If you’ve ever watched the Planet Earth television series, you’ve probably marveled at its video footage depicting the beauty and amazing biodiversity of life on Earth. In fact, watching these kinds of shows about our natural world might occasionally provoke a feeling of awe (see my last posting) over the magnificence of God’s creation.
Unfortunately, though, not only do too many human beings remain unmoved by the divine gift that is our natural world, but they also have no qualms about harming or even destroying that natural world for their own personal gain. Robert Jensen, author of Arguing for Our Lives, believes that humans have created an ecological crisis that started about 10,000 years ago with the agricultural revolution, accelerated with the advent of the 18th century industrial revolution, and is now perpetuated in the 20th century by what he terms a “delusional revolution.” Jensen believes that this third revolution has expertly used propaganda techniques to discourage people from facing a terrifying reality: our ecosystem is quickly becoming unsustainable for human life. This propaganda has been so effective that, even as science has been providing us with more concrete evidence of our plight, the percentage of the population who rejects this scientific evidence as bogus has increased! “It is simply easier to disbelieve,” says Jensen, “than to face the implications.”
Perhaps this “delusional revolution” explains why many people have responded with apathy toward the Trump administration’s irresponsible efforts to stop blocking people from damaging God’s creation. Our president is hostile to science. He wants to eliminate many environmental protections. He appointed a climate change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency. He has pulled the United States from the Paris Climate Change Accord. Trump and his supporters continue to weaken or dismantle protections for planet Earth even though — fortunately — that’s clearly not what the majority of the electorate wants. One Pew poll indicates that about three-fourths of American adults are in favor of protecting our environment. Another recent poll revealed that Catholics are even more progressive than Americans in general when it comes to supporting efforts to slow global warming. Whereas 66% of average Americans believe that we should take action against global warming, 73% of Catholics believe the same.
Catholics’ views about the environment are expressed on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, which states, “The Catholic Church brings a distinct perspective to the discussion of environmental questions, by lifting up the moral dimensions of these issues and the needs of the most vulnerable among us. This unique contribution is rooted in Catholic teaching calling us to care for creation and for ‘the least of these’ (Mt 25:40).”
In keeping with this position, Pope Francis published a 2015 encyclical entitled Laudato Si (“Praise Be to You”), which is subtitled “On Care for Our Common Home.” He raises the alarm about global warming, and tells us what we must do about it:
A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production, and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.
Pope Francis blames environmental deterioration on “the cycle of production and consumption” of an industrial system that does not deal effectively with the waste and by-products of that cycle. Jensen echoes this idea when he writes,
The move from a sun-powered to a fossil-fuel powered, machine-based world has produced unparalleled material comfort for some….[yet] the processes that produce the comfort are destroying the capacity of the ecosystem to sustain human life as we know it into the future, and in the present those comforts are not distributed in a fashion that is consistent with any meaningful conception of justice.
In other words, by endangering our planet’s health, manufacturing is also endangering the natural resources on which Earth’s poorest people — who can’t even afford the products being pumped out by manufacturers — rely on for their survival.
Trump and many Republicans claim that ending environmental protections will stimulate economic growth and bring back jobs to the United States.
That’s probably a big, fat myth.
Are jobs really lost because business owners and CEOs are required to be environmentally responsible? The regulations that force them to stop polluting and spewing out greenhouse gases may reduce their profits some, but not enough to endanger their organizations’ survival and thus justify their decisions to eliminate jobs. Let’s be honest: Jobs are lost when greedy corporations — and the politicians who need wealthy donors to continue financing their reelections — choose profits over people. Jobs are lost when people are replaced with robots or workers’ jobs are outsourced to be performed by exploited laborers in other countries.
Even if I’m wrong, though, and rolling back environmental protections creates a slew of new jobs, what good will those jobs do us when we’re all drinking contaminated water, choking on polluted air, watching our homes flattened by powerful storms, being flooded by rising sea levels, and realizing that we’re responsible for the starvation of innocent people all over our globe?