CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 April 2019

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The climate merry-go-round

Around 2,000 years ago a baby was born. He was named Jesus and, since that time, has been hailed by his disciples across the globe as the saviour of the world.

He never held a spear—let alone a gun—he never headed an empire, never became a politician, scientist or a bishop, and did not seek financial dominance or to subdue people or manipulate the earth.

But he did preach the power of just relationships and he did bequeath a lived example of the inspiring power of self-sacrifice. He sought salvation not in organisational structures, but in the respect of one person for the other and for the ground he walked on.

While the exact level of interest in proceedings at the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change may be difficult to gauge, many eyes have been turned upon both the official negotiators, as well as the tens of thousands who have gathered in Paris to urge a just resolution to the danger in which climate change is placing God’s creation.

On the one hand, there is a belief that technology and finance can save the day, on the other, a trust that only the triumph of compassion and mercy, as well as respect for the suffering can lead to an agreement that will allow God’s creation to continue being the life-giving source it has been since time immemorial.

The shortcoming of the technology solution is that it is created out of money and must operate on the profit for investment principle. The shortcoming of the financial solution is that it is created out of technology, and must find fertile ground in which to reproduce itself. Both in this sense are self-centred.

Historically, finance and technology have been the tools of conquest—of peoples, the land, the sea and the skies. Their survival depends on dominance and colonisation. But in this age, territorial colonisation has become expensive and unwieldy, so the sea, the resources of the earth and the air have become its  focus.

But the downfall of colonisation of resources is that by definition it lacks respect. It leads to activity with unknown consequences. When the first coal furnaces were lit, there was no understanding of what they would do to the rhythms of nature. When drag fishing began, it was done without appreciation of how marine life would fare.

But worse was to come. An essential part of the colonisation of resources is security and its overriding paradigm is still militaristic. So economically dominant states can chant lofty rhetoric in Paris, while at the same time exempt their own toxic, inefficient military hardware from any environmental agreement and even build airstrips in South Korea and the South China Sea across coral reefs—even though they do understand the destructive consequences of their actions.

So long as the dominance of technology, finance and security remain the driving paradigm of world affairs, any growing respect for the unknown elements of the oceans, the skies or the earth is difficult to develop.

And a continued lack of respect for groaning creation will ensure that the cry of the earth is not heard any more than the cry of the child born 2,000 years ago, who championed the cause of just relationships, leaving the world on a climate merry-go-round. JiM