TARGET: Save with the Red Card!


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Green Apps



Burpee Gardening

Whole House Water Filter


Soft Phone Banner



Natural Mosquito Control

10% Off Mosquito Magnet Accessories - Use Code MMACCTEN

FTC Disclosure

Green Reflection may receive remuneration from the advertisers on this site.

Asia and Australia Edition: Russia, the Obamas, Donald Trump: Your Tuesday Briefing

#briefing-market-module.interactive-embedded .interactive-caption { display: none; } Market Snapshot View Full Overview In the News Photo Credit Anuwar Hazarika/Reuters • In northeast India, a speeding train plowed into a herd of elephants, killing five and adding to building criticism of the railways over the painful number of such collisions. [The New York Times]. Continue reading the main story • Prime Minister Turnbull’s office said Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce did not breach government policy when the staff member he was dating was employed by fellow lawmakers, saying she could not be considered his “partner” at the time. [The Sydney Morning Herald] • Mr. Turnbull highlighted improvements in education and reductions in infant mortality for Indigenous communities, but said that future policies should focus more closely on the communities, not broad policy targets […]

White Community in Chicago Becomes a Flashpoint for Racial Tensions After Police Shooting

(CHICAGO)— A largely white Chicago neighborhood that many police officers and firefighters call home took center stage this week in the city’s tensions over gun violence, race and policing as protests erupted following the fatal police shooting of a black man. Some residents used racial slurs, revved motorcycle engines and yelled “go home” Tuesday night as protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement demanded an investigation into the death of 25-year-old Joshua Beal. It was the second confrontation in Mount Greenwood since Beal, who police say was armed, was shot Saturday in what police said was a road rage incident following a funeral. When the latest protest erupted, as Donald Trump was being elected president, residents of the southwest Chicago neighborhood expressed the same kind of fears — often using racially charged and profanity-laced language — that the country saw voiced among the white working class audiences that clamored to Trump’s rallies in recent months. When protesters tried to conduct a prayer, some residents shouted “CPD, CPD” in support of the Chicago Police Department. “I think there is a concern about protecting the neighborhood. But the larger concern from some people is protecting the neighborhood from people who don’t look like them,” said John Lyons, who is white and lives in Mount Greenwood with his wife and two young daughters. “It is a very ugly side to our neighborhood and our community,” Lyons said. Unlike some of the largely black neighborhoods that have borne the brunt of the city’s violence that has left hundreds dead and thousands injured this year, Mount Greenwood has very little crime. A quiet community on the outer edge of Chicago, it’s a neighborhood of neat homes and small family businesses. There have been just 14 robberies and not a single homicide in the last year in the neighborhood, according to statistics compiled by the Chicago Tribune. The police district responsible for Mount Greenwood has seen fewer than half the number of homicides this year than the district to the immediate northeast. As a result, Mount Greenwood has attracted residents looking for a safe atmosphere to raise their families in the city. Many are firefighters, police officers and other city employees. That feeling of safety was shattered when an off-duty police officer fatally shot Beal, residents said. Investigators said Beal was armed with a handgun during a melee sparked by a road rage incident involving Beal and others who had just left a funeral in their car. The incident also led authorities to arrest the dead man’s brother on allegations that he attacked a police officer, tried to disarm him and threatened to kill him. “Who brings a gun to a funeral?” asked an incredulous Peggy Hederman, who has owned a Lindy’s Chile & Gertie’s Ice Cream franchise in the neighborhood for a quarter century. When protesters arrived demanding an investigation and the release of any video of the shooting — a common request since the city was forced last year to release video of a white officer fatally shooting black teenager 14 times in 2014 — residents confronted them. “I think they just feel they had to stand up for the policemen that are in the community and serve the community,” Hederman said. “You do feel around here a connection to the police (because) they’re your neighbors.” Ja’Mal Green, a black activist who also took part in the Tuesday protest, said what unfolded that night reminded him of watching Martin Luther King Jr. marching across his television screen. “To see them so openly be racist to our faces, to tell us to go back home to the ghetto,” he said, “felt like we were back in those ’60s videos.” The Rev. Michael Pfleger, a white Roman Catholic priest who joined Green and others at the Tuesday night protest, said he had not felt “that kind of hatred” since a protest march decades ago in Chicago in which King was struck in the head with a rock. “A police officer said, ‘We’ve got to get you out of here, they hate you and I don’t think we can protect you,’” Pfleger said. […]

Anti-Poverty Organizations Say More Coal Will Cause More Poverty

A new position paper released last week by 12 organizations — including the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Christian Aid, the Overseas Development Institute, and Oxfam International — rips apart the coal industry’s claim that coal is needed to fight extreme poverty and deliver energy access to billions of people. […]

Big Turnout for Protests Urging Ouster of Brazil’s President

(SAO PAULO) — Brazilians ratcheted up the heat for embattled President Dilma Rousseff on Sunday, turning out by the tens of thousands for demonstrations across the country calling for her ouster. The biggest protest took place in Brazil’s economic capital, Sao Paulo, a bastion of simmering dissatisfaction with Rousseff and her governing Workers’ Party. The respected Datafolha polling agency estimated about 500,000 people took part in the Sao Paulo demonstration, while police estimates put turnout at nearly three times that number. Organizers said about 1 million people joined the anti-Rousseff demonstration in Rio de Janeiro. In a statement, Rousseff said, “The peaceful character of this Sunday’s demonstrations shows the maturity of a country that knows how to co-exist with different opinions and knows how to secure respect to its laws and institutions.” The street rallies came two days after she rejected the idea of resigning. The demonstrations add to an already-difficult position of Rousseff. She faces the twin problems of an impeachment effort in congress over alleged fiscal mismanagement amid the worst recession in decades and the sprawling investigation by federal prosecutors into corruption at state-run oil giant Petrobras that has moved closer to her inner circle in recent weeks. Analysts said the strong turnout at the protests could further hamper Rousseff’s ability to fight for her political survival and could lead to the unraveling of her fragile governing coalition. “There is a situation of ungovernability,” said Francisco Fonseca, a political science professor at Pontifical Catholic University in Sao Paulo. “The president has few cards.” Fonseca pointed out that the demonstrations continued to be dominated by the largely white, upper middle class demographic that has been staging regular protests against Rousseff for over a year. “The poor who are affected by the economic crisis aren’t in the streets,” he said, adding Sunday’s protests demonstrated a “generalized discontent with the political system” without necessarily shoring up any particular opposition party or politician. Organized largely through social media, demonstrations took place in some 200 cities and towns across Brazil. Rousseff had raised fears of possible clashes between supporters of her party and the anti-government demonstrators, but no serious incidents were reported during Sunday’s protests, which had a festive atmosphere. Crowds in the yellow and green hues of the Brazilian flag brandished signs reading “Workers’ Party out.” “She (Rousseff) has to go,” said Patricio Gonzaga, an unemployed metal worker who took part in the Sao Paulo gathering. “She is the person responsible for the mess our economy is in — the inflation, recession and unemployment. She is to blame for me being unemployed and having trouble supporting my family.” Demonstrators across the country stressed that their anger extended well beyond Rousseff and the Workers’ Party, saying the “Car Wash” investigation into corruption at Petrobras had compromised the entire political class. “Of course I want to see Rousseff booted out,” said Maria de Lima Pimenta, a retired schoolteacher who was at the anti-Rousseff march along Rio’s Copacabana Beach. “But then the problem becomes, who will replace her? They’re all crooks.” Protest organizers stressed that the movement isn’t linked to any opposition political party, and signs endorsing parties were largely absent from the demonstrations. But several top politicians turned out, including Aecio Neves, the opposition politician who narrowly lost to Rousseff in the 2013 presidential run-off election, and Sao Paulo state Gov. Geraldo Alckmin. Both were booed, and like other politicians who ventured out to the demonstrations, both beat a rapid retreat. The Petrobras scandal has ensnared key figures from Rousseff’s party, including her predecessor and mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as well as members of opposition parties. Political tensions in Brazil have spiked since earlier this month when Silva was briefly detained by police for questioning as part of the Petrobras probe. Silva’s supporters and detractors scuffled in front of his apartment in the Sao Paulo area. On Wednesday, the tension rose again when Silva was hit with money-laundering charges in a separate case. News reports have said Rousseff, whose second term runs through the end of 2018, has offered Silva a ministerial post that would shield him from possible imprisonment on any charges. Under Brazilian law, only the Supreme Court can authorize the investigation, imprisonment and trial of Cabinet members. Rousseff said at a Friday news conference that she would be “extremely proud” to have Silva, a once-wildly popular leader who governed Brazil in 2003-2011, but declined to say whether he would join the government. Turning to calls for her to quit, she said it was objectionable to demand the resignation of an elected president without concrete evidence the leader had violated the constitution. “If there is no reason to do so, I will not step down,” Rousseff said, calling on journalists at the event in Brasilia to “at least attest that I don’t look like someone who is going to step down.” ___ Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese reported this story in Sao Paulo and AP writer Jenny Barchfield reported from Rio de Janeiro. AP writer Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo contributed to this report. […]

The World Is Getting Warmer — But Here’s What We Can Do Now to Prepare

This is the second installment of a five-part WorldPost series on the world beyond 2050. The series is adapted from the Nierenberg Prize Lecture by Lord Martin Rees in La Jolla, Calif. Part one is available here. Part three will be published next week. The world will gradually get warmer. In contrast to population issues — the subject of last week’s “Beyond 2050” essay — climate change is certainly not under-discussed. But it’s still unclear how much the warming due to carbon dioxide itself is amplified by associated changes in water vapor and clouds. The fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report presents a spread of projections. But despite the uncertainty, there are two messages that most scientists would agree on: 1. Regional disruptions to weather patterns within the next 20-30 years will aggravate pressures on food and water and engender migration. 2. Under a “business as usual” scenario we can’t rule out really catastrophic warming arriving later in the century and tipping points triggering catastrophes — like the melting of Greenland’s icecap. But even those who accept both these statements have widely diverse views on the policy responses. And I don’t think it’s fully appreciated that these divergences stem less from differences about the science than from differences in economics and ethics — in particular, in how much obligation we should feel towards future generations. Economists who apply a standard discount rate, a method for calculating the possible economic consequences of future climate change, are in effect writing off what happens beyond 2050 — so unsurprisingly they downplay the priority of addressing climate change in comparison with shorter-term efforts to help the world’s poor. .articleBody div.feature-section, .entry div.feature-section{width:55%;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;} .articleBody span.feature-dropcap, .entry span.feature-dropcap{float:left;font-size:72px;line-height:59px;padding-top:4px;padding-right:8px;padding-left:3px;} div.feature-caption{font-size:90%;margin-top:0px;} A man evacuates his pet dogs in Bulacan province in the Philippines after a ferocious typhoon hit in October 2015. (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images) But if you care about those who’ll live into the 22nd century and beyond, then you deem it worthwhile to pay an insurance premium now in order to protect future generations against worst-case scenarios. So, even those who agree that there’s a significant risk of climate catastrophe a century hence will differ in how urgently they advocate action today. Their assessment will depend on expectations of future growth and optimism about technological fixes. But above all, it depends on an ethical issue — in optimizing people’s life chances, should we discriminate on grounds of date of birth? Consider this analogy. Suppose astronomers had tracked an asteroid and calculated that it would hit the Earth in 2080, 64 years from now — not with certainty, but with, say, a 10 percent probability. Would we relax and say that it’s a problem that can be set aside for half a century? People will then be richer, we’d say, and it may turn out then that it’s going to miss the Earth anyway? I don’t think we would. There would surely be a consensus that we should start straight away and do our damnedest to find ways to deflect it or mitigate its effects. What will actually happen on the climate policy front? The pledges made at the Paris conference are a positive step. But even if they’re honored, CO2 concentrations will rise steadily throughout the next 20 years. (There’s an excellent new report from the University of San Diego called “Bending the Curve” that suggests how this rising curve can be turned around). .articleBody div.feature-section, .entry div.feature-section{width:55%;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;} .articleBody span.feature-dropcap, .entry span.feature-dropcap{float:left;font-size:72px;line-height:59px;padding-top:4px;padding-right:8px;padding-left:3px;} div.feature-caption{font-size:90%;margin-top:0px;} Smoke rises from a peatland fire in Riau province on Indonesia’s Sumatra island. Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) But by then we’ll know with far more confidence — from a longer time base of data and from better modeling — just how strong the feedback from water vapor and clouds actually is. If the so-called climate sensitivity is low, we’ll relax. But if it’s large, and the climate consequently seems to be on an irreversible trajectory into dangerous territory, there may then be a pressure for panic measures. This could involve a plan B — being fatalistic about continuing dependence on fossil fuels but combating its effects by either a massive investment in carbon capture and storage or else by geoengineering. It’s feasible to inject enough aerosols into the stratosphere to cool the world’s climate. Indeed, what is scary is that this might be within the resources of a single nation, or even a single corporation. But there could be unintended side effects. Moreover, the warming would return with a vengeance if the countermeasures were ever discontinued, and other consequences of rising CO2 — especially the deleterious effects of ocean acidification — would be unchecked. Geoengineering would be a political nightmare. Not all nations would want to adjust the thermostat the same way. Very elaborate climatic modeling would be needed in order to calculate the regional impacts of an artificial intervention. The only beneficiaries would be lawyers. They’d have a bonanza if nations could litigate over bad weather! I think it’s prudent to explore geoengineering techniques enough to clarify which options make sense, and perhaps damp down undue optimism about a technical quick fix for the climate. .articleBody div.feature-section, .entry div.feature-section{width:55%;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;} .articleBody span.feature-dropcap, .entry span.feature-dropcap{float:left;font-size:72px;line-height:59px;padding-top:4px;padding-right:8px;padding-left:3px;} div.feature-caption{font-size:90%;margin-top:0px;} Large floating contraptions, used by scientists to predict the acidity in the oceans, sit off the shore of the scientific outpost of Ny-Alesund, on the island of Spitsbergen in Norway. (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images) Many still hope that our civilization can segue smoothly toward a low-carbon future. But politicians won’t gain much resonance by advocating for a bare-bones approach that entails unwelcome lifestyle changes — especially if the benefits are far away and decades into the future. But three measures that could mitigate climate change seem politically realistic. First, all countries could improve energy efficiency, insulating buildings better and so forth, and thereby actually save money. Second, we could target cuts to methane, black carbon and chlorofluorocarbon emissions. These are subsidiary contributors to long-term warming, but unlike CO2 they cause local pollution too — in Chinese cities, for instance — so there’s a stronger incentive to reduce them. Third, nations should expand research and development into all forms of low-carbon energy generation — renewables, fourth generation nuclear, fusion and the rest — and into other technologies where parallel progress is crucial, especially smart grids and storage (batteries, compressed air, pumped storage, flywheels). That’s why an encouraging outcome in Paris was an initiative called Mission Innovation, launched by President Barack Obama and endorsed by more than a dozen nations, including the world’s most populous and industrialized countries. It’s hoped they’ll pledge to double their publicly funded R&D into clean energy by 2020 and to coordinate efforts. There’s a parallel pledge by Bill Gates and other philanthropists. .articleBody div.feature-section, .entry div.feature-section{width:55%;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;} .articleBody span.feature-dropcap, .entry span.feature-dropcap{float:left;font-size:72px;line-height:59px;padding-top:4px;padding-right:8px;padding-left:3px;} div.feature-caption{font-size:90%;margin-top:0px;} “Wind trees,” a renewable energy innovation constructed in the shape of a tree, where each “leaf” acts as a mini wind-turbine to generate electricity, displayed at the COP21 on the outskirts of Paris. (LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images) This target is a modest one. Presently, only a small percentage of publicly funded R&D is devoted to these challenges. Why shouldn’t the percentage be comparable to spending on medical or defense research? The faster these clean technologies advance, the sooner they will become affordable to developing countries, where more generating capacity will be needed and where there would otherwise be pressure to build coal-fired power stations. All renewables have their niches, but an attractive scenario for Europe would be large-scale solar energy coupled with a transcontinental smart grid network (north-south to transmit power from Spain or even Morocco to the less sunny north, and east-west to smooth over peak demand in different time zones). Plus efficient storage as well of course. It would be hard to think of a more inspiring challenge for young engineers than devising clean energy systems for the world — to replace fossil fuel globally and to bring local benefits to the billion people whose health is jeopardized by smoky stoves burning wood or dung. Of course the unique difficulty of motivating efforts to cut CO2 is that that the impact of any action not only lies decades ahead, but is also globally diffused and brings no special benefit to the actor. In contrast, for most politicians the immediate trumps the long term and the local trumps the global. So climate issues slip down the agenda unless there’s continuing public concern. And here, incidentally, the great religious faiths can be our allies. The pope’s recent encyclical on the environment and climate change was hugely welcome. The Catholic Church transcends normal political divides — there’s no gainsaying its global reach or its durability and long-term vision or its focus on the world’s poor. This pope’s message resonated around the world, from Latin America to Africa and East Asia — and even, perhaps, here in the United States. .articleBody div.feature-section, .entry div.feature-section{width:55%;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;} .articleBody span.feature-dropcap, .entry span.feature-dropcap{float:left;font-size:72px;line-height:59px;padding-top:4px;padding-right:8px;padding-left:3px;} div.feature-caption{font-size:90%;margin-top:0px;} Also on WorldPost: — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Here’s What to Expect From Pope Francis in 2016

“Following Francis” is a monthly blog on the latest happenings of Pope Francis. It is prepared exclusively for The WorldPost by Sébastien Maillard, Vatican correspondent for La Croix, Rome. ROME — Predicting what issues Pope Francis will be taking up in the new year is hazardous. He is called the “pope of surprises” for good reason: he sets his agenda personally. He always seems to keep his cards close to his chest, not allowing his spokesperson and even some of his closest collaborators to see what he is up to. Pope Francis also believes in long term processes rather than in immediate results. This is helped by the fact that a pope, by definition, does not have to face elections, fulfill a mandate or accomplish a set term. In that sense, 2016 may well be just another year in a pontificate that will soon be entering its fourth year. Nevertheless, the first part of 2016 already looks packed. Francis seems to be pursuing reforms of the Vatican’s management and organization. In his December address to present his Christmas greetings to the Curia, Francis showed strong determination in furthering reforms. Furthermore, he seems to want to address the “diseases and even scandals” he said he has witnessed over the past year within the church’s governing body. The pope was implicitly referring to the “Vatileaks II” affair — leaked confidential Vatican documents on internal mismanagements that Francis has been trying to resolve. The scandal has led to a trial, due to reopen in February, with some of the highest ranking cardinals called to witness. Italian journalists Emiliano Fittipaldi (R-2) and Gianluigi Nuzzi (L-2), authors of books on Vatican scandals. (Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) Decentralization? But this judicial process should not prevent the reform of the Curia to further unfold. The “C9,” Francis’ council of nine advisory cardinals, will hold five other meetings throughout the year. The next one, in early February, will partly be dedicated to reflecting on a “healthy decentralization” of the Catholic Church, as requested by Francis in one of his most important speeches on this issue last year. A seminar of experts, which will address how to build a more “listening church,” as Francis expressed in that same speech, will also be held at the Vatican in February. Restructuring of the Roman Curia itself also remains on the agenda. Some Vatican departments might merge — the ones related to charity and church-led peace initiatives, for example. The ones covering the laity and family-related issues are also expected to merge. Pope Francis, flanked by bishop Marcello Semeraro, a member of the pope’s advisory council. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Document on Families But the most hoped-for reform this year regarding the family is not in institutional engineering. It is in a document that Francis should release before Easter, perhaps earlier. This “exhortation,” as it is officially called in Catholic terminology, follows the two world assemblies of bishops (“synods”) on this highly sensitive issue held in Rome in October 2014 and October 2015. Who knows what surprise Francis will make in this text, which the bishops asked him to deliver? The most controversial issue that the pope will be addressing is allowing divorced, remarried couples to return to the Eucharist. Francis has prevented himself until now to be entirely explicit on this much-debated question. But he keeps repeating that all sins — which should include the sin of divorcing — can be forgiven. His homilies over the Christmas season have focused on forgiveness. “Forgiveness is the essence of the love which can understand mistakes and mend them,” he stated during a mass dedicated to families on Dec. 27 at St. Peter’s. On Christmas night, he depicted “a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin.” This surely gives observers insight into the way Francis wants his church to address families of all walks of life. At the same time, he must remain sure that his changes will not provoke divisions within his own organization. This stands as the biggest challenge of his pontificate: engaging deep reforms without creating a new schism. Pope Francis kisses a young girl in St. Peter’s Square. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) 10,000 ‘Doors of Mercy’ To prevent this, Francis has done something special. The reform of the church government and the reform of the church’s attitude towards contemporary families are to be conducted during the Jubilee of Mercy, a holy year that officially started on Dec. 8. For the first time in the centuries-long history of jubilees, this one stands out as the most decentralized one. The so-called Holy Door, which all jubilee pilgrims traditionally cross, is not just in Rome. There are some 10,000 such doors opened throughout all the cathedrals and sanctuaries of the world. These are called “Doors of Mercy” — they are meant to be open and welcoming to all, whatever hardships they encounter. These doors represent the attitude Francis wants his church to have. Even though the turnout in Rome for the jubilee in December was low, he hopes this holy year, which will last until Nov. 20, will generate a “revolution of tenderness,” according to one of his favorite expressions — an impetus for a more caring and open church worldwide. Pope Francis at St. Mary Major, where he opened a “Holy Door” on Jan. 1, 2016 in Rome. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images) Canonization of Mother Teresa This attitude will be put forward through the canonization of Mother Teresa, which is now expected to happen on Sept. 4. The celebration of the sainthood of the “mother of Calcutta,” who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, should attract hundreds of thousands of people to the Vatican and become the highlight event of the jubilee. Let’s not forget World Youth Day. Francis has also focused this event on mercy. Organized in Krakow, Poland, at the end of July, it will be the Argentinian pope’s first visit to the land of his late predecessor, John Paul II. What about Bergoglio’s own native land? No visit to Argentina has been announced yet; Francis’ travel plans for 2016 remain a mystery. According to the official agenda of his public audiences in Rome, he’s scheduled to be away for part of May and June, which suggests some journeys overseas. Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II wave to well-wishers in Calcutta in 1986. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) The Mexican Border With the U.S. The one trip that’s bound to happen is his week-long journey through Mexico in mid February. Francis will be meeting indigenous communities in Chiapas and then travel up north, like a migrant, to the border city of Ciudad Juarez. His purpose there is to support change in what has been regarded as a lawless gangland. Whether in Mexico, in Rome or elsewhere, the security of the pope will remain a concern in 2016. The Vatican knows he is a target for Islamic State terrorists. Francis often describes these time of ours as “a third world war which is being fought piecemeal.” But that does not prevent him from traveling everywhere without any bulletproof cars, showing trust towards the people he visits — who of course hope he will not face any bad surprises. A migrant worker from El Salvador mops up the dining hall in a migrant shelter run by Dominican friars in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) More From Following Francis: Pope Francis Fights ISIS by Fostering Interreligious Dialogue How the World Looks Through the Pope’s Glasses No Room for Decadent ‘Princes’ in Francis’ Vatican A Day in the Life of Pope Francis, Who Lives Behind This Gas Station How the Pope’s ‘Shock-the-Yankee’ Attitude Got Rave Reviews in the U.S. Is There Life After the Pontificate for Francis? Earlier on WorldPost: — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

How Faith Calls on Us to Fight Climate Change

MELBOURNE, Australia — Politics matters. Public policy matters. And the ethical judgments that inform public policy priorities also matter. My first purpose here is to articulate an ethical approach for Christians and the Christian church to engage governments on major matters of politics and public policy, within the robust framework of a secular state. My second purpose is to apply this approach to the politics and policy of climate change as the critical 21st Conference of the Parties commences in Paris. Now that the Paris summit on climate change is upon us, we must make judgments about the proper stewardship of the planet to ensure basic intergenerational justice for those who follow us, rather than a view that the science is unclear, the future can look after itself, and that technology, if necessary, will solve all. Noble aspirations, in the absence of an effective machinery of government to translate aspiration into measurable action, is, to paraphrase Saint Paul, a clanging cymbal and a sounding gong. These are all profoundly ethical judgments. They imbed judgments about what is right and wrong, about what is better or worse, about what should have priority, and what should not. Anyone who claims in making policy judgments they are doing so oblivious to ethical considerations, and instead are simply acting on a simple, “value-free” premise of “common sense,” is engaged in deep self-delusion. Consciously or not, all our views are shaped by a vast array of ethical assumptions. That does not mean that policy logic does not enter the equation. It must. Core questions such as “will a given policy course of action produce the results that are sought, or will it produce other unintended consequences?” “what will it cost?” and “can it be funded within the parameters of necessary fiscal discipline?” must all be asked and answered. In fact ethics and logic must be equal partners in the public policy process. One is deficient without the other. Noble aspirations, in the absence of an effective machinery of government to translate aspiration into measurable action, is, to paraphrase Saint Paul, a clanging cymbal and a sounding gong. Ethical considerations should, however, be our starting point. The question arises, therefore, as to how in political life ethical judgments are to be formed, and how are they to be argued in the public square, and in the case of what is called “Christian ethics,” how are these to be reconciled within the legitimately secular framework of contemporary democratic politics. Faith, Ethics and Public Policy in a Secular Order Rowan Williams has sought to address these questions in a collection of essays recently collated in a book entitled “Faith in the Public Square.” He wrestles with the core question of whether it is legitimate for any person in a secular state to articulate a policy position grounded in religious faith, rather than arguing that proposition in exclusively secular terms. While it may be seen as an unwelcome view among the community of faith, secularism, in my strongest personal view, is a necessary precondition for modern political discourse. We are all familiar with the multiple abuses of religious authority, Catholic or Protestant, throughout Western history when a particular religious orthodoxy has been preferred by the political authority of the time. The often bloody history of the institutional church over 18 centuries, their Muslim counterparts over 14 centuries, and more recently between Catholics and Protestants in the centuries following the Reformation of 1517, provide a resounding case for a secular state as the lesser of many evils — a place where propositions can be advanced and argued without recourse to any claims of higher revelation, or recourse to the coercive powers of baser politics in the name of God. A man waits to cross a road on a heavily polluted Beijing night. GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images. Williams argues that there are two forms of secularism in the 21st century: what he calls “programmatic secularism” as opposed to “procedural secularism.” The former he defines as: …an exclusive public orthodoxy of a new kind that works on the assumption that only one sort of loyalty is really possible. Loyalty to your faith will be a matter of private preference … but cannot stand alongside loyalty to the state, to the supposedly neutral public order of rational persons. This Williams contrasts with what he calls “procedural secularism” in which “public policy declines to give advantage or preference to any one religious body over others” but in which the state “defines its role as one of overseeing a variety of communities of religious conviction and, where necessary, helping them to keep the peace together.” In an age of declining religious conviction, we should add to the latter definition a variety of “communities of conviction,” whether they happen to be religious or not. It is patently absurd to imply in the 21st century that ethical views on the role of the state in general, or on a particular direction in public policy, can only derive from religious communities. The reality today is that there are multiple “ethical communities” which seek to influence government policy, where common policy conclusions may often be reached, while employing radically different ethical methodologies. We see this today for example on the question of climate change where communities of scientists, environmentalists and Christian activists, including no less than the pope himself, find themselves in common policy cause. And critically, all arguing within a common secular political space. The reality today is that there are multiple ‘ethical communities’ which seek to influence government policy. What then should be the particular ethical contribution of Christians and the Christian Church to such debates? And what is the proper granularity of this contribution where political ethics intersect with detailed policy design, including that universal, uncomfortable reality we call public finance? These are complex questions which warrant responses beyond the supreme banality that “the church should stay out of politics.” This is the simplistic refrain of a political class incapable of dealing with challenges to their own “ex-cathedra,” secular proclamations of what is “right” and “wrong.” “The church,” it is said by the same class, should “stick to spiritual matters and keep well clear of the political,” invariably leaving undefined what is meant by the term “political” on any given day. Defining the ‘Spiritual’ and the ‘Political’ This begs the further question of how these terms “spiritual” and “political” might best be considered in the age-old debate between church and state. If by “spiritual” it is contended that we are dealing with the non-material, then that presents a small problem given the fact that the vast bulk of the gospels are very material indeed, describing how the Jesus of history walked the Earth, lived an exemplary ethical life in support of the many underclasses with whom he engaged and charged his followers to go and live likewise. Yet according to the very same biblical tradition, this “physical” Jesus, however, was also to become the Christ of eternity with his call to repentance, salvation and resurrection. Christians are not left with a choice between the two. The uncomfortable truth for both the liberal and conservative traditions of the church is that the gospels speak of both the physical and spiritual imperatives to be embraced by his followers. It follows, therefore, that if we are to be concerned about the “physical” well-being of our fellow human beings, as well as the broader created order that supports them, are we simply to be concerned with individual philanthropic action, or also the collective action of corporations, communities and the state? You would be hard-pressed to find a reference in the gospels to support an entirely privatized or pietistic Christianity which exonerates its adherents from public action in defense of the basic ethical principles both lived and espoused by Jesus of Nazareth. If that is so, Christians automatically find themselves engaged in political action, whether we choose to explicitly recognize that reality or not. Are we then to contend that there are “no-go” areas where the church should remain silent? Theological conservatives would argue that if the church is to be politically active, it should limit its voice to questions of life, death, sex, sexuality and definitions of the integrity of the family. The church is perfectly right to engage in these public political debates, as all form part of a comprehensive Christian ethics. The legitimate function of the church in the collective West of the 21st century is to make the state permanently ethically uncomfortable with itself. But for such conservatives to contend that ethical considerations beyond these personal domains breach the limits of permissible political participation, either by the church corporately, or by Christians individually, is without biblical foundation. We are equally called upon to deliberate on the great questions of war and peace, as John Paul II did in relation to the Iraq war, which he defined as unjust. We are also called upon to debate the cancer of political corruption in our Western democracies. Just as we are asked to reflect on the central ethical questions of the economy concerning poverty, inequality and sustainability. The question which then presents itself is if Christian ethics permits, and arguably encourages Christian political engagement across the public policy debate, then what ethical principles should guide this engagement? This is indeed a complex domain in which generations of theologians have been engaged at least since Aquinas, and arguably since Constantine nearly a thousand years before. But certain core principles permeate the tradition, including: An acceptance of the inherent, irreducible and universal dignity of human beings; A parallel acceptance of the intrinsic equality of all human beings; A respect for the moral freedom of individuals to make free moral choices for their lives; A requirement to love all human beings consistent with the Great Commandment; A universal preference for the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed; A requirement to support and provide self-giving care for the strangers in our midst, consistent with the challenging parable of the Good Samaritan; A requirement to tend, care for and be the stewards of the created order that sustains us all, as reflected in the deep theology of Saint Francis of Assisi. Each of these is the subject of further definitional debate, including the adequacy of the list itself. And of course there is controversy concerning their specific application of these principles to the particularities of the political and policy circumstances of the time. But we delude ourselves, or perhaps too easily forgive ourselves, if we conclude that the complexities of each of these debates exonerates the Christian community from forming an ethical view on the great questions of our time. Activists display a banner as they prepare to listen to speeches inside a Roman Catholic church to coincide with Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez. I sat recently in the comfortable pews of an affluent Anglican parish in London where the uncomfortable reading for the day was the parable of the Good Samaritan. This was in the context of the European response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The bold response from the pulpit was that we should pray for our political leaders to have wisdom. Nothing else. Christian Ethics, Professional Competence and Public Policy Of course, the critique is then raised, both by the political class and the conservative theological class, that having an informed ethical view is impossible because Christians and the church collectively do not have the professional or technical competence to offer cogent comment on the specific policy alternatives of the day. My own view is that unless there is at least one institution, such as the church, dedicated to posing the ethical dilemmas present in the public policy debate, there is a grave danger that these debates automatically become subsumed by the pragmatic considerations of politics and public finance of the day. In fact my further view is that it is the legitimate function of the church in the collective West of the 21st century to make the state permanently ethically uncomfortable with itself because of the compromises the State will inevitably make with the passage of each law, or the determination of each executive government policy. Again unless there is at least one institution seeking to construct, maintain and argue the continuing ethical parameters within which the stated purposes and unintended consequences of government action should be considered, then there is a greater risk that public policy simply degenerates into “interest group politics,” where the voices of the most powerful will prevail, or even worse, retail politics by another name. Christians should be entirely comfortable in bridging, wherever possible, the contending disciplines of theology and the academy when addressing the ethics of public policy. Again it must be emphasized that Christians have no natural monopoly in framing the ethical dimensions of any public policy debate. Within William’s construct of “procedural secularism,” Christian ethical perspectives should simply be one of a number of ethical voices seeking to obtain traction in the public square. Nor should Christians enjoy any particular privilege. It is also important that the Church argue its perspective from both a Christian worldview, and where possible from a rational worldview, given that the latter is the common language of multiple voices contending to be heard in the public square. To be clear, there should be no apology for advancing an ethical proposition anchored in Christian theology. But to be effective in the public discourse of a secular state, its translation into parallel rational propositions which nonetheless share a common ethical end-point is optimal, although not essential. Given the long historical discourse within the Church, beginning with the Thomists, between faith and reason, and between evidence and revelation, Christians should be entirely comfortable in bridging, wherever possible, the contending disciplines of theology and the academy when addressing the ethics of public policy. This brings us to a final question of the particular responsibilities of a Christian legislator, active in the community of faith, while also needing to communicate an ethical position in the common language of the secular political discourse. This, in particular, requires a comfortable relationship between faith and reason of the type that Catholic and Anglican social teachings have long embraced. The worst that can occur, in the post-Christian collective West, is for Christians active in the political process to publicly rely on either divine revelation or theological abstraction to argue an ethical proposition in the public square. The Christian Church can do so, if it so chooses. But the Christian legislator, if she or he is to be effective, cannot. The process of translation, from the imperatives of faith, however deeply held, to the methodologies of reason and empiricism, is fundamental. Christian Ethics and Climate Change Given these various considerations concerning the interrelationship between Christian ethics and the public policy process, how do these principles apply to the great, continuing global debate on climate change? This is important given that the 21st Conference of the Parties to the International Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Paris, is underway. My position on climate change derives from a combination of factors: my personal conclusions on the ethics; the objective conclusions of the science as reflected in the long-term analysis of the International Panel of Climate Change scientists; and the established capacity of national and international public policy to make a difference in shaping climate futures. All three considerations were relevant, and remain relevant in shaping my own position on climate change. For me, the principles of intergenerational justice were particularly important, and the responsibilities that flow from these for those in public office today. I signed the ratification instrument for the Kyoto Protocol as my first act as prime minister in 2007, consistent with pre-election commitments, and within an hour of swearing the oath of office. For me this was no small matter. I judged it necessary not simply to state an ethical proposition concerning climate change, but also to act on the proposition through practical policy initiatives whose effect could subsequently be measured. I was attacked from all sides for stating that “climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time.” I stand by that statement today. Pope Francis on Climate Change Pope Francis’ encyclical entitled “Laudato Si — On Care for our Common Home” states that the purpose of his encyclical is to, “draw[ ] on the results of the best scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows.” And lest we should conclude that this is simply a part of broader academic teaching, Francis then states that he intends to “advance some broader proposals for dialogue and action which will involve each of us as individuals, and also affect international policy.” Pope Francis delivers a speech at the State House of Nairobi ahead of a crucial UN summit aimed at curbing climate change. GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images. Furthermore, his encyclical has an urgency attached to it. He states: I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. As for the ethical imperative, Pope Francis is clear-cut: Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. On the question of public policy, Pope Francis is equally clear-cut: There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gasses can be drastically reduced, for example, replacing fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. As for urgency, Pope Francis, as noted already, contrasts the nature of the scientific evidence, the impacts on the human family and biodiversity with the weakness of public policy response to date. Speaking of the environment more broadly, the pope states: These situations have caused sister earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years … It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics in subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected. As for those skeptical about the environmental consequences of current patterns of human behavior, the pope is scathing: As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear… Such evasiveness serves as a license to carry on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen. On specific policy recommendations to deal with climate change, Pope Francis treads carefully. He is clear on the science. He is clear on the ethics. He is clear on the imperative for policy action. But he is mindful of the complexity of the technical policy debate about particular policy responses. Francis says: On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts while respecting divergent views. But we need only take a frank look at the fact to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair. Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out and that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems. Still, we see signs that things are now reaching a breaking point, due to the rapid pace of change and degradation. A careful reading of the encyclical also will see perhaps a preemptive Papal riposte to climate change skeptics within the church. This can be found at paragraph 217: ‘The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.’ For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion. It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an ‘ecological conversion,’ whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience. The Planet Does Not Lie As the Paris Conference of Parties begins, there are grounds for both optimism and caution concerning the most likely outcome. There is optimism that the international community may have learned some of the lessons from the Copenhagen conference that failed to reach agreement in 2009. To some extent, this is reflected in radically changed policy positions both in Beijing and New Delhi, and further change in Washington as well. The truth is there still remains a vast gap between aspiration and reality. The cold hard reality is that based on the aggregation of current international commitments on greenhouse gas reduction, the planet will not be able to sustain temperature increases within the 2 degree threshold. In fact several recent calculations conclude that current national commitments will still see temperatures increasing by 3.5 percent by century’s end. Global warming impacts Patagonia’s massive glaciers. Mario Tama/Getty Images. While this is better than “business as usual,” it still falls short of the reductions necessary to achieve our 2 degree target. There is much more work, therefore, to be done. From both a scientific, ethical and practical policy perspective, it is critical that when governments gather in Paris that their agreement countenances the possibility of governments reconvening in the future in order to revisit the inadequacy of the international commitments made thus far. Current commitments go one-quarter of the distance, or based on other calculations, perhaps one-third the distance they need to travel. If the Paris agreement, including the national statements associated with it, do not embrace the possibility of an early return to the conference table so that more ambitious commitments can be made, there is a danger we will fall radically short of the mark. Ultimately, the planet does not lie. Pope Francis’ encyclical provides us with the clarity of ethical guidance on the question of climate change the international community needs. He reflected this also in his recent address to the United Nations General Assembly. His address was remarkably well-received by the international community, Christian and non-Christian alike. The responsibility of the rest of us, including governments around the world, is to respond to his unequivocal, universal, ethical call to action, and those like it from other religious and non-religious leaders around the world. And to do so with concrete policy action which sustains our common home for the future. Also on WorldPost: — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]