Mind God’s gift

  • November 29, 2011

It was hardly news on Nov. 28 when federal Environment Minister Peter Kent dismissed the Kyoto protocol as a “big blunder.” Like the Liberals who signed the climate-change treaty in 1997, the Conservatives have made little effort to honour Canadian promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But Canada is not alone. As 190 nations gathered in Durban for a climate conference, the spirit of Kyoto, if not the treaty itself, was vanishing faster than the icebergs it was supposed to save. Kyoto was doomed by the many countries that cynically signed on and then did nothing and by a handful of big countries, such as the United States and China, that snubbed the treaty all along and gave big polluters like Canada an excuse to renege.

So the world is still foraging for a solution to ever-rising greenhouse gas emissions that are causing temperatures to climb and slowly choking life from the planet. No one expects that solution to come out of Durban. Not only is there a large divide between rich nations and poor, but many of the rich are hostile towards another Kyoto-like binding agreement.

Instead of a treaty with hard reduction targets, many nations, including Canada, prefer a voluntary program backed by a $100-million kitty to aid the poor nations that will be sucker-punched by the fallout of climate change. But that solution is about as practical as outfitting a ship that has a rotting hull with extra life rafts for the day it inevitably sinks.

Most  Durban delegates believe the environmental crisis requires complex scientific and economic remedies. But it needs more than that. As Pope Benedict XVI has stated, many world problems are byproducts of a society hobbled by moral and ethical failings. “Humanity needs a profound cultural renewal,” he has said.

Fixing the environment requires exactly that type of renewal or, as Benedict calls it, a change in the “overall moral tenor of society.” It requires world leaders that recognize a fundamental moral obligation to elevate the planet’s common good above parochial self interests. And it requires that they act morally to negotiate fair treaties and then act ethically to honour them.

But such a moral awakening seems unlikely as long as society’s values remain warped by a me-first material mindset.  Even among Christians, there is a need to acknowledge, said Benedict, that we are collaborators with God in His creation and are called to be stewards of the planet and its resources.

“The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility toward the poor, toward future generations and toward humanity as a whole,” Benedict said.

Sadly, that sense of moral responsibility barely flickers with world leaders and a rekindling of it was not expected in Durban.

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