In 1891, Pope Leo XIII brought forth the encyclical Rerum Novarum. It was a milestone in the Catholic Tradition, inaugurating a new era of Papal Social Encyclicals responding to the social injustice of the modern world.
The latest being the magisterial Caritas in Veritate of His Holiness Benedict XVI.
In Rerum Novarum Leo XIII challenged unrestricted capitalism, supported the Trade Union movement and clearly sought to address what the Pope called “the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class.”
Now although Leo XIII initiated this new era in Papal Social Teaching, it has to be noted that his work was preceded by decades of Catholic response to the 19th century evils of industrialisation and unbridled capitalism – by the remarkable work of both laity and clergy alike.
In modern parlance, one might say that before Rerum Novarum and the new era of Papal Encyclicals that followed in its wake, there had already been significant activity at the grassroots …
Now in my own private and personal ruminations, I have long felt that there needs to be both very significant grassroots and Papal action to counter the evils that so threaten us in the twenty first century. I speak of Global Warming and other threats to the environment.
It is of course very heartening indeed to see the Holy Father address this in numerous ways, to which I hope this website will in time devote more attention.
But clearly far, far more is needed, if we are to awaken more completely to this evil of the twenty first century.
And in time, I have been hoping to devote much more of this website to this. In time … one reason I confess I have not done so yet is a (crying) need to educate myself further on the issues, before I can speak confidently.
In the meantime, an anonymous scientist friend of mine recently posted me an e-mail, which he has since posted, slightly revised here at his own weblog.
An anonymous scientist friend of mine … I regret I can in no way endorse the vision of Christianity you will find at this website, should you surf to it, dear Reader.
While nonetheless regretting the views on Christianity expressed there, I can still honour the seriousness, the soberness and considerable underlying idealism of my anonymous friend, who calls himself the Trimorph.
Now while I still feel less than competent to address the issues of Global Warming myself, I do have sufficient faith in the Trimorph’s serious reflection over decades to present his views here in this personal weblog.
And in lieu of any serious efforts of my own yet in this regard, this is what I would like to do. Herewith extracts from my friend’s original email:
“I have been thinking about the future too, and that is what this post is mainly about. Prompted largely by the arrival of my son in my life two years ago, I have been trying to understand as best I can how the rest of this century is likely to pan out. In other words, the world in which my son is going to live his life. …
It seems to me that whatever happens, we are going to see very major changes. The big question is whether we are going to deal effectively with climate change. If we don’t, we are headed for catastrophe. But even if we do, we are headed for very, very difficult times. …
Recent work by Jim Hansen of NASA suggests that we must get the CO2 concentration in atmosphere back below 350 parts per million as soon as we possibly can. We are currently at about 387, rising at 2 ppm per year, and the longer we stay above 350, the more chance that trends like the melting of polar ice and the release of methane from bogs in Siberia will accelerate and turn into unstoppable positive feedbacks. (See www.350.org for a good explanation of this and a campaign to get involved in).
Meanwhile James Lovelock of Gaia hypothesis fame has been writing about his new model, which takes account of feedback between living organisms and non-life processes, in a way that mainstream models (on which the IPPC projections are based) do not. Lovelock’s model predicts that at some point, if we keep raising CO2 levels or fail to reduce them, the climate will suddenly flip into a state 6 degrees centigrade warmer than the present.
We can’t at the moment tell when that will be or at what concentration, but the danger is ever-present.
And if such a big rise happens, we’re done for, certainly as a civilisation and perhaps even as a species — mass extinctions will then certainly take place, and in any such event, it tends to be the large creatures at the top of the food chain that are most vulnerable.
I don’t think any of this is unduly alarmist. Events especially in the polar regions since 2007 have been right at the upper end of previous predictions. It suddenly looks much, much more serious and urgent than it did before.
So the UN Copenhagen conference in December is crucial. We simply must have a deal, to reduce emissions and get concentrations down, and fast. And we need to let our politicians know we absolutely require them to safeguard humanity’s future.
If we do manage to do that (and I have to say I’m not optimistic), and if the climate responds favourably, then we are likely before too long to face another kind of challenge: that envisaged by the “peak oil” theorists like Kunstler (kunstlercast. com) and Greer (thearchdruidreport .blogspot. com), both of whom I recommend.
The oil “peak” will actually be of our own making — we cannot use all the oil in the ground, even the easily-available stuff, without pumping far too much CO2 into the air.
But when fossil fuel use starts to decline, for whatever reason, it’s going to affect everything. We will have to decide collectively how to apportion energy sources between growing food,keeping warm (or cool), building/making stuff and travelling around.
If we simply let the market decide there will be mass famine and chaos on a scale far beyond anything the world has ever seen.
Unlike the climate switch which could happen suddenly (a decade or so) at any time, the kind of civilisational decline envisaged by the peak-oilers is likely to be gradual — maybe a couple of centuries –but enormous nevertheless.
Modern technology will cease to be widespread. No mass travel, no mass media, no internet, no mass publishing, no reliable electricity or gas. It is likely to look much more like the middle ages or even the dark ages than the modern era.
It seems to me there are therefore three sorts of things worth putting one’s energy into.
The first is to make as much noise as possible to persuade the powers that be to limit climate change as far as possible. This autumn is the key time for that.
The second is to plan for a future in which this effort is successful. What do we really think is worth preserving from our culture, and how are we going to do it? What skills should we be passing on to our children? What spiritual traditions, and how? Practically, how are we going to preserve what’s best about the world’s learning? Computer discs and CDs will be unreadable. Paper rots after a century or two. Can we distill what’s really valuable to a level that people will be willing to copy by hand? …
And the third (perhaps also needed for the second) is to plan for the climate-mitigation effort being unsuccessful. Then we face mass death and possibly extinction.
What meaning does it then have that each of us is on this earth at such a time? Is it possible to speak of a purpose to life in such circumstances? Perhaps not, if you have a purely this-worldly perspective. But if you believe in some form of survival, the picture changes, or so it seems to me.
In any event, “being with” our culture then shifts into a mode analogous to a vigil for the dying. Quite a challenge, to put it mildly, and one I am only starting to try to get my head around.”
What to say? Initially at least? I would like first to reiterate the Trimorph´s line:
“If we simply let the market decide there will be mass famine and chaos on a scale far beyond anything the world has ever seen.”
What can I say to this evaluation, dear Trimorph, except yes …?
And also that it was undoubtedly with such considerations in mind, that the Holy Father dedicated the latest Social Encyclical to the idea that there is urgent need for a far stronger World Authority beyond the markets, beyond the individual nations.
And for those following this weblog, I will also note that this same thesis given by the Holy Father is core to the legal-political thinking of Valentin Tomberg that has been explored a little in previous entries.
I will also say that I find the presence of an admirable sober realism in my friend’s thinking.
At the same time, I naturally find a lot that is very much missing here, as well. Particularly when the Trimorph states his impression that there are “three sorts of things worth putting one’s energy into. “
Yes how I feel a sense of limitation in this and in the sites that the Trimorph would direct us to to … no doubt with noble intention.
We are for example directed to the site www.350.org. There one will find for example, that one is encouraged to purchase t-shirts which say 350 on them, presumably to raise consciousness as to what is held as important here.
Raise consciousness – but are we asked here to raise consciousness as to the Most Important Things of all in this matter?
As a traditional Catholic, my answer is – naturally – no.
From this perspective, the kind of approach on offer here is selective and narrow indeed. It focusses our attention on one single aspect of the problem, whereas as a traditional Catholic I have to say that the problem being systemic, the answer must be systemic.
In other words, the immense unfolding tragedy of Global Warming is all to do with the whole system of our society and not any specific part of it.
And the answer must address the whole system of our society and not unduly limit our attention to certain factors.
But I fear this is exactly what websites like 350.org at least tend to do. For they are apparently altogether bound up with the very kind of thinking which for a traditionalist is at the very root of the problem.
That is to say, the traditionalist sees that the World has abandoned Faith – and substituted for it a materialistic world vision which has led to a voraciously materialistic consumerist culture.
The traditional Catholic vision by contrast – if it is lived authentically – involves not voracious materialism, but the lived-out awareness that “Man does not live by bread alone” …
That is to say, an authentic traditional Catholicism involves recourse not simply to the things of this world, but also to that which is beyond this world.
Thus I do not so much want so much want to negate what my friend has said. It contains as I say, I feel a needed very sober realism. Even while I lament the sense of limited possibility in the three things which he sees which we can do, I esteem much that is here.
I would not present his noble effort here otherwise.
Nor do I want to negate such websites. No rather than negate the sober realism of my friend, what I would rather like to do is ADD to it what I consider to be another form of sober realism.
And this is the sober realism that there is a Communion of Saints actually interceding for us and who hear our prayers. There are nine hierarchies of Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Dominions, Virtues, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. Beyond these, there is Our Lady and there is God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And all of this is to speak of an infinity of love for humanity that is entirely beyond any ability to comprehend … But which we who have faith can certainly say, involves an infinity of CARING …
There are miracles. There are Sacraments. Prayer is effective …
All these things are testimonies to the loving care of Saints, Angels, Our Lady … and God.
Yet rarely will one find these infinitely important matters mentioned in environmentally concerned literature.
Conversely, all too rarely will one find the environmental tragedy mentioned in the annals of Catholic Traditionalism.
There needs to be integration, I think. There needs to be those who will at least try to speak in the same breath of both the very sober reality of immense ecological tragedy and the sober reality of GRACE.
And a Grace that our world ignores as it turns its attention ever more to matter alone …
I hope to do much more of such speaking this at this site. But here at least is a faltering beginning …
“Hail Mary, full of grace, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
“Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. Or what man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone? Or if he shall ask him a fish, will he reach him a serpent?”
The Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Chapter 7, verses 7-10. From the Douay Rheims version …
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These books can also be found in our Amazon UK store here. The following titles also have Reviews at these links: (Puritan’s Empire) (Meditations on the Tarot) (When Corporations Rule the World).