While the UN ponders, we pray

Today’s breaking eco-news from Nairobi sounds promising, but forgive my caution. Reuters has a lengthy account of the United Nations’ hope for better ecological and energy coordination among its member states, but this AFP report (New 'environment governance' on agenda in Nairobi) captures both the good news and the bad.

Read the report, below, then I’ll explain my hesitancy. 

NAIROBI — Environment ministers and experts gathered in Nairobi on Monday to discuss reforming "world environment governance" in order to better manage crises linked to climate change and environmental degradation.

Delegates from 140 countries, 80 of them at ministerial level, attended the 26th session of the governing council of the United Nations Environment Programme, headquartered in Nairobi.

The delegates will discuss beefing up international environmental management tools, deemed to be insufficient given the scale of the problems facing the planet.

"Notwithstanding the impressive landscape of institutions, agreements and protocols, the environmental governance landscape of the here and now is increasingly fractured and fragmented," UNEP chief Achim Steiner told the meeting.

"I am sure previous generations of environment ministers never intended this."

Any consensus on the reforms actually looks to be a long way off, despite several years of debate and even as the next UN sustainable development conference, planned for Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, looms closer.

"We need to be unaninous in saying we need a stronger and more coherent framework for world environment governance," said Henri Djombo, environment minister of the Republic of Congo (DRC) and acting chairman of the UNEP governing council.

The international community remains divided over whether it is better to reinforce existing institution, starting with UNEP, or whether a new international body should be set up.

Did you catch the opening of that last paragraph? “The international community remains divided . . .”

Now there’s an understatement.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the UN, but I know a thing or two about government (I’ve been working for one for 22 years). I also have some knowledge of human history, and I know what it means to be a flawed human person. That’s why I applaud the honesty of this reporter and the quoted sources. While it would be easy to see great promise in the UN’s work towards a new world eco-order, some things can’t be rushed. Cultural and historical differences among nations and peoples, not to mention legitimate competitive needs (and self-interest) of political regimes, will most certainly cloud the processes of attaining these goals. Thanks to original sin, we will likely be like those builders of Babel in our attempt to attain clean energy, healthy economies and prosperity for all.

But remember: we need not seek this end by ourselves. We’d be foolish to think that we could do so. We must seek some help from the Creator.

And so the bottom line: Pay close attention to what our respective governments are doing, and, above all, pray together as one people.

Almighty and Ever Living God, you found all creation and especially we the human race worthy of salvation even when we sinned against you and against our neighbor, you came among us in true humanity, love and sacrifice as your Son, and you use creation in your continued sacramental presence. We ask you to send your Spirit of wisdom, council and awe among us, that we, the human family, may grow in unity, love and respectful stewardship of all that you brought into being and found to be very good. We ask this through the Risen Christ, Our Lord.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.

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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.