Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

5/31/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As the world continues its economic development, care for the environment presents itself as a challenge for all humankind

Though addressing environmental issues is a responsibility that cannot be shirked, it presents a complex problem that requires an interdisciplinary approach, one which invokes sciences of all kinds, industries of all kinds, government, and ecological groups.  Decisions must sometimes be made when the data are not clear, when there is a state of uncertainty as to the data's interpretation. 

We have an obligation to care for the gift of creation

We have an obligation to care for the gift of creation

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/31/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: green, ecology, stewardship, environment, environmentalism, Social Doctrine, Catholics, Pope benedict XVI, Andrew Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In some of our prior articles, including "The Theology of Ecology," "Morality, Science and Technology," and "A Moral Ecology," we reflected upon the Scriptural view of nature and the problems that occur when man exploits nature, when, heedless of moral norms, he puts nature to the rack or through the grist mill. 

Though the Church is not opposed to science and technology, it is opposed to what we might call scientism or technologism, i.e., the use of science and technology unbounded by the moral law and heedless of nature as a whole or human nature in particular.

As the world continues its economic development, care for the environment presents itself as a challenge for all humankind.  Our earthly environment "is a matter of a common and universal duty," it is one that truly involves the common good of humanity. 

No human being and no institution is free to disregard the moral use of nature and its resources.  In the words of John Paul II quoted by the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, it is our common obligation to prevent "anyone from using 'with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate--animals, plants, the natural elements--simply as one wishes, according to one's own economic needs.'" 

There are other human goods than economic exploitation of resources.

Whether we like it or not, the problem of the environment presents itself as an international problem requiring international solutions.  What good is it for the United States to place strict emission standards on its own manufacturing plants to our own economic disadvantage while China's plants belch out foul poisons into earth's atmosphere?  What good is it for us to restrict the harvest of our forests, while we watch the Amazon's forests denuded?

One must also not forget that the use of the world and its resources today affects the life of those who come after us.  If we are irresponsible now, "after-comers" will not be able to "guess the beauty been."

Since the problems regarding the environment are global, they require global solutions.

As the Compendium notes:

"Responsibility for the environment, the common heritage of mankind, extends not only to present needs but also to those of the future.  'We have inherited from past generations, and we have benefited from the work of our contemporaries: for this reason we have obligations towards all, and we cannot refuse to interest ourselves in those who will come after us, to enlarge the human family.'  This is a responsibility that present generations have towards those of the future, a responsibility that also concerns individual States and the international community." (Compendium, No. 467) (quoting Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 266)

It would seem that the problem can only be handled through some sort of juridical or legal construct, while it cannot be limited to that.  Perhaps as important as relying upon juridical means is the need to inculcate a "sense of responsibility as well as an effective change of mentality and lifestyle" that is more in keeping with environmental or ecological sensitivity.  (Compendium, No. 468)

Market forces are in a considerable degree inadequate to handle the problem because they tend to have short-term and not long-term perspectives, and costs associated with environmental effects may not be internalized in that they can be passed down to future generations or absorbed by others.  For this reason economic interests may be opposed to environmental interests.  They live in tension.

"An economy respectful of the environment will not have the maximization of profits as its only objective, because environmental protection cannot be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits."  (Compendium, No. 470)

"The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces.  Every country, in particular developed countries, must be aware of the urgent obligation to reconsider the way that natural goods are being used. Seeking innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of production and consumption of goods should be effectively encouraged."  (Compendium, No. 470)

While the juridical construct does not necessarily require a global juridical institution--a global EPA in fact sounds positively frightening--it does require, at minimum, some sort of global or international cooperation and recognition of the problem and its commonality.

"It is important that the international community draw up uniform rules that will allow States to exercise more effective control over the various activities that have negative effects on the environment and to protect ecosystems by preventing the risk of accidents."  (Compendium, No. 468).

At the very minimum, the various states should actively endeavor within their own territories "to prevent destruction of the atmosphere and biosphere, by carefully monitoring, among other things, the impact of new technological or scientific advances . . . [and] insuring that its citizens are not exposed to dangerous pollutants or toxic wastes."  (Compendium, No. 468) (quoting JPII, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace)

Though addressing environmental issues is a responsibility that cannot be shirked, it presents a complex problem that requires an interdisciplinary approach, one which invokes sciences of all kinds, industries of all kinds, government, and ecological groups.  Decisions must sometimes be made when the data are not clear, when there is a state of uncertainty as to the data's interpretation. 

An example that may be cited is whether there is global warming, and, if so, whether it is natural or man-made, and, if man-made, how much of it is attributable to controllable human causes.  Sometimes the scientific data and the interpretation of that data are complicated by hidden agendas, by irresponsible propaganda, by self-interest and self-regard. 

Histrionics sometimes hides scientific facts.

In the light of uncertainty or probabilities, a "precautionary principle" may be adopted as a guide to practical, yet prudent, action:

"The authorities called to make decisions concerning health and environmental risks sometimes find themselves facing a situation in which available scientific data are contradictory or quantitatively scarce. It may then be appropriate to base evaluations on the "precautionary principle", which does not mean applying rules but certain guidelines aimed at managing the situation of uncertainty.  This shows the need for making temporary decisions that may be modified on the basis of new facts that eventually become known."

"Such decisions must be proportional with respect to provisions already taken for other risks. Prudent policies, based on the precautionary principle require that decisions be based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives, including the decision not to intervene. This precautionary approach is connected with the need to encourage every effort for acquiring more thorough knowledge, in the full awareness that science is not able to come to quick conclusions about the absence of risk. The circumstances of uncertainty and provisional solutions make it particularly important that the decision-making process be transparent." (Compendium, No. 469)

The problem requires rational solutions, solutions based upon dispassionate assessment of the environmental problem, of its causes, of possible cures.  It must take into consideration a variety of factors, including: nature itself, the kind of resource involved (whether renewable or non-renewable), economic and market factors, industrial interests, cultural idiosyncrasies, the just imposition of costs associated with environmental restrictions, the divergence between rich nations and the poor, with the urgency of developing the wealth of the latter, alternatives that may be available, the current state of science or technology.

There simply is no one right answer to this very complex problem.  But that does not excuse us from not trying.  It may be a situation where angels fear to tread, but then we shouldn't rush in as fools.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2016
Universal:
Small Farmers: That small farmers may receive a just reward for their precious labor.
Evangelization: African Christians: That Christians in Africa may give witness to love and faith in Jesus Christ amid political-religious conflicts.



Comments


More Green

'We see it:' The realities of global warming are finally accepted around the world Watch

Image of The Paris climate agreement saw Sen. Jeff Merkley state global warming is one of the greatest challenges of our generation (AFP).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

With more and more nations agreeing that climate change is not only real, but also dangerous, more world leaders are making a move to save the planet. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Senator Jeff Merkley took the Senate floor last week to say global warming is one ... continue reading


Volcanoes erupting everywhere! Is this a sign? Watch

Image of Popocatepetl erupts in Mexico. Prominent volcanoes in Russia and North Korea are also erupting.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Thirty-eight volcanoes are erupting right now. Earthquakes are making the news. Is something supernatural about to occur? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Take care that no one deceives you," Jesus admonished his disciples in the book of Matthew. The Disciples were ... continue reading


Major quakes predicted - As massive quakes strike the Ring of Fire, North America remains eerily quiet... Watch

Image of North America is overdue for a major quake, but when and where it will strike is impossible to predict.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Both a psychic and a scientist have predicted the current spate of quakes which have shook Asia, the South Pacific, and South America, and their predictions are on record. The eerie occurrence has many asking if North America is next. LOS ANGELES, CA (California ... continue reading


Scientists alarmed as massive ice sheet begins rapid melting Watch

Image of Greenland's ice sheet has begun melting early, alarming scientists.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Scientists are in shock as a massive Greenland ice sheet has started melting far sooner than expected and in great volume. The data is so surprising, the researchers initially believed it to be an error. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - On April 11, sensors that ... continue reading


Maybe this is why you're sick? Watch

Image of Global warming isn't just heating the planet, it's making people sick.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Anthropocentric global warming is going to make you sick, according to a new federal report. The 332-page report was released Monday and it predicts a host of consequences from global warming that will begin, or have already begin to affect the country. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Arctic ice continues to decline as global warming accelerates Watch

Image of Sea ice will begin melting and will reach its annual low point sometime in September. If the present is any indicator, we will see less ice in the Arctic this September than at any time in modern history.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Arctic is melting and it's happening faster than anticipated. So far, Arctic sea ice has reached its lowest level ever on modern record. It is also thinner. While the Arctic sea ice does not contribute to sea level rise, it does serve as an indicator for how our ... continue reading


You'll never believe what blessing God bestowed upon California! Watch

Image of Lake Shasta reservoir is in danger of overflowing (California Department of Water Resources).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Imagine you have a farm and the years have been kind. You look out at your bountiful harvest that God has blessed for generations and you smile with pride and joy.Then the unthinkable happens; a horrible drought hits and suddenly the future of your farm, which has ... continue reading


Four scary new things about global warming we've just learned Watch

Image of As acids and CO2 build up in the ocean, coral reefs die globally. A quarter of all sea life and over half-a million people depend on healthy coral reefs for survival.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Report after report, study after study confirms, the planet is in serious trouble. Within 50 to 150 years, and within the lifetime of children born today, the world will experience catastrophic weather changes. Carbon dioxide, and methane emissions have spiked and ... continue reading


Searing February heat shatters global record, called 'whopping' by skeptic Watch

Image of A polar bear lies dead on an Arctic beach that ought to be covered in ice. The record warm temperatures have resulted in havoc on Arctic ecosystems.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Does everybody still believe global warming is a hoax? Yet more data confirms what scientists have feared for a long time, the planet is warming, and it may have passed a tipping point. The latest data now reveals that February 2016 was the hottest February on record, ... continue reading


BIG quake prediction for California caused by... Watch

Image of A road worker examines damage done by a quake in California.

By Marshall Connolly, California Network (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A massive earthquake predicted for California in early March did not occur, although scientists now know what set off the alarm among so many scientists. The answer is, a glitch in satellite data. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - In late February, California was ... continue reading


All Green News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 16:1-10
1 From there he went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra, where there was a ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:1-2, 3, 5
1 [Psalm For thanksgiving] Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,2 ... Read More

Gospel, John 15:18-21
18 If the world hates you, you must realise that it hated me before it ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 30th, 2016 Image

St. Pius V, Pope
April 30: Pope from 1566-1572 and one of the foremost ... Read More