Your writer has taken quite a bit of heat from some readers of a local newspaper column he writes for not “getting in-line” with the Pope on his identification of imminent climate catastrophe wrought by human activity. Even so, I cling to my Rosary on all matters actually Catholic. Aside from the brilliant minds at Acton and its scholars and supporters comprised of highly educated, amazingly spiritual individuals, I was beginning to feel as if I was an orphan in a universe of ideological zealots of the Gaia variety.
However, my days of orphandom were short-lived. Immediately prior to the release of Laudato Si there was delivered much succor from within the Church.
To wit: James V. Schall, SJ, wrote a brilliant piece this past April as the Gaia zealots were beginning to attain fever pitch. Titled “On Sustainability,” the essay questions the current wisdom of saving and preserving certain resources for future generations. To this, Schall responds:
This thinking assumes that the present limited intellectual and technical base is thrust on future generations. Contemporary men evidently think that they know enough to decide what future generations will want, need, or be able to do. They must be content with what we have now. What if the only way that we can guarantee the well-being of future generations is for us not to impose our limited ideas of sustainability on them?
When I look at this “sustainability” issue, I detect an “apocalyptic” or gnostic root to it. Augustine would have been amused over a generation that thought it could engineer the future of mankind on this basis.
The root of the “sustainability mission,” I suspect, is the practical denial of eternal life. “Sustainability” is an alternative to lost transcendence. It is what happens when suddenly no future but the present one exists. The only “future” of mankind is an on-going planet orbiting down the ages. It always does the exact same, boring thing. This view is actually a form of despair. Our end is the preservation of the race down the ages, not personal eternal life.
“Sustainability” implies strict population control, usually set at about two or three billion (current global population is around 7.3 billion, so many of us will simply have to disappear for sustainability’s sake). Sin and evil imply misusing the earth, not our wills. What we personally do makes little difference. Since children are rationed or even produced artificially as needed, whatever we do sexually is irrelevant. It has no real consequences in this life, the only one that exists.
The earth and its resources, including its chief resource, the human mind, are given for the purposes for which each individual was created. Enough resources, including human mind and enterprise, are given for man to accomplish his purpose. When this purpose is accomplished, no more “resources” are needed. In this sense, the revealed doctrine that this world will end is the one that frees us from the dismal “sustaining” cycle that, presumably, goes on and on.
No doubt, while here, we should “sustain” the world as a “garden” the best we can. But, as in the “beginning,” our key problems will not arise from the abundant Garden itself. They originate in our wills. The Garden does not exist for its own sake but for what goes on in it. This confusion is what is wrong with “sustainability.”
File under “Stuff I wish I was able to think and write.” Schall nails it, spiritually, ecologically and philosophically.