Sunday, November 30, 2008

Responsibility to Protect

This responsibility, while lying at the heart of our faith regarding the individual, also extends to the whole world, embracing the environment with a balanced approach that finds the narrow way between the ideological driven and often alarmist proclamations on one side and the purely economic driven motives from another.

The Holy See teaches us about that narrow way in this article.

An excerpt.

“In recent years, the church can take credit for keeping alive a high-level, comprehensive approach to ecology. The church hasn’t limited itself to offering criteria for a correct reading of the relationship between humanity and nature, but it’s also given an incisive contribution to the development of strategies for dealing with what’s been called the “environmental crisis.” The presence of a delegation from the Holy See at the Bali conference on climate change last year is a case in point, as is the Holy See’s ratification of the Convention of Vienna and the Protocol of Montreal on the protection of the ozone layer. The Vatican has also committed itself to giving a good ecological example within the limits of its own situation – exploiting alternative sources of energy, for example, utilizing recycling processes and compensating for its carbon emissions through reforestation.

“In short, the Holy See has decisively chosen the path of realism, steering between alarmist scenarios and denial. On the debated question of climate change, it espouses a responsible vision of the “precautionary principle”: Even in the absence of absolute scientific certainties, it’s wise to take less optimistic scenarios into consideration, and therefore not to delay concrete choices and actions indefinitely, but to act now. The key point lies in an extension of the “responsibility of protection” to the environmental question, and, in particular, to care for the global climate.

“This “responsibility of protection” was considered by the ancient ius gentium, the “law of peoples,” as the foundation for the actions of rulers with regard to their subjects. It was implicit in the origins of the United Nations, even if it’s only in recent years that it has been definitively recognized in that international setting. The principle has also been invoked in order to assert a duty to protect populations which have been the object of grave violations of human rights.

“The Holy See has not only recognized this principle as an effective guarantee of “the unity of the human family and the innate dignity of every human being,” as the pope said at the United Nations this past April 18, but has also expressly extended it to the protection of the environment. In an important speech on Sept. 27, 2007, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, under-secretary for relations with states, affirmed that states have “a common responsibility of protecting the global climate and our planet,” in order to guarantee that “present and future generations can live in a safe and secure environment.”

“If nations and international organizations were to take up this challenge, it could introduce some innovative elements into global conversation about the environment. While the current crisis prepares to present its burden to the most impoverished countries, [the church’s approach] could serve to revive the principle of interrelationship, according to which “the environmental question cannot be considered apart from issues surrounding energy and the economy, peace and justice, national interests and international solidarity,” as Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, recalled this past Oct. 28. It would also give renewed importance to the discussion over multilateralism, in a moment in which the temptation to allow particular interests to prevail over the common good is especially strong. The “responsibility of protection” should be the foundation of a consistent policy of sharing resources and technologies among rich and poor nations – a sort of “globalization of solidarity,” as Benedict XVI says. “