Fr Tom Rouse, Columban Mission, Lower Hutt
‘Lines of approach and action’ is an intriguing title for chapter five of Laudato Si’ because the key word throughout this chapter is ‘dialogue’.
So what is Pope Francis saying? That when it comes to issues of the environmental crisis and climate change we do not set up another committee to simply talk about it! The various levels of dialogue proposed in this chapter are about key people coming together and acting in unison, like the connecting links of an ever expanding spiral of cooperation and action.
The vision, which is central to this process, is of ‘one world with a common plan’ (164). Underpinning this vision is the belief that we can only escape the downward ‘spiral of self-destruction’ (163) by working together globally because the crisis we face is global in scale. This means that international agreements can only be effectively enforced by truly authoritative international institutions.
Now the ‘lines of approach’ include the need for ‘local policies’. To enforce these policies there may be need for realistic ‘transitional measures’ (180). It may take time. Still, there is need for continuity. We can’t be changing policies with every change of government. Furthermore, on the local level, Francis acclaims the work of co-operatives whose members ‘exploit renewable sources of energy which ensure local self-sufficiency’(179). This is a reminder that we need to support these communal organisations and local iwi in our own midst, here in Aotearoa-New Zealand.
‘Transparency in decision-making’ is another link. This requires that ‘environmental-impact assessment should be part of the process from the beginning’ of any business or government venture (183).
Key people are those responsible for industry and our political institutions. In speaking of the need for dialogue between ‘politics and economy’, Francis calls for creativity and farsightedness. He is not against progress and development for he argues that ‘more diversified forms of production which impact less on the environment can prove very profitable’ (191). But what we, in Aotearoa-New Zealand, may find difficult and irksome is his insistence on the need to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world and that includes here (193).
Connecting the global with the local are the interreligious dialogue between peoples of different faiths, the interdisciplinary dialogue between the various fields of science and the interactive dialogue between the diverse ecological movements. The aim of these networks, as they interact and support each other, is to avoid the kind of isolation that comes from excessive specialisation, to look to the common good, to protect nature and to defend the poor. To follow these paths will require ‘patience, self-discipline and generosity’ (201).
Pope Francis’ encyclical is timely. From 30 November to 11 December, world leaders and negotiators from most countries will gather in Paris for COP21. This is the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN climate convention. In recalling the history of international conferences on the environment, Francis’ rueful assessment is despite the relentless efforts of the ecological movement, we are still ‘unable to reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environment’ (166).
This does not mean we should give up trying. So what can we hope for? First of all there has to be a sincere effort to reduce carbon emissions so the earth temperature does not increase beyond two degrees. Unfortunately there are rumblings we will not be able to keep the temperature below three degrees. With the consequent rise in sea levels as a result of global warming, what this means for small island nations and coastal populations is hard to imagine. Secondly, carbon trading doesn’t help to reduce emissions. As Pope Francis argues, this is more than likely ‘a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors’ (171). Thirdly, we hope these
international negotiators will have the decency and the humanity to listen to those representatives of the Southern world, the small-island nations and the impoverished nations of our world, whose peoples and lands are being constantly exploited.
But in the light of the recent indiscriminate and senseless killings that took place in a number of venues throughout Paris, we trust that this meeting – COP21 – will still take place and that those who gather will recognise now is the time to strive for a peace based on honest dialogue and effective lines of approach that address the economic, political and religious divisions that give rise to ongoing wars and the constant threat of terrorism and a lasting guarantee for our vulnerable planet.
Laudato Si’ – Chapter Five: Lines of Approach and Action
Dialogue on the environment in the international community
Dialogue for new local and national policies
Dialogue and transparency in decision making
Politics and economy in dialogue for human fulfilment
Religions in dialogue with science
Laudato Si’ reflection day: care for our common home
The hau kainga (home people) of Te Ngākau Tapu parish welcomed the 60 people to the Tuhono marae in Porirua, Saturday 3 October, who came to learn about Laudato Si’, and related work and ideas for Archdiocesan environmental initiatives.
Presenters, including Rev Jean Malcolm of Lower Hutt, Taneora Tunoho Ryall, Kaihāpai Māori of Ngāti Raukawa descent and promoter of Maori language and culture at Caritas, Lakan Beech, a Filipino student at Hato Pāora College, and Roger Ellis of Caritas, spoke of their own spiritual, cultural, and environmental parallels relating to Laudato’ Si.
Also discussed was the ‘transitions churches ecumenical movement’ – environmentally-friendly measures for churches.