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 February 2016
Universal:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Evangelization: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More Green

You won't believe how many Americans actually care about global warming! Watch

Image of While a threat to humanity, global warming is of very low concern to the majority of most Americans.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Climate change - or global warming, has a wide range of apocalyptic possibilities - drought, fire, famine and government collapse are promised by the world's soaring temperatures. However, according to a recent poll - Americans just do not care, or express much concern ... continue reading


NOAA caught adjusting temperature data to make global warming worse! But why did they do it? Watch

Image of NOAA: And we would have gotten away with it if not for you pesky skeptics!

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Global warming is probably the most serious issue facing the world today. If global temperatures are spiking, then the world as we know it will change. Even the U.S. military considers global warming to be a major threat to national security. But what if the climate ... continue reading


Here's what a plague of locusts looks like (PHOTOS) Watch

Image of When grasshoppers swarm, they become known as locusts. Their colors and behaviors change dramatically.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Amid news that the largest locust swarm in five decades is devouring crops in Argentina, some people have wondered just what such a thing looks like. Here's what a plague of biblical proportions looks like.  [media id="17873"][media id="17875"][media ... continue reading


Will the symbolic Doomsday Clock move closer to the fatal end? Watch

Image of Doomsday Clock is currently set three minutes to 12.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic visual of the world's impending doom. Once the clock strikes midnight, the world as we know it will come to an apocalyptic halt -all of our own doing. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) is ... continue reading


El Nino DISASTER looms for California: 'ATMOSPHERIC RIVER EVENT' possible, could be followed 'VERY LOW SNOW LEVELS' Watch

Image of The ARkstorm scenario has been modeled in California. In 1862, an actual ARkstorm hit the state. Similar, but less destructive storms have hit in 1938, 1968, and 1986.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A long range weather forecast for California predicts the state may be hit by a major El Nino storm next weekend. That storm could be followed by abnormally cold temperatures that could put snow on the valley floor, a rare event for the region. UPDATE: Wednesday, 1/27, ... continue reading


SHOCKING reality facing oceans: Plastic pollution 'equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute' Watch

Image of The ocean is already full of plastic -but more is on its way (LiveScience).

By Monique Crawford (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Everyone has heard of the spread of plastic pollution in our oceans -but how many of us realize just how serious the situation really is? According to the World Economic Forum, the amount of plastic currently dumped into our oceans each year is the equivalent of one ... continue reading


Global warming devours lake twice the size of Los Angeles Watch

Image of A fisherman displays his license. Without any water or fish, his livelihood has evaporated. Bolivia has declared a national disaster.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Climate change may be a debate topic in the United States, but for people who have been impacted by warming weather, it is a harsh reality. This is painfully evident in Lake Poopo, Bolivia, that nation's second-largest lake, which has now dried up to just 2 percent of ... continue reading


NOAA: 2015 officially hottest year on record. -- Skeptics just insist all scientists are lying Watch

Image of According to NASA and NOAA, 2015 was the hottest year on modern record.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

More evidence. There's more proof the planet is warming, and it's not even a debatable subject anymore. According to NOAA, 2015 is the hottest year on record, by far. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Last year was the hottest recorded year since record-keeping ... continue reading


Hey California, love the weather? There's a nasty surprise coming for Californians Watch

Image of A luxury home collapses in California in March, 1998.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Californios have been pleasantly surprised by the El Nino rains this year. The rain hasn't been overwhelming, and temperatures have been mild.  Windows can often be left open all night in many places. There's plenty of snow on the slopes, so skiing is on. It's a ... continue reading


BACK TO LIFE MIRACLE: Organisms, frozen for 30 years, successfully revived and brought back to life Watch

Image of Frozen, tardigrades enter a state called cryptobiosis. Their metabolic processes shut down and they show no visible signs of life.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In a remarkable feat worthy of Rip Van Winkle, two tardigrades - also known as "Waterbears" and "moss piglets" were successfully revived after being frozen or 30 years. One survived for only a few days - the other thrived and was able to hatch further eggs. LOS ... 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

  • St. Scholastica: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, February 10, 2016
  • 10 important things to consider during Lent
  • Take this thought provoking Stations of the Cross survey
  • Can you answer these four challenging questions about Lent?
  • Daily Readings for Wednesday, February 10, 2016
  • Stations of the Cross - Fourth Station: Jesus meets his mother HD Video
  • Palm Sunday HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Joel 2:12-18
12 'But now -- declares Yahweh- come back to me with all your heart, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
3 For I am well aware of my offences, my sin is constantly in ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
1 'Be careful not to parade your uprightness in public to attract ... Read More

Reading 2, Second Corinthians 5:20--6:2
20 So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were urging you ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 10th, 2016 Image

St. Scholastica
February 10: St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict, ... Read More