An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Abortion of Human Intelligence

"It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year... Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally ice free north Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by huge swathes of thinner ice formed over a single year." - "No Ice at the North Pole", Independent, June 27, 2008

The scope of the crime committed by the major oil companies is revealed in following analysis of James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and widely considered to be the world's foremost climatologist: "The greatest immediate threat to humanity from climate change, Hansen argues, is associated with the destabilization of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. A little more than 1° C (1.8° F) separates the climate of today from the warmest interglacial periods in the last half million years when the sea level was as much as sixteen feet higher. Further, increases in temperature this century by around 2.8° C (5° F) under business as usual could lead to a long term rise in sea level by as much as eighty feet, judging by what happened the last time the earth’s temperature rose this high—three million years ago. 'We have,' Hansen says, 'at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions'—if we are to prevent such disastrous outcomes from becoming inevitable. One crucial decade, in other words, separates us from irreversible changes that could produce a very different world. The contradictions of the entire Holocene—the geological epoch in which human civilization has developed—are suddenly being revealed in our time." - John Bellamy Foster, "The Ecology of Destruction"

The oil company executives and we as their silent enablers have created a world in which only a fraction of the billions now living may be able to survive in the coming century. The conditions of that survival are such that the life we live today may soon recede down the grand hall of the mythological ages - Rome, Egypt, Babylon.

Yet the principalities and powers that have unleashed this uncontrollable chain reaction are not mere executives laying out the spreadsheets of next year's profits. The underlying system that has torn the bosom of our mother is the unrelenting drive for accumulation, which transforms everything God has given us into commodities for exchange. This attack on life can be summarized as follows: "Underlying this is the fact that the class/imperial war that defines capitalism as a world system, and that governs its system of accumulation, is a juggernaut that knows no limits. In this deadly conflict the natural world is seen as a mere instrument of world social domination. Hence, capital by its very logic imposes what is in effect a scorched earth strategy. The planetary ecological crisis is increasingly all-encompassing, a product of the destructive uncontrollability of a rapidly globalizing capitalist economy, which knows no law other than its own drive to exponential expansion." - John Bellamy Foster, "The Ecology of Destruction"

The endless drive for expansion must surrender to more mature spiritual attitudes or the spirit that currently animates America will destroy the planet that blessed it with such bounty. What the above passage is saying is that our current economic system will inevitably use up the resources that support its productivity in a destructive and unmaintainable way. In other words, our economic system uses oil to maximize profit potential without concern for the long term effects or maintainability of that energy source. Those corporations which focus on the short term gains to be reaped by exploiting the oil resource without concern for global warming will thrive in the market, eliminating their competitors. Those companies that show concern for such issues will fall behind and be eliminated.

To put it another way, this economic system deliberately undermines the conditions on which its economic advancement relies. It does not do this because of the sinfulness of the exploiters, sinful though they may be, but because the system tends to favor those who focus on short term gains by any means necessary. For example, by clear cutting rain forests, the logging companies and agribusinesses maximize their profit at the expense of the long term health of the soil and the ecological systems that flourished with the aid of those trees. Over the long term, the very conditions that allowed those corporations to maximize profits from clear cutting are destroyed. Over time the overall cost of economic development steepens and creates economic crisis by constraining the conditions of production.

In other words, our economic system inevitably creates a rift between nature and society that is destructive of nature. It substitutes the logic of endless accumulation for the natural processes of renewal. It thrives by the destruction of nature where the more thorough the destruction, the higher the profit, but ultimately the higher the penalty in terms of economic sustainability. Thus it produces a metabolic rift between natural processes and economic processes in which the latter dominate to the degradation of the former.

The solution lies in social and economic revolution. "... the private ownership of the earth/nature by human beings (even whole countries) must be transcended. The human relation to nature must be regulated so to guarantee its existence 'in an improved state to succeeding generations.'" - John Bellamy Foster, "The Ecology of Destruction" We can no more allow the "private" ownership of natural resources than we can allow human beings to own other human beings. These resources must be owned by all for the benefit of all. Our Christian responsibility is to guarantee the existence of these natural resources such that they can be passed on to succeeding generations in an improved state.

We must begin by cleansing ourselves of the crimes we have participated in. "James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer." - Ed Pilkington, "Put Oil Firm Chiefs On Trial, Says Leading Climate Change Scientist"

The oil company executives pay millions to deliberately obscure the reality of global warming, but they will one day hang one rung lower than the Nazis who obliterated only the lives of six million Jews. This will seem a small crime a hundred years from now. In the case of the oil executives, hundreds of millions of lives will be wiped out by the only religion truly worshiped in America, the selfless service of profit.

Let us consider the catastrophe we are about to sleep walk into: "Over the coming decades soaring temperatures will mean agriculture may become unviable over huge areas of the world where people are already poor and hungry; water supplies for millions or even billions may fail. Rising sea levels will destroy substantial coastal areas in low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, at the very moment when their populations are mushrooming. Numberless environmental refugees will overwhelm the capacity of any agency, or indeed any country, to cope, while modern urban infrastructure will face devastation from powerful extreme weather events..." - "Environment in Crisis: 'We Are Past the Point of No Return'",

So what has so frozen our hearts and minds as we are led to the slaughter? Daniel Berrigan described it this way: "The spirit of death freezes spontaneous movements of the heart...Eventually, the 'spirit of the upper air' becomes our only atmosphere. In compromise and cowardice, we bend the knee before the high crime of the ruling spirits. We distance ourselves, or psychologize, or liturgize, but in any case trivialize, our vocation. In such wise we lose the ability to utter a simple no in the face of illegitimate authority and its claim on ourselves, our lives, our children, our income - finally, our conscience, our humanity." - "Archbishop Romero, the Four Churchwomen, and the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador"

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