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In U.N. Speech, Pope Francis Blasts “Selfish and Boundless Thirst for Power and Material Prosperity”

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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”

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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.

On Cuba
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

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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2015

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:

TRANSCRIPT

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!

Message to Obama on Fighting Poverty and Global Warming

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Fight Poverty and Global Warming at the Same Time

I sent the following message to President Obama using Greenpeace’s petition letter as a template on Monday, August 17, 2015:

Dear President Obama,

You have declared that “No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change” and showed leadership in vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline bill. Why then, would you allow Shell to drill in Arctic waters after a Nature study declared that Arctic Oil MUST be kept in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change?

One solution that has not been paid enough attention to is to reduce the demand for oil by offering the American public financial incentives to annually drive less (miles); avoid flying entirely, and reduce the amount of electricity they use annually in their homes. This proposal would benefit those who don’t add to the greenhouse gas burden on the atmosphere and oceans and cause other forms of pollution related to fossil fuel burning (including the need to drill and ship oil from the Arctic), who are often those in our society who need supplemental income the most to get out of poverty. Make it pay not to pollute! Right now, too many Americans are using the atmosphere as a “free” sewer to deposit their emissions from excessive burning of fossil fuels, often for recreational travel or other forms of entertainment (travel to “away” sporting events …). See proposal at http://www.allthingsenvironmental.com for more information.

Arctic oil must be left in the ground in order to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. The risks are simply too great to allow drilling in this fragile and important ecosystem.

See NASA’s “Vital Signs of the Planet”.

Can A Global Warming Calamity Be Averted?

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“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Global warming is often wrongly said to be a political issue. In fact, global warming is no more of a political issue than a tornado is a political issue, or an erupting volcano, or an earthquake or tsunami. These are factual occurrences that occur for known scientific reasons. As there is no debate on the existence or occurrence of these physical happenings nor should there be a need to debate the occurrence of human-caused global warming and climate change as these changes are, too, scientifically based and measured. In fact, sea level has already begun to rise from global warming, measurably. Migratory bird species are changing their patterns and timing of flight; temperature gradients for gardening around the world have changed; heat wave death tolls have risen; extreme weather has become more extreme; average monthly air temperatures at the surface have been steadily rising; dewpoint temperatures in the Midwest have exceeded precedence. Time is running out run out for acting responsibly to avert the worst outcomes possible from global warming. Alarm bells have rung. Action must be taken now, and on a grand scale, to prevent what scientists have been predicting for decades now – the catastrophic consequences of human fed global warming.

Longtime and well respected University of Wisconsin-Madison Chemistry Professor Bassam Shakhashiri recently summarized on Wisconsin Public Radio his own perceptions of the seriousness of the global warming threat and our collective responsibilities as citizens to work towards mitigating and adapting to this monumental threat as follows:

“We should have high expectation of all our government agencies and we should have high expectations of our elected officials and we should have high expectations of everyone who cares about the quality of life of where we live. We face grand challenges. Global warming is unequivocal. It’s not a matter of voting whether we will have global warming or not. It’s a matter of who we elect in the next election cycle to take responsible action to address and to solve this very, very serious and highly consequential question of climate change.

“We have elected officials from our state of Wisconsin who engage in conversations that label other people as deniers of climate change. I think it behooves us as learned individuals, as people who care about the quality of life that we have, to elect individuals to the U.S. Senate to the presidency, to our local government, who can take responsible action to mitigate and to address in responsible ways, and “responsible” is crucial, global warming. It’s not just local here. You can look at different displays of information. In the past 25 years, the plant hardening zones have been changing. Just in the past 25 years, the zone that we are in Wisconsin, is what it was 25 years ago in Florida. We have issues that relate to water quality. We have issues that relate to wellness, to health care.

“We have fabulous opportunities to make great progress in our society, and that’s why I have high expectations – always have high expectations – but I also live in the real world. We must, in the upcoming election cycle, be truly faithful to our core beliefs and to our values, so that our elected officials can act and can respond, in most good ways, to this one issue of climate change. There are other issues, too, but this is really a critical one.” [The Larry Meiller Show,Thursday, August 6, 2015, 11:00 am]

Global warming has all the marking of becoming a worldwide economic, environmental and human disaster. It could be a disaster that has no precedent in nature, at least during the time humans have been inhabiting Earth. Scientific models have demonstrated the inevitably of global warming due to our relentless burning of fossil fuels, in almost every device possible, and our continued deforestation practices, particularly in the tropics. Should global warming be allowed to continue at the current rates, the death toll from global warming effects could ultimately exceed the number of human losses from all wars, human atrocities, motor vehicle crashes, airplane crashes and worldwide epidemics.

History is repleat with examples of being “too little, too late”. U.S. President Hoover’s attempts to end the Great Depression by funding the construction of the Hoover Dam were believed by the American public as being “too little” to save the U.S. economy and “too late”. He was soundly defeated in the U.S. presidential election by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In medicine, if someone is sick and they do not get to a doctor until their sickness becomes fatal any remedy will be “too little, too late”.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce global warming is also both too little and too late to prevent what scientists call a “runaway greenhouse effect”, as what happen on the planet Venus eons ago, making the planet’s former oceans of water boil away, due to surface atmospheric temperatures that continued to climb, unabated.

While the U.S. electrical energy power production may be the top emitting sector of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the U.S. economy, timely and sufficiently large GHGs emissions reductions in the transportation and other GHG emitting sectors (construction industry sector, agriculture industry sector, consumer sector, export/import sectors, the military industrial complex) will nullify any gains made in the electricity production sector. This could leave the planet vulnerable for the positive GHG feedback mechanisms that contribute to more global warming to kick-in, which could cause a runaway greenhouse effect on Earth. Examples of positive feedback to more global warming of Earth include a reduced ability of the Arctic Ocean to reflect solar energy back into space (darker water absorbs more solar energy than snow and ice), causing additional heating of the oceans; melting of the permafrost region (1/5 of the earth’s surface) resulting in more methane gas (a much stronger GHG than carbon dioxide) production.

Albert Einstein once remarked: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Offering the public positive financial incentives to reduce actions that emit greenhouse gases, such as driving, flying and using fossil fuel created heat and electricity, could drastically reduce human caused climate change and as well as other problems created by our fossil fuel powered economy (such as oil spills, ground water pollution from petroleum waste, and natural gas explosions).

Arena Deal Is A “Pig in a Poke” for Milwaukee, Others Too

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) said the Milwaukee Bucks must have a new arena by 2017 or the city risks losing the team to another state. Enter Governor Scott Walker.

Gov. Scott Walker negotiated the deal in July with the current Bucks owners – billionaire hedge funds managers Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, who jointly purchased a majority interest in the team from former senator Herbert Kohl – and senator Kohl.

The team is currently valued at $600 million. In a bipartisan vote last month, the Wisconsin Legislature approved a bill authorizing $250 million in state and local public financing for the Milwaukee Bucks arena. Governor Walker signed the bill into law on Wednesday, August 12, setting up a vote on the $500 million public/private project at a City of Milwaukee Common Council meeting on the proposal in September.

Walker’s signing of the bill commits the State of Wisconsin’s taxpayers to paying at least half of the dollar cost of the massive new arena over the next 20 years, discouraging the NBA from moving the team out of Milwaukee.

Opponents have said the public’s money would benefit the team’s already wealthy owners and is not a good use of public funds. The state’s financial commitment to keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee comes on the heels of controversial state cuts to spending on transportation infrastructure along with a $250 million cut of the University of Wisconsin System’s budget and historic earlier cuts to the state’s public K-12 education system. The state’s commitment to fund the arena was perceived by many Wisconsinites as a slap in the face to Wisconsin’s dwindling number of middle class families and its increasing number of low income families.  The governor has not been shy in showing his disdain for those who advocate for a higher minimum wage in Wisconsin – presently $7.25/hour, or the same as the federal minimum wage – and his budget approval of cuts to other social programs in Wisconsin which help the state’s disabled and low income populations.

Walker claimed Wisconsin needed to keep the team and its stream of income taxes in the state. “It’s cheaper to keep them,” he said repeatedly to reporters on Wednesday..

The Bucks deal includes $250 million in contributions from the state, city and county of Milwaukee, and a special arena and entertainment district. The other half of the arena is being paid by Edens, Lasry and Kohl.

State, city and county residents will ultimately pay $400 million on the arena when accounting for $174 million in interest over 20 years, with any construction cost overruns and maintenance expenses being the responsibility of the team.

Of the principal coming from taxpayers for the arena, $47 million would come from the City of Milwaukee, which must agree to provide for a parking structure and tax incremental financing.

The rest — $203 million — would come from: bonds issued by an arena and entertainment district and paid off by state taxpayers; a $4 million decrease in Milwaukee County’s state aid over the next 20 years; and the increase of a ticket surcharge and the extension of existing local hotel room, rental car, and food and beverage taxes being collected by the Wisconsin Center District.

Walker included $220 million in state borrowing for the arena in the budget he proposed in February.

But his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature took the measure out of the budget and reworked the deal with some input from Democrats.

Not factored into this analysis is the total number of tons of carbon dioxide (C02) and other greenhouse gases that will be emitted to the atmosphere by jet travel by other NBA teams traveling to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, nor the tons of C02 and other greenhouse gases emitted by the jets carrying the Bucks to distant locations over the next 20 years to play basketball. Nor does the agreement factor in the costs to the environment of paving roads and Wisconsin’s landscape to accommodate more travelers to the arena for games and other events and their emissions.  Presently, travelers and the airlines and associated companies are getting a “free lunch” from everyone who might be affected by those emissions, to say nothing about the cost to the public of funding the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic controllers, who mainly benefit people who can afford to fly commercially or privately.

Part of this post are taken from a 8/12/15 story of by Mary Spicuzza, Jason Stein and Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel.

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Pope Urging the U.N. Take Very Strong Stand on Climate Change in Paris in December

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In front of a Vatican-hosted conference of mayors from major world cities and governors, Pope Francis on Jul 21, 2015 urged the United Nations to take a “very strong stand” on climate change at a landmark summit this year in Paris on global warming.

The pope spoke at a Vatican-hosted conference of mayors and governors from major world cities who signed a declaration urging global leaders to take bold action at the U.N. summit, saying it may be the last chance to tackle human-induced global warming.

“I have a great hopes in the Paris summit,” he said. “I have great hopes that a fundamental agreement is reached. The United Nations needs to take a very strong stand on this.”

Last month, the pope issued an encyclical on climate change, the first ever dedicated to the environment. The call to his church’s 1.2 billion members could spur the world’s Catholics to lobby policymakers on ecology issues and climate change.

The Vatican conference linked climate change and modern slavery because, according to an introductory paper, “global warming is one of the causes of poverty and forced migration”.

Francis, speaking in unprepared comments in Spanish to the group at the end of the first day, said he hoped the Paris summit would address “particularly how it (climate change) affects the trafficking of people.”

The conference is the Vatican’s latest attempt to influence the Paris summit in December, the purpose of which is to reach a global agreement to combat climate change after past failures.

Mayors from South America, Africa, the United States, Europe and Asia signed a declaration stating that the Paris summit “may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human-induced warming below 2 degrees centigrade.”

Leaders should come to a “bold agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity while protecting the poor and the vulnerable…,” the declaration, which the pope also signed, reads.

High-income countries should help finance the cost of climate-change mitigation in low-income countries, it says.

In a rejection of so-called climate-change deniers, the declaration says: “Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity.”

On Tuesday morning, California Governor Edmund “Jerry” Brown, whose state is suffering a severe drought, urged mayors to “fight the propaganda” of big business interests that deny that climate change is human induced.

“We have fierce opposition and blind inertia and that opposition is well-financed,” Brown said.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called Pope Francis “the most powerful voice on this earth for those whose voice is not being heard,” and added: “He did not convene us here to accept the status quo but to indict it”.

De Blasio announced that New York City would commit to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 on top of a previous commitment to reduced them by 80 percent by 2050.

Tony Chammany, the mayor of Kochi, India, said coastal areas were already feeling the effects of rising sea levels. “It is now or never, there may never be a replay,” he said.

Original by Philip Pullella
Reuters

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Vatican Conference Linked Climate Change and Modern Slavery

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Democracy Now:

Following the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, a major conference on climate change was held at the Vatican. Speakers included our guest, Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” We speak to Klein about her trip to the Vatican and the importance of the pope’s message – not only on climate change, but the global economy.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Naomi Klein, journalist, best-selling author. Her most recent book is This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, out today in paperback. A documentary film directed by Avi Lewis based on This Changes Everything will be released in the fall.

Naomi, you have recently returned from the Vatican. Can you describe that experience? What were you doing there?

NAOMI KLEIN: So I was there at a conference that was convened by Cardinal Peter Turkson. And Cardinal Peter Turkson is—has been doing a lot of the speaking on the encyclical. It wasn’t convened by Francis, just to set that record straight. It was convened by the Cardinal Turkson’s office and also by the organization representing Catholic development agencies. And it was part of the rollout for the climate change encyclical. The organizers described what they were doing as building a megaphone for the encyclical, because they understand that it’s words on a page unless there are groups of people around the world who are amplifying that message in various ways. So there were people from around the world.

There were people there, for instance, from Brazil, who were talking about how the movements there that have been fighting large dams, oil drilling, fighting for more just transit, are going to be putting huge resources behind popularizing the climate change encyclical, buying radio ads, producing videos, creating teaching materials for every chapter of the encyclical, and really using it as an organizing tool. That was one of the things I was really struck by while I was there, was just how ready particularly the movements in Latin America are to operationalize the encyclical, if you will.

And they also talked about not wanting it to be domesticated, was a phrase I heard a lot, domesticated by the church. You know, there’s a way in which you can just take this document that is, you know, almost 200 pages and just take out the safest parts of it—you know, “Oh, we’re against climate change, and we all need to kind of hold hands.” But, in fact, if you read the document, it’s very clear in calling for a different economic model, and it’s a challenge to what Pope Francis calls our throwaway culture. So they want to make sure that the parts of the encyclical that really do represent the deepest challenge to our current economic system and represent the most hope for the people who are excluded from the benefits of that economic system are really highlighted.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, last month, Pope Francis went on a tour of South America in his first foreign trip after unveiling the historic encyclical urging climate action. In Ecuador, he reiterated his call for social justice and environmental preservation.

POPE FRANCIS: [translated] The goods of the Earth are meant for everyone. And however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. In this way, we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, toward social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life. The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Pope Francis speaking in Ecuador. Naomi Klein, could you talk—you’ve mentioned in the past the significance of the pope’s origins in Argentina and the particular form that Catholicism took in Latin America. Could you talk about the significance of that and the kind of turn that you witnessed at the Vatican in the focus of this new pope and the church under his leadership?

NAOMI KLEIN: Sure, Nermeen. Yeah, it was definitely striking that a lot of the people who are real players in the Vatican right now come from the Global South. As you mentioned, Pope Francis is from Argentina, and he is the first pope from the Global South. And Cardinal Turkson is originally from Ghana and is talked about as potentially going to be the first African pope. And you see the influence. There are a lot of people who have a history with liberation theology around this pope. He doesn’t come from that particular tradition, but there’s clearly an influence, because before he became pope, he worked with the Latin American Council of Bishops, which—you know, the form of Catholicism in Latin America is one that is more influenced by indigenous cosmology than perhaps in North America, and definitely in Europe, precisely because the genocide of indigenous people in Latin America was far less complete.

So, the first phrase of the encyclical, the first paragraph of the encyclical quotes Francis of Assisi, referring to the Earth as “sister” and as “mother,” and then goes on to talk about Francis—Francis of Assisi, not Pope Francis—and it’s significant that Pope Francis chose the name Francis, the first pope in history to choose that as his name—how we ministered to plants and animals, and saw them as his brothers and sisters. And obviously, in there, you have echoes of indigenous cosmologies that see all of creation as our relations. And while I was at the Vatican, I did ask and, before and afterwards, talked to different theologians about whether there is any precedent for a pope talking—using this language of Mother Earth so prominently, and nobody could think of a single example of this. So, I think what is significant about it is that it is very much a rebuke to the worldview that humans have been put on Earth to dominate and subjugate nature. That is very clear in the encyclical. And the major theme of the encyclical is the theme of interdependence.

You also mentioned—or you played that clip where Francis talks about natural resources as being something that everybody has a right to. And this, of course, is a challenge to a pretty basic principle of private property under capitalism, that if you buy it, it’s yours to do with whatever you want. And that’s something else that’s very strong in the encyclical, is the idea of the commons, that the atmosphere is a commons, that water is a right. And I do think that you can see the influence of Pope Francis’s many years in Argentina. You know, he ministered in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and that’s somewhere where I spent some time doing reporting and filmmaking. And the outskirts of Buenos Aires, they have had one of the most catastrophic experiences with water privatization, where a French water company came in and put in the pipes, but then refused to put in the sewers. So every time it rains, there are these huge floods, and there’s even cases of bodies being washed up in the streets and in people’s basements, so—which is simply to say he knows of which he speaks. I mean, he has seen a very brutal form of deregulated capitalism introduced in the Southern Cone of Latin America, and he also understands that this is a form of capitalism that, in that part of the world, was imposed with tremendous violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, as we wrap up, very quickly, the pope is coming to the United States in September, but before that, he will go to Cuba first. Can you talk about the significance of the Cuba trip, and then, within the presidential race here, the pope landing in the United States?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think the timing of this trip is obviously going to be very awkward for several Republican candidates who are Catholic and understand that this is a very, very popular pope. He’s particularly popular among Latinos, and that’s a really coveted voting bloc. So, you know, picking a fight with this pope is not a very smart political move if you’re running for office right now.

And I met somebody while I was—I can’t use his name, because it was just—it wasn’t an interview situation. But I met a fairly prominent Catholic, while I was at the Vatican, from the United States, from a major U.S. organization, who said, “The holy father isn’t doing us any favors by going to Cuba first,” by which he meant that there are a lot of people talking about how this pope is sort of a closet socialist, and by going to Cuba first, he was reinforcing that narrative. So I think for conservative Republican Catholics, the fact that this pope is going to Cuba first, but also because he has said such critical things about deregulated capitalism and everything he’s saying about climate change, is putting them into, frankly, uncharted territories. They really don’t know how to navigate these waters.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s President Obama’s birthday today. Do you have any particular birthday wishes for him?

NAOMI KLEIN: Amy, I had no idea. Thanks for telling me. And I wish him a very happy birthday.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, we want to thank you for being with us, journalist, best-selling author. Her most recent book is called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. It’s out in paperback today. And she’s got a documentary film coming out. It’s directed by Avi Lewis, based on This Changes Everything. It’s out in the fall. She also, together with Avi Lewis, made The Take, about Argentina. Her past books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Democracy Now

The Achievement Gap in Wisconsin is the Worst in the Nation for African-American Children

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In March 2014, a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that black children face enormous barriers to educational achievement in Wisconsin; in fact, the report classified the state as the worst in the nation for African-American children generally.

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

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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.