|Weed to Lee, strawberry to me?|
|No mistaking this straw berry patch|
with all that straw!
Pope Francis and his encyclical writing team begin paragraph 182 by noting that "An assessment of the environmental impact of business ventures and projects demands transparent political processes involving a free exchange of views." But when there is corruption in any process, transparency and dialogue are the first thing to go. My husband is not corrupt, he just forgot the dialogue part!
Paragraph 183 underlines the importance of environmental impact assessments at this juncture in our planet's existence. We simply cannot afford to allow businesses, politics, policies, plans or proposals to do as they please with our planet and its resources as they have in the past. Rampant development without serious environmental, social, physical, and humanitarian oversight has led us to our present state. Pope Francis tells us
Environmental impact assessment... should be part of the process from the beginning, and be carried out in a way which is interdisciplinary, transparent, and free of all economic or political pressure. It should be linked to a study of working conditions and possible effects on people's physical and mental health, on the local economy and on public safety.He also points out the importance of consensus among stakeholders including the local population in honest and truthful conversation about "projects and their different risks and possibilities."
How do you go about making difficult decisions? I remember that when I had a difficult choice to make as a young adult, my parents encouraged me to sit down and make a list of pros and cons for each of my different options. It's a strategy I employ to this day, and have passed on to my own children for its wisdom -- and I'm not surprised to see that Laudato Si quotes the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church when it encourages a similar process in paragraph 184:
... decisions must be made "based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives" [Compendium, 469]. This is especially the case when a project may lead to a greater use of natural resources, higher levels of emission or discharge, an increase of refuse, or significant changes to the landscape, the habitats of protected species or public spaces.We've seen many examples of projects that have been disastrous simply because the impact of their effects were unforeseen. The video below tells of 25 of the worst, all of them heartbreaking. These moodlings about Laudato Si have made me aware of a lot of things I definitely wouldn't go looking for...
When preparing a new project:
In paragraph 186, the Pope defends "those who are most vulnerable and whose ability to defend their interests and to assemble incontrovertible evidence is limited." He explains that it should be up to the corporations or developers to prove that their activity will not harm the environment and those who live there. But such proof needs to come from unbiased researchers who are independent of any business interest. This brings to mind the doctors who were silenced when they tried to make public the high rates of cancer found in people living in the vicinity of the Oilsands. Honesty and transparency are difficult for big business, but critical for life.
The Pope is clear in paragraph 187 that we shouldn't oppose innovation which improves life, but reminds us that profit can't be the sole criterion for that improvement. New ideas, inventions and discoveries can be added into the conversation, hopefully leading to better outcomes for any given project -- but always, always with an eye to building consensus among all those who are affected by it. Consensus can be a tricky thing, and when it comes to the common good, compromise is often required. But that's better than the alternative -- having something imposed from on high, with no chance to work out a solution that appeases most of those involved.
I would add one further thing to the conversation -- so often, we think that innovation is always positive -- but just because we might be able to do something more conveniently doesn't necessarily mean it's better. We need to take into account the full impact of the change we are making -- including the impact we are having on those members of creation that we might not notice. Sure, we can get rid of insect pests by spraying, but if we go back to those ten important questions and look at who is paying the costs, it's often the voiceless.
The challenge for this week? Let's post these ten questions in a place where we can see them and ponder them in relation to news stories, things happening locally, and occurrences in our own lives. Then perhaps we can see and suggest improvements to the powers that be as they work toward improving the health of creation...
(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)
Next up: The market ain't magic