On environmental crisis, it’s time to ‘awake from sleep’

Fr. Grant

By Fr. Bud Grant

“The night is far spent… -Romans 13:12

Decrying the lack of urgency on the part of the world’s governments in dealing with the crisis of global warming, activist Bill McKibbon called for a world-wide event on Oct. 10 of this year — that was 10.10.10.

Sure it was a gimmick, what might be called “press theater,” but what the heck. Headlines focus on the crisis-in-triviality of Major League Baseball (attendance is down for the third straight year). Furthermore, with political speech legally paid for by anonymous corporations, we shouldn’t be surprised that other voices are drowned out in the cacophony that is bound to accompany record spending in this non-presidential election year.*

Even environmental news is discouraging, such as the outcry against crinkly snack packaging (Frito-Lay is abandoning its 100 percent compostable Sun Chips bags because consumption is down 11 percent) or protests against what one resident called the “sonic effluence” of newly installed wind turbines in his neighborhood (though two studies have judged that the noise has no effect on hearing, psychological health or land values).


There is, ah, “good” news. President Obama announced that solar panels would be mounted on the White House. This is not ground breaking: President Carter had them 30 years ago. Besides, it comes after another discouraging news story broke about how a group of college students, invited to the White House to promote that very idea, and with President Carter’s very own solar panel in tow, were basically shown the door with a pat on the head. We can thank McKibbon for the bit of press-theater that revealed this incident.

But not all the news is trivial or theater, possibly making it is less press worthy.  Did you catch the story about the joint appearance of the “green” Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and the “green” Pope Benedict XVI?  Under the banner “If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation,” the two made Sept. 1 the “Day for the Protection of the Environment.” Pope Benedict said that “we have the duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that they too can worthily inhabit it and subsequently conserve it.” He added, with, I suspect, a somewhat exasperated inflection, “May the Lord help us in this task!” Bartholomew added that there is “a dire need in our day for a combination of societal sanctions and political initiatives, such that there is a powerful change in direction, to a path of viable and sustainable environmental development.”

But who was listening?  Did you see it on CNN or on Fox?  Maybe I was working late that night … **

But it IS getting late and we are literally losing ground. I keep hearing the words of St. Paul ringing in my head: “And do this now because you know the time.  It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep … the night is far spent, the day is at hand …” (Romans 13:11-12).  Sure, the context is a bit different, but the tone is clearly apocalyptic, and if we do not make dramatic changes in our social, economic, political and ideological paradigms immediately we will have passively submitted to an eschaton of our own making.

*According to David Cobb, of movetoamend.org, Karl Rove’s “American Crossroads” leads the pack in political spending — already twice what was spent four years ago. 

**I found one version of the story on www.catholicnewsagency.com.  There was just one subscriber comment, and I quote: “The usccb spends millions of we in the pews dollars (sic) on the junk science of “global warming” God, please tell me our Pope isn’t buying into it too.”  See why I think the Holy Father sighed when he said “May the Lord help us in this task”?

(Father Bud Grant is an assistant professor of theology at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.)

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