A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Play ball on climate change: Pope Francis

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., June 25, 26 or 27

Those who dismiss Pope Francis’ recent appeal to address climate change must suspect some ulterior motive. But unlike some elected officials, the Pope has no campaign contributors to please, no lobbyists from industries to profit from a cleaner world. He has other concerns.

“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years,” the Pope says in his encyclical, “Laudato Si” ("Praise be…”).

By renewing attention to the crisis, that “old news” is timely – despite some people preferring frivolous stories, like the St. Louis Cardinals’ apparent felonious cheating.

(The FBI is investigating unnamed Cardinals’ front-office staffers suspected of breaking into Houston Astros' computers containing possible trades, drafts and scouting assessments. The Redbirds claim they’re cooperating but seem to be setting up some patsies as scapegoats for Cardinal Nation, and most media adopted that C-Y-A response, adopting a “Nothing to see here, folks” mantra.)

In the REAL nation, there’s plenty to see in extreme weather tied to climate change, and 78-year-old Pope Francis, elected in 2013 by the REAL Cardinals, makes five main points in his 100-page essay: Climate change and inequality are linked; the global economy must protect Earth; everyone must divest from fossil fuels and invest in the future; powerful nations must accept their responsibilities; and it won’t be easy.

The Holy Father challenges all of us, especially the privileged, to appreciate the planet and reconsider how we perceive “success.”

“A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach,” he writes. “It must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.

“The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit,” the Pope adds, “without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings.”

That echoes the week before, when he told the 39th U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization conference at the Vatican that the world must reduce food waste and deal with multinational corporations and financial speculators that buy farmland for economic gain from non-agricultural uses.

“Problems have been exacerbated by the fact that economic activity is currently measured solely in terms of Gross Domestic Product and therefore does not record the degradation of Earth that accompanies it,” concluded the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Most people agree about climate change, according to the Pew Research Center, which this month reported that 71 percent of U.S. Catholics believe Earth is getting warmer and 69 percent of adults say that global warming is either “very serious” or “somewhat serious.”

But House Republicans, and even Catholic Republicans, disregard the Pontiff.

Ex-Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania – one of about a dozen GOP candidates for president – scolded Pope Francis, saying he should "leave science to the scientists.”

(The Pope has a graduate degree in chemistry.)

Other GOP candidates who also are Catholic – former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – sound more like the climate-denying Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who said, "The Pope ought to stay with his job, and we'll stay with ours."


Republicans aside, “Laudito Si” may influence the United Nations’ fall climate change conference in Paris, where the Pope will attend. In September, he’s scheduled to accept an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), another Catholic, to speak to Congress and also is expected to address the UN General Assembly’s yearly conference of world leaders.

“He will not be condemning free enterprise, but an idolatrous mindset that makes us bow to profit, to adhere to ‘ideologies than defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace’ and not respect humans as the whole philosophical purpose of an economy,” said Father Donnell Kirchner, who taught for 39 years as a priest in Brazil. “He will appeal to the moral and ethical side, inspiring us to be better, to see farther, and to love more dearly.”

The Pope writes, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth.”

So: Let’s play ball!

[PICTURED: Top: Photo from Sojourners (; above, editorial cartoon by Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press.]

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