Friday, 3 July 2015

About time?

The Encyclical which was sent out on June 18th 2015.

Pope Francis, population and Nemesis.

Pope Francis in his encyclical on the ecology has been widely reported recently in our newspapers and elsewhere.  Donal Dorr in the Irish Times (IT 19/6/2015) states that ‘Francis makes it quite clear he accepts the consensus of scientists who maintain human activity is the main cause of our current ecological problems.’

Surely this is the view which is common to all thinking people.  The Pontiff is praised for his insight into the relationship between the effects of human activity on the planet and the deterioration in our natural resources but his views are not surprising. They are widely and clearly apparent to those who for a long-time are aware of the serious and progressive damage we are doing to our environment.  Since he spoke several prominent newspapers, the Irish Times, leading British papers and no doubt others abroad have at last referred to the role of the influence of our expanding human population and its gross neglect of the limited natural resources on which we depend for life.  This association is too obvious among thinking people and to the great majority of scientists. It must now be obvious to the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. He is right that the progressive waste of our limited natural resources are at the basis of the threat to humanity and the cause of poverty and widespread population migration. He must now go further and support Catholics and others to realise that the burdening world population must be curtailed to avoid nemesis.

The Pontiff talks about ‘Our Care for our Common Home’ He proposes means of caring for our natural resources and for the needs for a common balance between humanity and our natural world. I have not read the entire encyclical but I would like to know to what degree the Pontiff is aware of the damage already done to these resources. It is well known to epidemiologists who deal with natural trends that changes take place in nature and natural phenomena which are often more advanced than we appreciate and which require major interventions aimed at reversing these trends. This phenomenon is surely true about the damage which has already been done to the world resources and it is clear that, even with the Pontiff’s welcome incursion into the relationship between Man and Nature, there is little likelihood of stopping or reversing current trends in our abuse of Nature, even in the unlikely event of his advice about the burgeoning human population being adhered to.

The current population of the world is just over 7.25 billion. It has increased by nearly four times during the last one hundred years. It continues to increase at the rate of about 80 million a year. According to recent data from WHO about 150,000 people die every day but close to 350,000 are born, a fact which is consistent with the yearly increase of human population of 80 million. The gradual increase in world population during the last two centuries can be attributed to the control of the epidemic diseases starting in the 18th century with the successful control of small pox. It is added to in more recent years by the improved human longevity as we adopt effective life style changes and as we take advantage of new and successful means of health promotion and medical treatment.

Pope Francis has been lauded, not only in accepting humanity’s destructive intervention in disturbing the natural world – the recent and highly accelerating CO2 levels of our atmosphere, the drying up of river estuaries and lakes, the melting of snow and ice, the progressive destruction of so many of our fauna and flora, the increasing masses of people trying to escape from poverty and the political disturbances of their homes (I call this the Mediterranean phenomenon but it encompasses much more in terms of African and Eastern Asian mass movements, and a trend which may only be at an early stage) and our increasing ability through human technology and nuclear science  to destroy  humanity and other living things.

However, because of the rapid and progressive increase of the human population and the unlikely propensity that we can change our ways we must have little hope of humanity’s willingness to adopt the means of protecting Nature. But if we can rely on this little hope it surely must be a willingness to change our lives drastically in protecting whatever is left of our natural environment; or is it possible to restore our natural world, both above and below soil and water? Most of all we need to correct the imbalance between an excessive and greedy human population and the natural and limited home which was designed by our Maker to house us and to protect the wellbeing of our future children.

Our leaders, who will be meeting later this year in Paris, will talk about means of protecting the environment and will bandy about with the word sustainability based on good but rarely achieved intentions. But bearing in mind the changes which have taken place in our world already it is highly unlikely that their responsibility to society and to humanity will achieve any hope of appropriate change in human behaviour and individual greed. After all, our leaders are elected and are expected to act and speak for an electorate devoted to increasing personal wealth and acquisitions, and I expect that they will be more concerned about the cost of living and the cost of petroleum and the next election than the need to control our expanding human population and to protect our God given natural home.

1 comment:

  1. Risteárd, Many thanks for putting that analysis together. As you know from the work we did over the years on the transport area, the transition we seek can deliver us social as well as environmental gains. Eamon