CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 December 2017

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World needs brainwash not brain drip

VATICAN (SE) The world does not just need a brain drip, but the brain needs a good and complete wash, the governor of California in the United States of America (US), Jerry Brown, maintained at a gathering held in the Vatican on November 4.
 
He pointed to the need to slow the devastation being caused by climate change, stressing that society cannot simply rely only on science and technology, but must begin to accept the need for more transformational approaches.
 
He said that religious leaders have much power in that regard and encouraged them not to be afraid to work to minimise the effect of the obscurantist president of the US, Donald Trump, saying, “The Trump factor is very small, very small indeed.”
 
In response to applause at a symposium at the Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Vatican Radio quoted Brown as saying, “That’s nothing to cheer about, because if it was only Trump that was a problem, we’d have it solved. But that’s not our only problem.”
 
He added, “The problem… is us. It is our whole way of life. It is our comfort… It is the greed. It is the indulgence. It is the pattern. And it is the inertia.”
 
Brown insists that the path to transformational change must include the mass mobilisation of not only the religious and theological sphere, but also the prophetic sphere.
 
“The power here is prophecy. The power here is faith and that’s what this organisation is supposed to be about. So, let’s be about it and combine with the technical and the scientific and the political,” he told the Church leaders present.
 
Brown’s first brush with the concept of transformation came when he entered the Jesuit seminary in the 1950s. He said he had to speak Latin, meditate, undergo self-discipline and mortify himself.
 
“We tried real hard and I can tell you I did not achieve perfection. I was not transformed. In fact some of my bad habits, which I will not reveal, are the same as they were… when I went into the Jesuit seminary when Pius XII was pope,” he admitted.
 
He acknowledged that achieving transformation is not going to be easy, citing a recent visit to the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia, where world leaders gathered for discussions about trade with scant mention of climate effects.
 
“At the highest circles, people still don’t get it,” he said. “We need a total, I might say brainwashing. We need to wash our brains out and see a very different kind of world.”
 
But as Brown warned, societies are continuing to develop and grow on the very same model that has caused the deterioration to the environment that others in the world are working to counteract.
 
Nevertheless, the gathering in Bonn, Germany, of the 23rd Conference of Parties to the United Nations (UN) Convention on Climate Change (COP23), which opened on November 6 and at which almost every nation in the world is being represented, shows there is a mobilisation that highlights fatalism is not inevitable.
 
It is being presided over by Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister of Fiji and the first small developing island state to hold this position.
 
A press release from the UN says that the conference comes against a backdrop of extreme weather events that have devastated the lives of millions of people in places like Asia, the Americas and the Caribbean.
 
“The human suffering caused by intensifying hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods and threats to food security caused by climate change means there is no time to waste,” Bainimarama, who takes over as president of the conference from Morocco, said.
 
“We must preserve the global consensus for decisive action enshrined in the Paris Agreement and aim for the most ambitious part of that target—to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above that of the pre-industrial age,” he went on.
 
“Wherever we live, we are all vulnerable and need to act. Fiji is helping build a Grand Coalition for decisive, coordinated action by governments at every level, by civil society, the private sector and all citizens on earth.”
 
As a symbol of the tiny nation’s resolve, an ocean-going Fijian drua (masted canoe) is displayed in the entrance to the conference complex to remind delegates that not all air is hot and to fill their sails with an icy, but collective determination to make the meeting a success.
 
The former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, says she finds the choice of Fiji as president of the conference encouraging, as it is an island nation threatened by rising sea levels and highly vulnerable to climate change.
 
She told Vatican Radio on November 8 that she believes that this will bring a more people-centred approach to discussions.
 
Robinson backed up the words of Brown by saying she believes it is vital that faith groups, which are on the ground with people, “embrace the importance of taking very seriously the existential threats of climate change.”
 
She described the encyclical of Pope Francis, Praise Be; On care for our common home (Laudato Si’) as an extremely important document, adding that she launched a response to the document from Irish theologians on November 3 at Trinity University College in Dublin.
 
The former president of Ireland described the meeting in Bonn as significant, as it is the first since Trump announced he is pulling his country out of the Paris Accord.
 
However, she noted that the president of the US Environmental Protection Agency will be in Bonn and will want to talk about coal as the saviour of the climate, but added no one is going to buy that.
 
Robinson said that she sees a need for more emphasis on gender in the climate discussions, because if poor livelihoods are undermined, it is women who are more affected, as they still have to put food on the table, but need to go further for water and firewood.
 
She urged Pope Francis to give an important and timely signal highlighting the role of women as actors of change and builders of resilience, especially grass roots women.
 
The secretary to the conference, Patricia Espinosa, sees two faces to COP23, one positive, inspiring momentum to align with the goals and aims of the Paris Accord, but the other is a reality check on the risk thermometer which is rising rapidly.
 
Then in words more suited to a football coach than a politician, Espinosa said we must go further and faster together to lift ambition and action to the next defining level.

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