Hindus, Jews and Moslems, as well as Buddhists. At the age of 81 he said he remains committed to working to promote human values and religious harmony and appealed to his listeners that if they think of him as their friend, they should do so too.
Taking up the ‘Eight Verses for Training the Mind’, which is primarily a teaching about altruism, he said: “This is not just about accumulating knowledge but is rooted in taking refuge in the Three Jewels and generating the awakening mind. We can compare the usual four line verse for taking refuge to the words we say when offer our food – ‘To the Buddha the unsurpassed teacher, the Dharma, the unsurpassed refuge and the Sangha, the unsurpassed guides, I make this offering.’ When we say the Buddha is unsurpassed we don’t think of him as powerful like a creator, but as sharing with us the way to liberation, a way he has already gone. When we say the Dharma is unsurpassed we don’t just mean the scriptural teachings, but the realization that arises from implementing them in our minds. This refers to our training in morality, concentration and wisdom. Such a refuge enables us to eliminate the ignorance that is the root of suffering.
“As Shantideva says:
Although seeking to avoid pain,
We run headlong into suffering.
We long for happiness, but foolishly
Destroy it, as if it were our enemy.
“Ignorance is a distortion of reality that we can only overcome through wisdom. And when we refer to the Sangha as the unsurpassed guide, we think not only of those in robes, but of anyone who has actually implemented the teachings. So, in the first two lines of the verse we’re going to recite, we take refuge and aspire to enlightenment for all sentient beings and in the latter two lines we generate the awakening mind of bodhichitta. This confirms our natural inclination to seek happiness and avoid suffering, but as Shantideva says again our tendency to self-centredness leads us in the opposite direction:
Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.
“Selfishness leads to shortcomings while concern for others yields advantages. Although the achievement of Buddhahood is to help other beings, we should remember:
Buddhas do not wash unwholesome deeds away with water,
Nor do they remove the sufferings of beings with their hands,
Neither do they transplant their own realization into others.
Teaching the truth of suchness they liberate (beings).
“In the Mahayana approach to taking refuge we take refuge until we attain the essence of enlightenment. The objective is to help all sentient beings alleviate their sufferings. The third line says, ‘through the merit of engaging in generosity and so forth, may I attain enlightenment for all beings.’ However, this is not only about merit but about wisdom too. If we investigate the ‘I’ who takes refuge, we find that our sense of a self that is intrinsically existent is without basis. It’s something we impose on the collection of body and mind.
“Analysis is not something we accomplish quickly, but it is powerful and effective. It’s something I’ve undertaken for 60 years and it has a real effect. It undermines our misconception of self and in doing so it counters our disturbing emotions. The cognitive therapist Aaron Beck told me that when we are angry, the object of our anger seems wholly negative, but this is 90% mental projection.
The Dalai Lama recommended adopting the Four Reliances: reliance on the teaching and not the teacher; reliance on the meaning and not merely the words; reliance on the definitive and not the interpretable meaning and reliance on noble wisdom and not on (ordinary) consciousness.
Turning again to the Eight Verses, he said they were composed by Langri Thangpa a student of Potowa who belonged to the lineage of those who study the classic texts. The main point of the text, which is brief but effective, is the cultivation of altruism, which relates to the conventional awakening mind.
The Dalai Lama was invited to lunch at the Overture Center for the Arts by the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Rebecca Blank.
After lunch, the Dalai Lama participated in a panel discussion which touched again on the importance of peace of mind and the interest that scientists are now taking in it. The Dalai Lama pointed out that what really destroys our peace of mind is our disturbing emotions. He commended a greater role for women leaders, suggesting that if the world’s almost 200 nations were led by women the world might be a safer place. He referred to encouraging scientific evidence that basic human nature is compassionate, which means that we can train ourselves further that way.
He noted that corruption is a result of shortsightedness, low moral standards and greed. And while observing that real generosity occurs when there is no expectation of a reward, he reminded those listening of the importance of giving with respect for the recipient. He said that it is also possible to visualize being generous.
He said the media have an important role to educate people about positive developments, which would involve taking a more balanced view of human activity and potential. As to what he would like scientists to study to contribute to creating a better world, he replied that they should accept that their knowledge remains limited and to approach their work with an open mind. He recalled warnings he received nearly 40 years ago to beware of science as a ‘killer of faith’. He overlooked this advice and entered into dialogue with scientists that in the course of time has been mutually beneficial and enriching.
Also attending the Dali Lama speaking engagement at the Masonic Center was City of Madison Police Mike Chief Koval, who posted the following on his blog under the title “Peacemaking” on March 15, 2016:
March 15, 2016 8:24 AM
With his recent visit to Madison, the 14th Dalai Lama spoke again to a packed theater at the Overture Center. His message was at once simple and profound: World peace is developed from inner peace, and the foundation for both is love. To best serve as guardians of democracy, police must be more than peacekeepers, we must also be peacemakers. One calls for police to respond to and preserve peace while the other requires us to create and perpetuate peace. Both are necessary dimensions to the compassionate guardianship members of the Madison Police Department strive to effectuate every day. As the Dalai Lama reminds us, to do this work we must start by creating opportunities to foster inner peace. To this end MPD is poised to embark on a groundbreaking collaboration with Dr. Richie Davidson and his team of researchers from the Center for Healthy Minds here at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Our officers may encounter dangerous and unpredictable critical incidents on any given day, and must also deal with the additional stressors of shift work, lost sleep, public criticism and increasing scrutiny.
While many officers regularly incorporate a variety of individual wellness practices, and the Department has several support systems in place to promote officer wellness including our City Employee Assistance Program, Critical Incident Stress Management Program, Officer Involved Critical Incident Aftercare protocol and Peer Support Program, we continuously seek out opportunities to help improve officer well-being through proactive and preventative practices. This is a critical issue not just for our officers and their families, but for the Madison community as a whole.
As reflected both in the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing report as well as a recently released set of recommendations from a use of force task force stemming from the Dane County Law Enforcement and Leaders of Color Collaboration, the health and well-being of police officers is inextricably linked to the health and well-being of the communities they serve. Officers who are resilient in the face of stress and trauma will be happier, healthier, and more productive. They will have greater capacity to respond in an adaptive manner to critical incidents as well as non-traumatic daily interactions, and they will have the strength and resources to serve as effective guardians of this community.
Officers train. We train a lot. And what Dr. Richie Davidson’s world-renowned research in the field of contemplative neuroscience tells us – much of which has included studying the Dalai Lama and other veteran practitioners of meditation – is that we can also train for well-being. In working with Dr. Davidson and his research team at the Center for Health Minds, we are exploring a pilot study designed to investigate the effects of Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training (MBRT) on police officer physical and mental well-being. Planning for this project is underway, and we are working hard to secure a source of funding. We are excited about this collaboration with the Center for Health Minds and anticipate that this pilot study will be but the first step in an ongoing partnership. It is our hope that this project may come to serve as a model for how police departments across the country can promote officer well-being, with potential cascading benefits throughout the department and for the communities we serve.
We are thankful to Dr. Davidson and the Center for Healthy Minds for the invitation and privilege to have heard the Dalai Lama speak here in Madison last week, and we look forward to the opportunity to partner around our shared commitment to cultivating peace.
Dalai Lama in Geneva, Switzerland
Prior to a discussion human rights at an event sponsored by the United Nations (UN) the Daili Lama met with journalists on March 11, 2016. Geneva, Switzerland, The Dalai Lama spoke of on the “Oneness of Humanity” and explained to the audience his three commitments. He recommended that education should emphasize the inner values of (1) warmheartedness, (2) tolerance and (3) forgiveness. He observed that although religion has been a source of happiness for thousands of years, sadly, today, it is becoming a source of hatred.
Later that day, the Dalai Lama participated in a discussion on the theme human rights in front of the Human Rights Council’s 31st session and members of the Tibetan community (above photos taken at UN in Geneva, Switzerland, March 11, by Olivier Adam ), with Nobel Laureates Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman and Leila Alikarami, and an Iranian lawyer and human rights activist representing Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi.
“We are talking about the future of humanity,” the Dalai Lama said. “No matter how small our voice here may be, it is essential we speak up”, he said.
“Sometimes people say all is well with the world, but they are mistaken. We are facing many problems. During my lifetime I have witnessed continual conflict and bloodshed in the course of which millions of people have been killed. We need to ask where we went wrong, what qualities we lack and why violations of human rights take place. Answering these questions and creating peace will require wisdom and compassion.
“Although I am a Buddhist monk, I am skeptical that prayers alone will achieve world peace. We need instead to be enthusiastic and self-confident in taking action.”
He said those now causing trouble and disturbing peace in the world are also confident, but are insufficiently moved by basic human values. Therefore, if we are to create a more peaceful world in the future, we need to introduce warmheartedness and secular ethics into our general education system.
The Dalai Lama said climate change and the ups and downs of the global economy are problems that affect us all. They are not confined to national boundaries. Focusing on secondary differences between us like race, religion, nationality and gender, stokes our inclination to divide people into ‘us’ and ‘them’, which easily becomes a basis for conflict. He stressed that if we remember the oneness of humanity and think of each other as brothers and sisters we can overcome that potential for violence.
As representatives of 196 world countries conclude their two-week long meeting in Paris, France this week – the 21st annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties meeting (COP 21), it is noteworthy that “Human Rights Day” occurs 10 December every year, which is the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.
This year’s Human Rights Day is devoted to the launch of a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966.
The two Covenants, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, form the International Bill of Human Rights, setting out the civil, political, cultural, economic, and social rights that are the birth right of all human beings.
“Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” aims to promote and raise awareness of the two Covenants on their 50th anniversary. The year-long campaign revolves around the theme of rights and freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — which underpin the International Bill of Human Rights are as relevant today as they were when the Covenants were adopted 50 years ago.
So, too, are the lyrics to The Steve Miller Band’s 1976 song Fly Like An Eagle (Recording)The revolution is the solution, provided too much time is NOT allowed to slip away before Earth’s people take the now critical actions without delay to lesson the human global footprint on Earth’s biosphere, while ensuring that all current and future human populations have clean water to drink, food to eat; shoes on their feet; and do not have to live on the street. It is therefore of the utmost importance that Earth’s land, soil, air, water, plant and animal life are preserved in a life-sustaining state for not just today’s human population but also for all future generations of people.
Watch and hear Ta’Kaiya Blaney a 14-year-old activist, singer and actress from the Tla’amin First Nation, north of Vancouver, Canada, perform her song “Turn the World Around” at the International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature in Paris, France. She told Democracy Now! that a Haida elder told her that “to turn the world around, you have to turn it upside down” after singing her song in Paris Saturday, December 5, 2015.
In U.N. Speech, Pope Francis Blasts “Selfish and Boundless Thirst for Power and Material Prosperity”
Speaking at the United Nations in New York City (NYC) today Friday, Pope Francis said: “Any harm done to the environment is harm done to humanity.” Moreover, he said: “Every creature has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures.”
[Moreover] “We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator… he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it.”
[Furthermore] “In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good”, the pope said, adding that: [A] “selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged” and that “the poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: They are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment.”
“They [the poor] are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste.'”, said Pope Francis, speaking in front of UN delegates present for his speech in NYC September 25, 2015.
Following is a transcript of the pope’s speech to the UN, compliments of Democracy NOW!:
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for your kind words. Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations. In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude. I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting. Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall. I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.
This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations. I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008. All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power. An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities. I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.
The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour. All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness. Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities. Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.
For this reason I pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefited humanity as a whole in these past seventy years. In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.
Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.
The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded. These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships. That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.
First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favorable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).
The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.
The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.
Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions. The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.
The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification. But this involves two risks. We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges. It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.
To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.
At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labor, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.
For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.
The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6). Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.). Consequently, the defense of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).
Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.
War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.
To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm. The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement. When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained. When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favorable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.
The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust”. There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.
The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.
In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community. For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.
These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.
As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.
Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.
I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors. I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely. “The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965). Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion. As Paul VI said: “The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).
The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.
Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful elite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).
El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.
The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk “the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to “battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).
The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223). We cannot permit ourselves to postpone “certain agendas” for the future. The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.
The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavor, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good. I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual.
Upon all of you, and the peoples you represent, I invoke the blessing of the Most High, and all peace and prosperity. Thank you.
Source: Democracy NOW!
The Pope Speaks to Congress about Climate Change, Refugees, Cuba & “Money that is Drenched in Blood”
Pope Francis Thursday became the first Pope to ever address a joint session of Congress. Below are some key passages from the Pope’s speech, compliments of Democracy NOW!:
On Four Great Americans
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as [Abraham] Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
On Dorothy Day
In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.
On Refugees & Immigration
Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
On the Arms Trade
Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.
On Climate Change
In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”
On Finance Capital
If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.
On The Death Penalty
The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.
I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility.
Pope Francis Calls on U.S. to Combat Climate Change & Build a “Truly Tolerant and Inclusive” Society
In his first U.S. speech, Pope Francis urged the United States to help tackle climate change at a “critical moment of history” and called on Americans to build a truly tolerant and inclusive society:
POPE FRANCIS: Mr. President,
I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.
During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.
Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.
Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.
We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.
The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.
Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!
Source: Democracy NOW!