Most conservative organization on earth going green

green_pope.jpgI refer to the Catholic Church.  Admittedly, “most conservative organization on earth” could be considered an exaggeration in comparison with freaks like Ann Coulter, who could make even Atilla the Hun look reasonable.

On the other hand, this is the organization that waited until 1992 — yes, nineteen-ninety-two — to admit officially that Galileo’s heliocentric theory of the solar system (which earned him a death sentence for heresy three hundred and fifty-nine years earlier in 1633) was in fact correct.  Like a giant ocean liner, The Church doesn’t turn on a dime. 

So it’s a significant event that Pope Benedict has publicly got on board the green Christian bandwagon, recently fronting an eco-friendly youth rally, a “Day for Safeguarding Creation“. According to Reuters:

“Italy’s Catholic Church, which organized the event, said it was the first environmentally friendly youth rally, a break from past gatherings that left tonnes of garbage and scars on the earth.  A participants’ kit included backpacks made of recyclable material, a flashlight operated by a crank instead of batteries, and color-coded trash bags so their personal garbage could be easily recycled. Meals were served on biodegradable plates.  Tens of thousands of prayerbooks for Sunday’s mass were printed on recycled paper and an adequate number of trees would be planted to compensate for the carbon produced at the event, many in areas of southern Italy devastated by recent brushfires . . . The Vatican has become progressively ‘green.’  It has installed photovoltaic cells on buildings to produce electricity and hosted a scientific conference on climate change.  Last month Benedict said the human race must listen to “the voice of the Earth” or risk destroying its very existence.”

The Pontiff was even wearing green vestments.  Really. Now, a skeptic might argue that this is mainly window-dressing and that distributing biodegradable backpacks and prayer books is not going to save the world (particularly while fighting against condom use and AIDS education — but let’s not go there yet).  But, to paraphrase an old adage, “let he among you who is completely green cast the first stone”.  I would argue that the broader significance of this event is that even the Catholic Church, which would never be accused of moving without due deliberation, has evidently got religion, so to speak, on the conclusion that the non-human part of Creation is important, that it is in trouble, and that we are responsible for fixing it. 

“A decisive ‘yes’ is needed in decisions to safeguard creation as well as a strong commitment to reverse tendencies that risk leading to irreversible situations of degradation,” the 80-year-old Pope said.

Why is this important?  For starters, because there are over one billion Roman Catholics on earth — roughly one in six humans currently alive — and many consider the Pope’s word to be the ultimate earthly authority on ethical matters. So what the Pope says arguably has a larger multiplier effect on human behavior than that of any other single human being.  Bill Gates maybe excepted. 

Now there are a few other issues about which I would argue with the Pope.  But let’s give some credit where credit’s due.  So now that we’re on the same wavelength about that, can we talk about overpopulation . . .

About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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2 Responses to Most conservative organization on earth going green

  1. Timothy says:

    >”The Pontiff was even wearing green vestments. Really.”

    Um, of course he would. Green is the liturgical color for Ordinary time. All Catholic vestments are green from now until late November, when purple will be the liturgical color.

    One should not confuse a politcal movements chosen color with Catholic liturgical colors.

  2. Emmett Duffy says:

    Good point, Timothy — thanks for the clarification (I should know this, having been an altar boy till the age of 17). I was repeating what was reported in “the media”. A good reminder of the importance of doing one’s homework . . .

    Even without the vestments, though, the message was pretty emphatic. Hats off to the Pope on this one.