We don’t own the earth; we share it


Three years ago this month Pope Francis released his encyclical “Laudato Si,” on Care for Our Common Home, which provided a template for our relationship with God, one another and the earth. Publication of the encyclical reportedly was timed to encourage the world’s nations to work together in Paris for an agreement to protect people and the planet.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement, an accord in which 148 of 197 nations in the world pledge to combat climate change and to adapt to its effects. U.S. Catholic leaders expressed dismay. The president said the agreement was unfair to the United States and would leave our country at a competitive disadvantage.

The Daily Signal website wrote in a June 1 article supporting the president’s withdrawal that “energy regulations agreed to in Paris by the Obama administration would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, harm American manufacturing, and destroy $2.5 trillion in gross domestic product by the year 2035.” The article also disapproved of the Paris Agreement’s Green Climate Fund that would collect $100 billion per year by 2020 to help subsidize green energy and pay for other climate adaption and mitigation programs in poorer nations. The authors state the fund is a waste of money and would end up in the hands of corrupt governments.

Supporters of the Paris Agreement counter that new jobs will be created by clean energy and that advances in technology are bringing down the cost of alternative energy sources. In a New York Times editorial, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, argues that the agreement asks very little of the United States: “President Barack Obama’s shift away from coal-fired power and toward higher-mileage cars would have satisfied our obligations.” He noted that the “hope of Paris was that the treaty would send such a strong signal to the world’s governments, and its capital markets, that the targets would become a floor and not a ceiling.”


Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement places business competition over the welfare of people already suffering the effects of climate change, and future generations. We are ignoring our responsibilities as members of a global community; as stewards, not owners, of the earth that God created.

We are squandering an opportunity to collaborate in a worldwide effort aimed at alleviating the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

A Quad-City Times letter writer (June 7) complained that 137 small nations in the Paris Agreement are fund recipients and probably wouldn’t participate without the money. What’s missing from this argument? Some of the countries have borne the brunt of climate change that they did not cause and do not have the financial means to combat. Do we honestly expect the people of Somalia, who are starving in the midst of drought and violence, to pay their “fair” share? Where’s the mercy that we focused on during the Year of Mercy?

The Times’ letter writer noted that “America had the best emission reduction of developed nations from superior technology, cheap natural gas and no international mandates. There are no plans to stop our efforts. The question should be why would any reasonable person enter into this treaty?”

For one thing, our country ought to set the example in addressing a problem that we have contributed to through our dependence on cars, the chemicals we put in our soil, and other sources of carbon dioxide emissions. We might reflect on the passage in Luke’s Gospel: “much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, a Vatican official in charge of Promoting Integral Human Development, speaks eloquently to humankind’s obligation to environmental stewardship. In a June 7 letter to the United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, he wrote:

“Last month the Holy See launched a new initiative called ‘Laudato Si Challenge,’ in a roll out that included the President of the United Nations General Assembly and prominent business and political leaders from across the globe. The goal of this project is to highlight the importance of environmental concerns in making business decisions, planning projects, and influencing law and policy. …

“An ethical approach means, above all, taking seriously our responsibility to care for these precious natural resources and to protect those persons, especially the poor and vulnerable, who depend on them in their daily subsistence. Without an approach informed by ethical considerations, we are left with a system where ‘some are concerned only with financial gain and others with holding on to or increasing their power…’”

We don’t own the earth; we share it. Contact President Trump (www.whitehouse.gov), Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst (www.senate.gov) and members of Congress (www.house.gov) and ask them to re-enter the Paris Agreement.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on