Pope Francis Addressing the Root Cause of Climate Chaos

Consuming and wasting upsets the ecological balance and is inherently unjust

By Michael M. Barrick

ALUM BRIDGE, W.Va. – When the environmental encyclical by Pope Francis is released Thursday, it will launch a critical philosophical and political debate. Indeed, at least one writer has predicted that the encyclical is a revolutionary assault upon capitalism.

The Pisgah Forest in western North Carolina
The Pisgah Forest in western North Carolina

It probably will be. And, it is long overdue. What the pope is doing is addressing the root cause of climate chaos – unbridled materialism that leads to consuming and wasting that upsets the planet’s delicate ecological balance. It also creates huge injustices in distribution of vital resources such as food and water, which then creates a whole new set of problems, not the least of which is war. Of course, we shouldn’t forget famine, pestilence, inadequate or nonexistent medical care and education.

In short, the threats of climate chaos cannot be overstated.

Here, in the heart of West Virginia, this is not just a philosophical debate. It is reality. Public health and safety, the environment, the economy and human services are all compromised by the Mountain State’s reliance upon a fossil fuel mono-economy. In the southern reaches of the state, it is Mountaintop Removal (MTR).

A mountaintop removal site Photo courtesy of Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
A mountaintop removal site
Photo courtesy of Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

To learn more about MTR, read these articles:
Citing Medical Studies, Activists Call for End to Mountaintop Removal Permits
Federal and State Agencies Targeted for Lax Oversight of Mountaintop Removal
Environmental Groups target W.Va. DEP over Mountaintop Removal Permitting

Here, in the central and northern section of West Virginia – as well as in neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania – the threat is fracking, a slang word for hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting a fluid consisting of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale. This fractures the rock, releasing natural gas, which is then extracted. In West Virginia, the Marcellus shale, a layer of rock 3,500 – 8,000 feet below the surface, is the object of fracking. The vertical depth of the formation is about 150 feet. Whether recovered or left behind, the frack fluid presents problems. The wastewater contains not only the chemicals added to the water, but also heaving minerals and radioactive materials recovered as part of the extraction process.

An uncontrolled gas well fire in Doddridge County.  Photo courtesy of Ed Wade Jr. and Wetzel County Action Group.
An uncontrolled gas well fire in Doddridge County.
Photo courtesy of Ed Wade Jr. and Wetzel County Action Group.

You can read several articles about the impact of fracking here:
A Dirty Dozen Reason to Oppose Fracking
Attorney Crisscrosses West Virginia and Beyond to Teach About Pipelines
Victim in Fracking Accident had Warned County Commissioners of Roadway Dangers
Voices Out of the Wilderness
Incompetency and Complacency Increases Dangers from Fracking
From ‘Almost Heaven’ to ‘Almost Hell’
Reluctant Activist
Breaking Ground, Breaking Hearts
Health and Well-Being of Residents Being Subordinated to Fracking Industry
Filmmaker Finds Compelling Story in Her Own ‘Backyard’

These stories indicate that Pope Francis understands that the debate about climate chaos is beyond determining its validity. The facts are clear; the climate is changing. It is doing so rapidly and unpredictably. That is why referring to it as climate chaos is most appropriate. Change sounds slow and benign. What we are experiencing is anything but that. We are experiencing weather swings that can only be described as chaotic – and deadly, whether immediately as in natural disasters or over time, through public health epidemics and ecological destruction. Its source is not a mystery. It is excess by humankind.

That he would speak to the subject is not surprising. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states, “The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”

What gives offense, apparently, is that the pope actually is going to offer a prescription for what ails us – conserve, consider your neighbor and care for creation. Good shepherds lead their sheep. Pope Francis is doing so.

I suppose in some quarters, the concept of taking care of your home is foreign. So, caring for one’s neighbor is likely considered a rather quaint notion. The teachings of Jesus Christ, however, are the opposite. Apparently, this pope takes very seriously his apostolic calling to proclaim the Gospel – all of it.

Let those who have ears to hear take it as seriously as he does.

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider supporting our independent writing by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships. Learn more.

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6 comments

  1. Can anyone spell S*C*I*E*N*C*E??? The earth rapers and their PARTY only know how to make money, guess what IDIOTS you can’t take it with you!!!

  2. “[T]he encyclical is a revolutionary assault upon capitalism. It probably will be. And, it is long overdue.” I beg to disagree, if the assault is on crony capitalism, savage capitalism, unbridled, unethical lobbyists, the unhealthy greed that rules our societies today, the strings that pull corrupt politicians left or right and make them dance, then yes, it is long overdue, and necessary, and the Pope is late on voicing that need, because many have been voicing it for years! But let’s call a spade a spade and not dig our own graves! The assault is not on “capitalism” because the fact is, there is no such thing nowadays, nowhere in the world! Capitalism is ruled by free markets (and there is no such thing!) capitalism is ruled by ethics, such as respect for resources and the market, which is made up of those who both produce and consume and do so also ethically and responsibly (and there is no such thing!), capitalism is ruled by the absence of back or rolling doors, the absence of lobbyists, and the presence of institutions, private and public, and individuals, that will not compromise and will not sell out, not for favors, not for money, not for votes, not for anything that will cast a shadow on the integrity of all that is involved in any aspect of the work nigh at hand, from extraction, to production, to consumption, to recycling (and there is no such thing, or there may be very, very rare exceptions), capitalism is ruled by pure competition, and market factors such as offer and demand, but these too being ethical, not savage, not directed by greed, but balanced by a charitable ethical set of rules (and there is no such thing!) So, let’s call a spade a spade, lest we end up digging our own graves. Capitalism is not the problem, cronyism is, lobbying is, lack of ethics is, amoral behavior is, greed is! Let’s not confuse externally imposed regulation (from the EPA, USDA, and all other similar — and far too many to list here! — official, public or private bodies, which rob us all of our own agency, the most precious God given gift we are endowed with the only thing that can truly save us from doom: self-directed ethical, charitable behavior and conduct. Every time we give up an inch of liberty and let others trample upon our individuality and privacy we are indeed empowering the very institutions who regulate but also sell out to crony capitalism and enslave us yet another inch!
    The science is out there but is flawed, intentionally flawed, both for and against whatever it may be, meds, GMOs, fracking, etc., because scientists also sell out and there isn’t a day passing by that does not reveal and expose yet another scandal on how data is manipulated, faked, twisted, to prove a point, be it in regards to climate change, climate chaos, or whatever else, from pharmaceuticals to fracking, the cancer is the same: cronyism, lobbying greedy bastards who could not care less as long as they can make a buck! For them, there’s no ethics, no concern for anything but making sure the books shows a fat profit and shareholders and stakeholders are happy — at whatever price, because the mighty dollar speaks louder and that is the god they serve.
    All we are entitled to in this life is a stewardship. We come into this world naked and we take away nothing. While here, we have the responsibility to care and multiply the talents we are entrusted with, but we must do so ethically, “forgivingly”, responsibly… in one word, charitably. What we leave behind, testifies of who we serve. And old wisdom has warned us all that the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the heads of the children. What we do, what we plant, must be reaped, be it a blessing or a curse, the price will be paid.
    We need to restore and save our societies from greed and from crony capitalism, the same way we must not succumb to socialism and communism, or fascism, and to accomplish that, we must live following sound moral and ethical principles. We must claim for ourselves the power to decide so others will not decide for us. We the people must have the decision power to say NO and stop pipelines, MTR, etc., because no one else will. Private property is sacred. What a man or woman produces as result of honest work belongs to him or her, and no one has the right to steal it. Government is force and as such is abuse. It must be kept on a short chain. Liberty cannot the exchanged for security or we will end up with neither!
    If we are going to make it and win this war, there are other battles we must win first: does coherence require that those who oppose fracking stop using natural gas? Stop driving cars that need a fill up at least once a week? And where does the electricity one uses come from? Wanting the conveniences provided by fossil fuels but none of the damage comes across to me at rather hypocritical. So, are we ready to stop the abuse? Give up plastic? Oil, natural gas and coal and all its derivatives? What else should we give up? What else do we need to do to avoid collective suicide and make sure our children will have a decent planet to call home and live healthier lives than most of us do these days? Do you really want the EPA telling you what kind of wood-stove, light bulb,m toilet you can use? Wat about restrictions on what you eat, plant, rain water collection? The house you can build? Because that’s what more regulation amounts to… and once the power hungry get a taste of it, they never stop!

  3. I would give credence to the global warming alarmists if they took into account “The 100,000 year problem.”

    But since their science is not advanced enough to comprehend it, they ignore it, calling it abnormal because it does not fit their math. Eccentricity, like my eccentric aunt Milly. Despite it repeating for over 1 million years.

    They ignore this most powerful natural climate forcing event and are applying their math to the things they do understand. It is no wonder their predictions are not coming true. Except, of course, those predictions that are repeating as they have for the past million years caused by the 100,000 year problem without any “man caused.”.

    Just as science finally advanced to understand that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Just as science advanced to understand germs and diseases. Some day their science will be advanced enough to comprehend the most powerful naturally occurring climate forcing event.

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