Tag Archives: Sustainability

One Nation under God

While economists, politicians and “corporate citizens” alike regularly talk about sustainability as an economic and environmental necessity, Pope Francis has now upped the ante. Stepping again out of the comfort zone of the Vatican and into the fray of real world politics, the Pope provides a moral imperative against income inequality, which arguably is itself a threat to sustainability.

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.

The Pope’s message delivered as part of the Evangelii Gaudium is a challenge against the notion of trickle down economics, in which the spoils of the rich are lauded by some as the means to an end of prosperity and justice for all.

In the true spirit of Christianity, the Pope urges that more focus be given to compassion for the poor and disadvantaged. It isn’t charity or socialism he’s lobbying for. His message is against a culture of indifference in which the rich and powerful are expected to win out.  As in Rawl’s “A Theory of Justice”, the Pope makes the case that it is in the greater interest of society as a whole if there if the goals of liberty and equality can be reconciled. Indeed, many economists argue that inequality is a major deterrent to growth.

The Pope’s admonition is in line with his other messages in which he condemns the marginalization of the vulnerable and easily ostracized in society, including those “without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.” Instead, he argues for more tolerance and inclusion.

In the end, the Pope is not just advocating a utopian world view. His challenge is to achieve a more faithful approach, in which the needs of many are not ignored to the benefit of a privileged few. When he asked for our prayers, Pope Francis is giving us a wake up call. It is not only time for us to pray for him, but for each other. Only then can we be confident of a sustainable and rewarding future.

God’s Green Earth

I tend to pray a lot when I fly. It’s not surprising to me that when I look out of an airplane window it’s easy to thing of God’s grace. Looking out at the blue oceans, green fields and snow topped mountains reminds me that while I do not worship the earth, I am thankful for its natural beauty.

On his recent trip to Brazil, Pope Francis sent a clear message when calling for:

“respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it be indiscriminately exploited but rather made into a garden.”

It’s a simple truth that we all live on, from and with the land. In the midst of scarce resources it is difficult to strike the right balance between preserving the natural resources at our disposal and reaping the benefits of their harvest. To be aware of that choice is a first important step.

And the choices are everywhere. When driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles I noticed the town of Coalinga (you can’t miss it) with its hundreds of thousands of cattle in their feedlots and the unbelievable stench that goes on for miles and miles. I can only imagine what the cattle plantations are like further south of the US border. I certainly don’t want to give up a good USDA, Brazilian or Argentinian steak once in a while, but seeing those cattle farms certainly reminded me of the enormous and sometimes wasteful appetite we have.

Many of the natural resources in Brazil and other (developing) economies are exploited to feed the consumption in more prosperous countries. When you consider the fact that many products are then re-imported at a premium price, you begin to understand why this development is not sustainable and the incentives for conservation so hard to achieve.

Pope Francis is not the first to bring attention to the fate of the Amazon rainforest, but he does go further in condemning a throw-away “culture of waste.” His statements do remind us, however, that it is the Earth which sustains our existence. I won’t wait until my next plane ride to pray for it’s sustainability. Thank God for Pope Francis’s example.