There is a heavy misconception surrounding organized religion and climate change, a misconception that religion denies global warming. It’s a common idea—if one worships in church, hypocritical fingers point out how you are in denial of the scientific community. If you crack a Bible, you cannot possibly care about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions or the future of humanity. In fact, if you are a frequent attendee of Mass, synagogue or temple, you aren’t allowed to believe in the Big Bang, and you also think dinosaurs are a fairytale (forget those fossils you saw in the museum). How can a person implement ideas of faith and science in a coexisting fashion? How contradictory, how silly, one would be to try and straddle that fence. And wouldn’t there be confusion, about where one stands? Not according to His Holiness, Pope Francis.
His Holiness, Pope Francis officially released his letter regarding the state of the environment. The religious leader of 1.2 billion Catholics expressed his concerns about conservation, greenhouse gas emissions and more. Arguably the most important figurehead in the world, he did not just give people a wrist-slap regarding climate change—he used a gently reprimanding tone, of a father calling on his children to do better. He calls on every person on Earth to start doing their part (what would you expect from a Pope who hold a chemical technician’s diploma, aside from years and years of wisdom and practical world skills?)
Pope Francis writes a lengthy letter addressing pollution, and a loss of biodiversity. Two excerpts, below:
“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.”
“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.”
And, a call to action:
“These situations have caused sister earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness. The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations. The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable; otherwise, the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.”
Though we have made progress…
“In some countries, there are positive examples of environmental improvement: rivers, polluted for decades, have been cleaned up; native woodlands have been restored; landscapes have been beautified thanks to environmental renewal projects; beautiful buildings have been erected; advances have been made in the production of non-polluting energy and in the improvement of public transportation. These achievements do not solve global problems, but they do show that men and women are still capable of intervening positively. For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.”
The odd conjunction between faith and global warming occurs from the idea that churches are associated with conservatives and right-wing nuts, and that global warming is a leftist, liberal topic. What legs does the claim have to stand on? The truth is, global warming has never been a left or right issue, it is a world’s issue, and Pope Francis believes it is a God’s issue, too. Perhaps therein lies the misconception: because those who attend church do believe in God, in heaven, and a post-death paradise, their efforts here on this planet would be half-hearted. Perhaps church goers couldn’t believe in the hard-hitting science and theories of global warming. Those worshippers probably believe that God will swoop down and put things to right overnight The reality is, to fight global warming, we will need to mobilize every human on the planet—religious or atheistic. And Pope Francis, who rides around in a Ford Focus and keeps the solar panels installed by his predecessor Pope Benedict functioning at the Vatican, understands the weight his words carry.