New Scientist is dissatisfied with the climate gospel being preached by the Catholic Church.
Religion must rise to the challenge of climate change too
No planet B | With biblical floods and famine on the cards, the fight against global warming needs faiths to get serious about green issues
By Graham Lawton
In 2015, Pope Francis issued an encyclical on the environment. For those (like me) unfamiliar with Vatican terminology, that is a bit like a memo from head office informing regional managers about the boss’s latest thinking. It isn’t an instruction, but is guidance that you are well advised to heed.
However,there are reasons to regard the encyclical with scepticism. For one thing,it said nothing about birth control, which the church opposes, and hence the topic of my last column,population growth. The encyclical also seems to have been quickly forgotten. In Rome, I asked a young, devout theology student from the Philippines whether it had made an impact on the church’s teachings or the attitudes of its followers. Not a bit, he said.
There is a more fundamental reason to be suspicious. According to Lori Beaman, professor of religious diversity and social change at the University of Ottawa in Canada, the encyclical remains steeped in the Christian tradition of stewardship, which holds that God entrusted humans to take care of Earth but will heal whatever damage we do. In the past, this has been interpreted as divine consent to rape and pillage the planet as we see fit.
Of course,the Catholic church may be absolutely sincere. If so, it needs to up its game and start preaching the message. Andit isn’t the only faith in town. How other religions respond to environmental breakdown matter just as much. There are some positive signs: there was a strong religious presence at Extinction Rebellion’s recent climate protests.
Like many other progressive, secular environmentalists,I am deeply conflicted about getting into bed with religion. But as we descend into a climate and biodiversity crisis, we are going to need all the help we can get.
There is probably no God, but if there is, it would be better if He was on our side.