By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNS) — Every Catholic can do something about climate change by adopting a life of voluntary simplicity, the Vatican’s U.N. nuncio believes.
It can come down to what is commonly referred to in the United States as voluntary simplicity, or “working less, wanting less, spending less,” thus reducing the impact each person has on the environment, Archbishop Celestino Migliore told participants gathered in Columbus for the second in a series of regional Catholic conversations on climate change April 14.
Citing Genesis’ call to humanity to oversee creation while protecting it and the church’s social doctrine, the Vatican diplomat outlined the Holy See’s position on the need for Catholics to heed the environmental dangers the planet faces.
“The degradation of the environment has become an inescapable reality,” the archbishop said.
“There is no doubt that the latest assessment has established a strong connection between human activity and climate change,” he said, referring to a February statement by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Archbishop Migliore acknowledged that although not all scientists agree that climate change is occurring other environmental threats, such as indiscriminate deforestation, water pollution, the lack of potable water in many parts of the world and the depletion of fish stocks, demand action from the world community and individual Catholics alike.
“We need to drink deep from this fascinating foundation of knowledge and wisdom, known as the aggressive and progressive degradation of the environment, that has become an inescapable reality,” he said.
Archbishop Migliore called God’s placing of humans in the Garden of Eden with the instruction not only to tame nature, but to keep, or preserve, it as well. God’s instruction was not so much a commandment but a blessing “to perfect, not destroy, the cosmos,” he said.
Any steps to protect the environment must depend on more than the use of technology and traditional economics; they must depend on “ethical, social and religious values as well,” he said.
Likewise, any corrective steps require turning to people in the developing world, especially those living in dire poverty, and making decisions with their advice and consent, the papal nuncio said.
“With humans open to love, creation becomes the place for the mutual exchange of gifts among people,” he said.
The Ohio conference was the second of three gatherings being held across the country to address the Catholic response to climate change. The first was in Florida in March and the third will be June 2 in Anchorage, Alaska.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is convening representatives from across a broad spectrum of society for a thorough discussion on climate change.
The April 14 conference reflected that desire by involving representatives from utility companies, a consumer group, environmental organizations, agriculture, higher education, state government, local parishes and diocesan social action offices.
Dan Misleh, executive director of the 10-month-old Catholic Coalition on Climate Change and a conference planner, said the bishops are looking for steps that “make sense” and that are consistent with Catholic values. The USCCB is a major supporter of the coalition.
“The public policy remedies are very complicated,” Misleh said. “We’re more in a mode of learning and listening instead of a mode of prescribing solutions.”
He expects it will be at least six months before the bishops back any of the climate change bills pending in Congress.