Naomi Klein shared her latest conclusions on how close Earth is to the “tipping point” on global warming and climate change in an April 7, 2016 opinion piece in The Guardian.com, and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton actions that have made things worse, not better.
Unfortunately, there are so many other federal and state politicians, virtually all so-called public and commercial-funded media sources, and others who have also “helped” us get where we are now –some have even shown they understood and were aware of the significance of the problem being created (oil industry, possibly auto, truck and airline industries, highway, bridge and airport building industries, coal mining industry, possibly others) yet, almost unbelievably, chose to continue selling the fuel despite knowing the the significance and potential for calamity for current and future generations.
The path to achieving sustainability on Earth for humans and most other species living on our planet is, unfortunately, rapidly narrowing. It could soon close, say the great many of IPCC climate scientists, and as a result jeopardizing the lives of children living today and in the future. Indeed, there are far too many people in the U.S. and most other developed countries who have not seen fit to overcome their dependence on fossil fuels for activities such as driving motor vehicles, flying jetliners, using products and services made more readily available because of subsidized fuel costs, conserving energy in their homes and mansions, and their choice of a lifestyle which is grossly overdependent on the burning fossil fuels in spite of the now widely accepted crisis which the president of the United States appropriately calls “urgent”.
In short, our continuing with our “business as usual” economy – one centered around the philosophy that we should “eat, drink and be merry” now, while throwing caution to the wind; a philosophy that we can eat our cake and still have it for tomorrow – is unfairly going to saddle the children of today and tomorrow with a planet that is, for all intents and purposes, dying, and thus less likely to sustain life in the not too distant future.
When you place a large kettle of cold water on a hot stove burner, one would not expect to see the water immediately come to a boil. It would take several minutes of heating for the water to reach the boiling point of 212 degrees F.. So it is with adding more greenhouse gases to the volumes of such gases already present in the atmosphere. At some point, scientists predicted the surface waters of Earth’s oceans would begin to show warming. Such warming has now been measured, along with the increase in sea level from thermal expansion and the melting of glaciers, worldwide. The warming of the oceans is increasing, ever so slowly because of the tremendous volume of water the Earth’s 5 oceans, but increasing at a faster rate with the continuing accumulation of more and more atmospheric greenhouse gases, which are cumulative over time
Clearly, our burning such vast quantities of fossil fuels in transportation and for electricity today, while paying nothing for the great harm being inflicted on future generations, is a monumental injustice. The damage being created by the present and recently passed generation’s fuel burning activities is undoubtedly huge and devastating to future societies and animal life – stronger and more deadly storms, worse flooding, longer droughts, hotter heat waves, and impairments to water and other life-sustaining resources and infrastructure. Calling this anything other than a crime against humanity seems too kind. The human and economic cost linked to people and animals who will be more exposed to degraded living conditions and more dangerous weather extremes is very real and predictable. Those of our society set on continuing to uphold the status quo of “business as usual”, as our earth continues to warm under the blanket of a thicker greenhouse gas laden atmosphere have chosen the wrong path.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the international bestsellers, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate (2014), The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) and No Logo (2000). Each book has been translated into over 25 languages worldwide. She is a contributing editor for Harper’s and reporter for Rolling Stone, and writes a regular column for The Nation and The Guardian that is syndicated internationally by The New York Times Syndicate. Additionally, her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Globe and Mail, El Pais, L’Espresso and The New Statesman, among many other publications.
Naomi is a member of the board of directors for 350.org, a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. She is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute and a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics. In 2004, her reporting from Iraq for Harper’s won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. In 2014 she received the International Studies Association’s IPE Outstanding Activist-Scholar award and in 2015 she received The Izzy Award honoring outstanding achievement in independent journalism and media. She holds an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of King’s College, Nova Scotia. (Photo by Kourosh Keshiri.)
Pete Seeger’s Activism Just as Urgent (or more) Today Than It was in 1963, When Seeger Performed with his Audience at His Historic “We Shall Overcome Concert” in New York
I listened to this live recording of Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome Concert at Carnegie Hall, June 8, 1963” yesterday afternoon. The concert was recorded live by Columbia Records. I loved it. The concert shows just how much Black Lives Mattered to those good people who attended this historic event in our nation’s history. It is criminal that more has not been done to atone for the wrongs that were perpetuated by our government and the wealthy.
I’ve heard it said that Seeger was blacklisted by the government as a result doing the concert. I don’t know for a fact that that was the reason for his blacklisting but more than likely it was I would think.
Pete Seeger is still fighting “the good fight” that he was so effective at doing with the crowd over 50 years ago now – with this recording. It confirms the “Black Lives Matter” movement will live on until the spell is broken and reparations for slavery are awarded to an entire population who were used to make this country great but never given credit or paid properly for their generations upon generations of forced labor by the plantation owners.
I could not allow this day – Feb. 29 – to pass without comment. Leap year – a year having an extra day in February – occurs only every four years.
So, is that good or bad?
It’s not good, in fact it’s DISASTROUS, because yet ANOTHER day, and year, and decade has gone by while our elected officials in the State of Wisconsin Legislature, and the U.S. Congress, and the population of our state and country, refuse to take the threat, and now reality, of global warming caused by too much fossil fuel burning – in cars, trucks, airplanes, electric power producing plants that burn fossil fuels, seriously, despite alarming increases in sea levels.
Too much fuel burning primarily coal, methane (natural gas), and oil products, have been burned by humans over the past decades and centuries for the energy that has been produced, resulting in the emission and accumulation of elevated concentrations of “greenhouse gases” in earth’s atmosphere, resulting in global warming, the rise in the elevation levels of earth’s oceans, due to the melting of the earth’s Arctic and Antarctic Circle’s land ice and snow, the shrinking of earth’s mountainous glaciers, a thawing of the earth’s permafrost region (one-fifth of the earth’s land surface), causing a warming, expansion, and acidification of earth’s oceans, leading to a dangerous rise in sea level.
The warming is already wreaking of havoc on earth’s biological systems, including humans, most notably in poorer, tropical countries, many of which are already experiencing grave losses due to extreme weather events, such as drought, heat waves and severe storms, along with unprecedented flooding, all of which had been scientifically predicted well over a century ago!
The warming has been compounded by the increasing loss of vegetation, particularly the loss of the tropical rainforests, which had been naturally sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but not anymore, by the ones which have been replaced by other forms of development or money producing mono-culture agriculture.
Global warming from human causes is not rocket science, despite what the flat earth believers may still be claiming. However, saying that human-caused global warming is not occurring, because it has not been “proven” to be happening – as of this February 29, 2016, is utterly preposterous, and those who claim human-caused global warming is not happening are either fools or worse yet – liars.
The first Earth Day in the United States was held on April 22, 1970. CBS-TV aired it as a 13-part CBS news special. It was a time when the vast majority of Americans generally counted on the major television network news anchors to accurately inform them of the important news of the day, and CBS’s Walter Cronkite was considered the most honest of them all. National news reporting was viewed as having no relationship whatsoever to money provided by networks’ sponsors, and instead was information that viewers could count on as being accurate and true concerning the national events and threats that were occurring in the country and what American viewers would want to know to keep themselves well informed of the country’s news. While Madison’s Gaylord Nelson Institute at the University of Wisconsin states that the CBS news report which aired that night didn’t do justice to much of the participation in the events that were held on the first Earth Day in 1970, the fact that it documented many of the other people concerns that Americans had about the state of the environment in 1970 is worth noting.
The first earth day came about because people were really fed-up with the undeniable pollution of the waters, air and land around them, some even getting sick, while others feared things were likely to get worse and worse because the pollution was getting worse and worse. The following ten years of federal and state law making and enforcement to prevent the continued degradation of U.S. drinking and surface waters, air in the U.S., wetlands and land protection, too, led many to later call the decade of the 1970s “the environmental decade”.
This was also a time of great concern because of the large amount of the country’s money was going for military purposes in fighting the Vietnam War, money which could have gone to keeping the county’s important natural resources clean and healthy, and improving living conditions in “the urban ghettos” including homes for the homeless. A “teach in” was being held across the United States by anti-war advocates at the same time when Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin came up with the idea of having a similar day set aside for a teach-in about the need for change to ensure a healthy future for the planet, including the nation’s people who were suffering in the ghettos. View all 13 parts of the CBS’s special news report, anchored by Walter Cronkite, of the first Earth Day here.
This CBS special news report for Earth Day is well worth the investment of everyone’s time viewing it, or reading the transcript of the report. A similar degree of response is what is needed now to prevent an even worse and tragic consequence of human and animal life lost and suffering as we continue to add more and more quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by continuing to burn vast quantities of fossil fuel, for electric power generation, heating and long distance or daily travel requiring oil burning, and many countries continuing to pave over the landscape with concrete, and most every country suffers from a lack of an appropriate adaptation plan in the likely case now that the worse of the climate extremes will ultimately result, and that the inundation of the world’s currently most populous coastal cities will also result, and that many island nations will require resettlement, as the ones that are presently livable are predicted to become submerged completely if major and significant change is not made soon by the most highly developed countries. Our U.S. Congress continuing its refusal to enact laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, let alone refusing to alert the American people of the grave unfortunate results of ignoring all climate experts’ warnings means that it’s almost certain the worst predictions are ultimately likely to occur from our lawmakers’ inaction, and the similar expected inaction by many other countries that might otherwise follow our lead, and the paving of the remaining green space on the planet, is unconscionable. If our political office holders are not interested in doing this for us living here today, they should not leave the full burden of living on our likely inhospitable planet to fall on today’s and tomorrow’s children, including those who reside here, as well as elsewhere.
So what if the price of oil falls to its lowest point in 12 years! Our federal lawmakers in Washington already gave in to the oil industry by removing the 40-year old crude oil export ban, and now they are talking about expediting the process for exporting liquefied natural gas, subsidizing private infrastructure with U.S. taxpayer money including money for upgrading pipelines, transmission lines, rails and roads, to “help our industry compete” by allowing energy to get to market “more quickly and cheaply” by “loosening environmental and other regulations”.
Our governmental officials in Washington D.C. say they will work towards continuing and giving more U.S. taxpayer money to reward already wealthy companies like ExxonMobil and other highly profitable energy companies who have already profited greatly with the U.S. Government financial assistance over a number of decades with ill effects on millions of us already, and many more millions of us who will be so unfortunate as to succeed us on a planet rocked by ever increasing and ever more deadly extreme weather tragedies, that is, of course, if they manage to keep their heads above earth’s rising ocean levels, which have submerged some island countries already. Exxon’s own scientific studies predicted all these bad things would result if humans continued to recklessly burn more and more fossil fuels for energy, sending the concentrations of many greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane to evermore dangerous levels in our Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and water bodies. Yet still they kept their research to themselves, hiding the many catastrophic consequences of global warming, and funded global warming denial campaigns, which allowed them to continue to enrich themselves at the world and future world’s expense!
Where is the justice in all of this? There isn’t any. Not here, there or anywhere. And certainly not in the chambers in Washington D.C.. Change has got to come, now, before it’s too late. And it has to be the RIGHT kind of change – the equitable kind. It has to be a change that will help all of us who currently and in the future call Earth our home. There is no other hospitable place we can go.
Our Representatives and Senators in Washington D.C. need to wake up to the scientific reality that confronts all of us – that we have already exceeded the safe level of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere. Not only must we stop adding more and more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, but we must also accept the moral responsibility of helping those likely to be hurt the most by Earth’s rising seas and other adverse and compounding realities stemming from human-caused changes in the climate, especially those who can least afford appropriate adaption measures that will allow them to humanely live with the changes, particularly those who have contributed the least to the problem that now confronts us all.
Those presently in Washington D.C. who are continuing to act as though the threats and costs of global warming and climate change resulting from human activity are nonexistent should go do something else.
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.
On December 8, 1941, the United States Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan in response to its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in the U.S. Territory (soon to become state) of Hawaii the morning of December 7, 1941.
The Declaration of War was formulated an hour after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Infamy Speech at 12:30 pm on December 8, 1941. The declaration quickly passed the Senate and then the House at 1:10 p.m the same day. Roosevelt signed the declaration at 4:10 p.m., December 8, 1941. The power to declare war is assigned exclusively to Congress in the United States Constitution; however, the president’s signature was symbolically powerful and resolved any doubts.
In the Joint Resolutions declaring war against the Imperial Government of Japan, Germany and Italy, the Congress pledged “all the resources of the country of the United States” … “and the president is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the government to carry on war … to bring the conflict to a successful termination.”
The magnitude of the threat of accelerating global warming and a rapidly changing climate that would undeniably accompany the continued and increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as a direct consequence of human actions, mainly from too much fossil fuel burning and continuing and increased deforestation, especially in the tropics, upon the United States of America and the rest of the world, both now and into the future, easily dwarfs the loss of life, injury and misery to humans and animals wrought by all known wars, and therefore justifies a declaration of war by all countries of the world to slow and ultimately halt global warming and climate change, worldwide. Such declarations should be made now, without delay, to ensure an hospitable and safe world for all Earth’s current and future generations.
It is morally essential that Government, businesses, individuals and families begin to meet this challenge of increasing global warming and climate change that has already begun to cause loss of human lives, other species living in the world, and brought pain and misery to so many. To ignore and campaign against actions that reduce this growing threat, which will unquestionably hurt the people of the world’s poorer countries and Earth’s millions and millions of species, is utterly and morally reprehensible and is a practice that ought stop immediately because it needlessly delays progress in attacking this major problem of untold negative consequences for centuries to come.
More than 100 million people could be pushed back into poverty within 15 years due to rising temperatures and extreme weather, the World Bank has warned.
In a new report released Sunday, November 22, 2015, the World Bank said climate change was already preventing people escaping poverty but the situation could get much worse.
“This report sends a clear message that ending poverty will not be possible unless we take strong action to reduce the threat of climate change on poor people and dramatically reduce harmful emissions,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.
Crop failures due to drought, big rises in food prices after “extreme weather events,” and a higher incidence of disease following heat waves and floods would hurt the poorest the hardest, the World Bank said in a statement.
The report found people in Africa and South Asia were especially vulnerable.
Stephane Hallegate, an economist who led the team preparing report, said that the future for these 100 million people was not set in stone.
“We have a window of opportunity to achieve our poverty objectives in the face of climate change, provided we make wise policy choices now,” he said.
That would mean tackling the cause of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as taking steps to reduce the impact on the poor such as improved social safety nets and healthcare, building better flood defenses and developing climate-resistant crops, the report said.
The report comes roughly a month before top officials from around the world will attend the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris.
Previously, Nature Climate Change published studies indicating climate change could make parts of the Middle East too hot for human beings to survive.
Selected Remarks by National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice on Climate Change and National Security at Stanford University, October 12, 2015: [Full Text of Speech]
… In 1985—fall quarter of my senior year—scientists from around the world met to express concern that a buildup of greenhouse gasses, and specifically carbon dioxide, would result in “a rise of global mean temperature…greater than any in man’s history.” By 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its first report, detailing how a warming climate would affect our ecosystem. There have since been four more reports, each with more sophisticated science to support ever more dire warnings.
So, it’s not that we didn’t see climate change coming. It’s that for the better part of three decades we failed, repeatedly, to treat this challenge with the seriousness and the urgency it deserves. As an international community, we succumbed to divisive global politics that set developing countries against industrialized nations and stymied international consensus on climate change.
At home, we succumbed to divisive domestic politics that allowed entrenched interests to push a calculated agenda of doubt, denial, and delay. And, we focused, quite understandably, on other critical national security priorities—from coming to grips with globalization, halting proliferation, and above all, keeping the American people safe in a post-9/11 world….
We are seizing opportunities and meeting challenges head on. And, today, we face no greater long-term challenge than climate change, an advancing menace that imperils so many of the other things we hope to achieve. That’s why, under President Obama, we have put combating climate change at the very center of our national security agenda….
In the past 15 years, we’ve had 14 of the hottest years on record—which is exactly the kind of change those climate scientists back in 1985 suggested we could be seeing by now. Last year, 2014, was the hottest. And, scientists say there’s a 97 percent chance that we’ll set a new record again this year. The seas have risen about eight inches over the past 100 years, and they’re now rising at roughly double the rate they did in the 20th century. Arctic sea ice is shrinking. Permafrost is thawing. The Antarctic ice shelf is breaking up faster than anticipated. Storms are getting stronger. Extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent. Heat waves are growing more intense. The bottom line is this: we’re on a collision course with climate impacts that have inescapable implications for our national security. Let me sketch out a few of them.
First, climate change is a direct threat to the prosperity and safety of the American people. We’re losing billions of dollars in failed crops due to extreme drought. Millions of acres of forest have been lost to fire. In addition to longer fire seasons and drier summers here in the West, on the East Coast we’re seeing record rain events. Last week in the Carolinas, unprecedented amounts of rain fell—enough in just five days to put a serious dent in California’s multi-year drought. And, while we can’t say that climate change is the direct cause of any specific weather event, these are exactly the trends that we expect to see more of, if climate trends continue on their current trajectory.
Along our coasts, we’ve got thousands of miles of roads and railways, 100 energy facilities, communities of millions—all of which are vulnerable to sea-level rise. Remember Super Storm Sandy—how it hobbled America’s largest city and plunged everyone south of 34th Street into darkness for days? We saw a cascading failure of infrastructure. Water flooded an electrical substation, and backup power was either flooded or insufficient. Over 6,000 patients had to be evacuated from powerless hospitals down stairwells. Transportation broke down, because you can’t pump gas without electricity. Wastewater treatment plants shut down. One critical sector pulled down other vital systems. And, with warmer oceans and higher seas, New York City will have to be prepared for Sandy-level flooding to happen every 25 years.
When I visited Alaska with President Obama last month, we saw rapidly disappearing glaciers and a native community whose island home is already being washed away. The question for them is not if they will have to abandon their traditional homes and way of life, but when. These are real threats to our homeland security, and they’re happening now.
Second, climate change will impact our national defense. We’ve got military installations that are imperiled by the same rising seas as our civilian infrastructure. Here in the western United States, ranges where our troops train are jeopardized by heat and drought. In fact, this summer we had to cancel some training exercises, because it got too hot.
Climate change means operating in more severe weather conditions, increasing the wear on both service members and their equipment. There will also be new demands on our military. A thawing Arctic means 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline and new sea lanes to secure. Around the world, more intense storms—like the massive typhoon that decimated part of the Philippines two years ago—will mean more frequent humanitarian relief missions. And, our military will have to deal with increased instability and conflict around the world.
That’s a third major national security concern, because climate change is what the Department of Defense calls a “threat multiplier”—which means, even if climate change isn’t the spark that directly ignites conflict, it increases the size of the powder keg. A changing climate makes it harder for farmers to grow crops, fishermen to catch enough fish, herders to tend their livestock—it makes it harder for countries to feed their people. And humans, like every other species on this planet, scatter when their environment can no longer sustain them. As the Earth heats up, many countries will experience growing competition for reduced food and water resources. Rather than stay and starve, people will fight for their survival.
All of these consequences are exacerbated in fragile, developing states that are least equipped to handle strains on their resources. In Nigeria, prolonged drought contributed to the instability and dissatisfaction that Boko Haram exploits. The genocide in Darfur began, in part, as a drought-driven conflict. In the years prior to civil war breaking out in Syria, that country also experienced its worst drought on record. Farming families moved en masse into urban centers, increasing political unrest and further priming the country for conflict. In fact, last year, a Stanford research group determined that a rise in temperature is linked with a statistically significant increase in the frequency of conflict. There is already an unholy nexus between human insecurity, humanitarian crises, and state failure—climate change makes it that much worse.
Around the world, more than 100 million people now live less than one meter above sea level—including entire island countries in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Consider the impacts—to the global economy and to our shared security—when rising seas begin to swallow nations whole.
Fourth, we face spreading diseases and mounting threats to global health. Already, more mosquito-borne diseases are spreading from the tropics to temperate zones as climates warm. Viruses like West Nile and Chikungunya are growing more prevalent in the United States. India is currently in the grip of the worst dengue fever outbreak in years. Livestock diseases are expanding northward into Europe. These advancing diseases cost billions of dollars a year to treat and contain, not to mention the immeasurable cost in human lives and suffering.
Finally, we cannot dismiss the worst-case predictions of catastrophic, irreparable damage to our environment. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, seas could rise not just the one to four feet many scientists predict, but eventually as much as 20 feet. If the oceans continue to acidify, it will devastate the marine coral reefs, compromising the food chain, and imperiling a major source of protein for 3 billion people worldwide.
These aren’t marginal threats. They put at risk the health and safety of people on every continent.
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!