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A troubled but active year worldwide offers lessons, warnings, and hope for 2018

Looking back at 2017, one thing is for sure: tackling the world’s eco-issues is going to take a lot more cooperation and understanding then we’ve seen thus far. Fortunately, our Catholic faith is all about universality.

Not surprisingly, then, the top ten Catholic eco-stories follow a few common themes. First: the teachings of our bishops—most especially the Bishop of Rome and his predecessors—have inspired eco-activity in parishes, religious orders, Catholic institutions, and the laity. Second: there has been a marked focus on the practical, such as the technical details of installing renewable energy, of lowering our consumption of just about everything, and of investing ethically. Lastly, the great theme of 2016 continued and, sadly, deepened in 2017: the ongoing divide between political and ideological extremes.

More on all that below.

But first, a brief programming note. As many have noted in your emails, my postings have been less frequent this year, especially these last few months. My apologies. The reason, some of you know, has been the demands in completing of my forthcoming novel, A Printer’s Choice—a science fiction mystery that gets to the heart of so many of our current age’s eco issues. The book is slated for a...

From Pope Francis to US Catholic organizations, the faithful are marching forward with policy demands, concrete steps

Building off the momentum of United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, Catholics around the world last week advanced their own momentum in moving climate policy forward. From Rome to the United States, a noticeable increase in activity has grown out of worries over rates of greenhouse gas emissions and the desire for improved measures to help poorer nations deal with the impacts of climate change.

Here are four big, recent happenings in Catholic climate advocacy:

1. Pope Francis set the tone last week in a message to the Prime Minister of Fiji, who is serving as the president of the 23rd session of the Conference of States Parties, the international body negotiating steps to address climate change. Using his signature bluntness, the Holy Father worried over “perverse attitudes” that are thwarting the necessary response to climate change.

Here’s some of the report by Catholic News Agency’s Elise Harris:

Francis sent a message Thursday to a conference on climate change, telling participants the problem is something that can't be ignored, but must be met with a proactive desire to develop effective solutions. “I would like to reiterate my urgent invitation to renew dialogue about the way in

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The Catholic network CIDSE issues a plea to governments to implement the Paris climate agreement

A new paper, Climate Action for the Common Good, was launched today at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn by CIDSE — "Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité"—an organization of eighteen Catholic social justice organizations from around the world.

In releasing the document, CIDSE said it wanted to encourage governments to respond to climate change in a way that reflects the spirit of Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical Laudato Si’, which many credit for having a significant impact on the passing of the 2015 global climate deal in Paris.

Like others watching the international talks, CIDSE noted that two years after that agreement, countries have done little to fulfill their climate commitments, while the United States has even left the agreement.

"While the Paris Agreement saw countries agree to limit global temperature increases to no more than 1.5 – 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels," CIDSE said in today's announcement, "forecasts suggest that current pledges to limit carbon emissions based on our current economic and development models will fall far short of meeting this target."

Speaking at COP23, Father Bruno Marie Duffé, secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who is representing...

International climate talks, U.S. politics have big implications for native Alaskans

Many Americans probably haven’t heard of the Gwich’in people. Most of us may not know how these natives live off vast lands in Alaska—and how they’ve done so for centuries. We may not know the Gwich’in language, history, art, customs—and their reliance on the ecosystems of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and how that land may soon be opened to fossil fuel extraction.

Real-world peoples like the Gwich’in remind us that what’s happening a half a world away at international climate talks in Bonn, Germany, as well as what's happening in Washington D.C., matters more than we may know. It’s realities like the Gwich’in desire to protect their lands that remind us what it means to care for the least among us—and for our common home.

The name Gwich’in means something akin to “one who dwells.” They are people of the land—a trait that modern communities would do well to imitate.

And now their land is threatened by our nation’s need for oil—for energy independence, some say. For security and economic development. And because of that, the Gwich’in are in a fight for their life.

I first heard the cries of the...

For Catholics, all life issues deserve attention

November 2017

"There’s too much talk about abortion"

That’s a comment you’ll hear in some secular, ecumenical, and (tragically) Catholic eco circles. It’s a complaint most often directed at Catholic hierarchy here in the states and at conservative Christians in general.

I’ve heard this comment, or some variant, from Catholics at a number of talks that I’ve given. My response is pretty standard: “Can we ever really talk too much about sixty million murdered children?”

The comment and its criticism of those on the front lines of saving children’s lives tell us something about the political divisions within the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church. In the spirit of seeking unity, this sentiment needs to be confronted and corrected.

The worry that ecological concerns take a back seat to defending human life is erroneous in two important ways.

First, it assumes that one cannot be concerned both about human life and the environment — that somehow the issues are at odds. The current Successor of Saint Peter and his predecessors disagree.

Benedict XVI put it best in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate: “Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human...

The troubled release of a scientific report demonstrates how truth and human life suffer from ideological blind spots

Chilling. That was the word used most often today to describe what many are calling the silencing of Environmental Protection Agency scientists by the Trump administration.

As reported Sunday by the New York Times, the rollout of a report by the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program (NBEP) was to have included a keynote address by EPA researcher Autumn Oczkowski, but sometime on Friday the NBEP was told that Oczkowski could not attend. Most speculate that Oczkowski’s work on climate impacts to Narragansett Bay was incompatible with the Trump administration’s denial of climate change, and she was thus removed by EPA headquarters from the rollout.

Two other EPA scientists were also to have spoken on panel discussions, but like Oczkowski were told by EPA that they could not do so.

The event, which I attended, went forward anyway. Standing in for Oczkowski’s keynote was Dr. Robinson “Wally” Fulweiler of Boston University. While Fulweiler noted afterward that her talk was not the specific address that was to be given by Oczkowski, it was nonetheless based on research that Oczkowski, Fulweiler, and others had undertaken on the complex estuary of Narragansett Bay, and the many impacts, including climate...

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.