Quantcast

Pope Francis' Historic Visit to the U.S. Will Be a Climate Game-Changer

Climate

Just in time, hopefully, the leader the world needs on the climate crisis has stepped forward: Pope Francis.

What other person known worldwide, with an international following and with the power—spiritually and politically—to have an impact is doing what the Pope has done so far, since he was named Pope in the spring of 2013? Two months ago he released Laudato Si, a Papal encyclical which has many important and strong things to say about the climate crisis, linked to other important statements about the broader environmental crisis, poverty, economic inequality and injustice, consumerism and more. He has followed up with well-publicized meetings on these topics at the Vatican.

This encyclical follows a number of statements Pope Francis has made about the climate crisis since taking office.

And in two months, he will be in the U.S. speaking before the U.S. Congress on Sept. 24 and the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25.

All of this activity is taking place now as an effort on the Pope’s part to influence what comes out of the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris at the end of the year. He is trying to shake up governments around the world who give lip service to the need for action on climate and who, in some cases, have moved to shift their economies away from fossil fuels and onto the renewables and efficiency path. However, taken collectively, not enough is being done, especially by the industrialized countries most responsible for the crisis, no question about it. The coal, oil and gas industries continue to exert significant influence over government policy in the U.S., Canada, Australia and elsewhere.

Given the power and influence of the U.S. over what is going to happen in Paris and on the climate crisis generally, it is very strategic for the Pope to be coming here just two months before that conference begins.

Is there much happening on the part of the climate movement to welcome and support the Pope when he arrives? Yes and no.

Forty groups so far, a number of them faith-based, have joined together to organize a “Moral March for Climate Justice” on the morning of Sept. 24 at the Lincoln Memorial, at the time the Pope is speaking to Congress. As that organizing proceeds and as the day gets closer, additional groups, including some large organizations with resources and memberships, are expressing interest. That is hopeful, since a number of “likely suspects” within the climate and climate justice movements have yet to indicate their appreciation of the historic and immediate potential of the Pope’s visit.

Two organizations, the Franciscan Action Network and Beyond Extreme Energy, have initiated calls for multi-day fasts in the days leading up to the Pope’s visit and they are working together to multiply their overall impact.

Beyond Extreme Energy’s (BXE) water-only fast will take place from Sept. 8 to Sept. 25 on the sidewalk outside the headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as well as in other localities where people individually or in groups decide to take part. For more than a year, a campaign. has been underway to expose and bring pressure on FERC because of its role as a corrupt, rubber-stamp agency, virtually always saying yes to proposals from the natural gas industry to expand its infrastructure and, now, to export fracked gas around the world. For BXE, the fast, happening leading up to and during the time that the Pope is here, is a way to appeal to FERC employees and the general public to draw inspiration from the Pope to speak up and take action, as well as to support the frontline struggles against fracked gas infrastructure around the country.

The Franciscan Action Network fast will be connected with a global fast already underway through the #FastForClimate campaign and will involve a water-only fast as well as a fast from gratuitous carbon-emitting activities. It will be held at McPherson Square in downtown DC and will go from Sept. 15 to Sept. 23. Among the fasters will be Filipino Yeb Sano, who fasted for two weeks during the UN Climate Conference two years ago. The announced target of the fast are faith-rooted lawmakers who can connect with the spiritual underpinnings of the climate movement, as well as a global audience willing to fast in solidarity with those most impacted by the climate crisis.

An initiative is also being taken by progressive Rabbis and other Jewish climate activists to hold a Yom Kippur service at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 at the Lincoln Memorial. They will re-gather on the morning of Sept. 23 and at 7:30 p.m. will be joined by the Franciscans, BXE fasters and others for an interfaith prayer vigil.

It is encouraging to see faith-based groups joining with some climate and environmental and other groups in this still-unfolding and developing, multi-day initiative centered in Washington, DC. There is still time for many more groups to join in to make September in DC and elsewhere an inspiring and spiritually deepening experience, a big step forward for our threatened ecosystem and all of its life forms around the world.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Vandana Shiva: ‘We Must End Monsanto’s Colonization, It’s Enslavement of Farmers’

With Pope Francis at the Helm, World’s Mayors Pledge to Fight Climate Change

13 Arrested Blockading Crestwood Gate With Giant Replica of Pope Francis’ Encyclical

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

BruceBlock / iStock / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Thanks to their high concentration of powerful plant compounds, foods with a natural purple hue offer a wide array of health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Environmental Investigation Agency

By Genevieve Belmaker

Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Jessica Kourkounis / Stringer

The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."

The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

Pixabay

By Manuella Libardi

Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.

Read More Show Less
XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY / THE OCEAN AGENCY

Hope may be on the horizon for the world's depleted coral reefs thanks to scientists who successfully reproduced endangered corals in a laboratory setting for the first time, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.

Read More Show Less
PhotoAlto / Frederic Cirou / Getty Images

Drinking water treated with fluoride during pregnancy may lead to lower IQs in children, a controversial new study has found.

Read More Show Less
National Institude of Allergy and Infectious Disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Thursday of a drug-resistant strain of salmonella newport linked to the overuse of antibiotics in cattle farming.

Read More Show Less