Al the Globe 90 Conference in Vancouver in March, wrote Globe and Mail columnist Terence Corcoran facetiously, the term “sustainable development” was employed 4,279 times by 500 speakers – and none of them knew what it meant. It was wrapped in conceptual fog. When Environment Minister Lucien Bouchard committed our government to “vigorous promotion of the concept of sustainable development,” did that mean anything concrete?
However, some editorial raised questions about the conference proceedings. For example, the Financial Post asked if former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was right in saying that abuse of the environment is like a nuclear time bomb waiting to explode. What degree of risk is acceptable? How do we spread the cost? Should there be an international carbon tax?
In the midst of economic and political matters, however, the occasional moral issue intruded. For example, the Financial Post editor wrote that: “a moral case can be made for having the rich countries bear a greater share of the reduction in pollution.”
It is the moral side of the matter which Pope John Paul appropriately concentrates on in his message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, “Peace with God the Creator; Peace with all Creation,” reprinted in the June issue of Catholic Insight. In an address he gave in December to an international symposium on the environment, he summarized this message under the heading “The exploitation of the environment threatens the entire human race.” His thesis is that the ecological crisis is fundamentally a moral crisis, and that the chief defenses against it are respect for life and for the integrity of the created order.
The main principles he presents can be summarized as follows:
– Uncontrolled exploitation of the natural environment menaces the survival of the human race.
– It also threatens the natural order, in which mankind is meant to preserve and hand on God’s gift of life with dignity and freedom. Concern for the environment is rooted in man’s very nature as a rational and free being. Authentic human development cannot ignore the solidarity between man and his environment.
– Nor can it ignore concern for all the earth’s peoples. We need an increased awareness of the unity of the human family; each of us should be solidly rooted in his own culture and yet be capable of transcending the limits of our own situation and achieving solidarity with others in the face of common problems.
– Seeing the issue of ecology within a global perspective which takes account of the human person in all his dimensions and of authentic human development is one of the great challenges of our time.
– The environment decisions we make today must take into account our moral responsibility for future generations.
– We must face the ecological crisis in a spirit of authentic solidarity, fraternal charity, and unfailing respect for all people and all nations.
Media’s scare tactics
What the Holy Father did not say was that the population explosion is responsible for the ecological crisis, that in effect children are a form of pollution – something the mega media have been harping on for years.
“More births than Earth,” bannered a May 1988 issue of the Toronto Sun dealing with a United Nations report on the world’s population. The executive director of the U. N. Population Fund, Dr. Nafis Sadik, expressed the hope that action by governments and international organizations to curb population growth and encourage conservation would “safeguard the future of our planet.”
“The spectacle of poisoned birds falling from the sky was a grim demonstration not only of Mexico City’s extremely high levels of air pollution but of the population pressures that produce it,” opined MacLean’s in September 1988.
In October 1988, the Toronto Globe carried an editorial, “Coping with a population explosion,” which concluded, “An explosion of births is one problem among many – regional tensions, environmental degradation, inadequate networks for distributing food – but it touches all the others. It can’t be ignored.
“In the process of impoverishing and poisoning mankind’s only habitation, it is later than we think…It would be impossible, of course, for any single nation, or group of nations, even if they acted in full accord, to cleanse the environment if other nations refused to cooperate and kept overpopulating, depleting, and defiling their own boundaries. Pollution recognizes no political boundaries, no national sovereignty,” declared the Vancouver Sun in February 1989.
Examples of this type of thinking could be easily multiplied. None of the authors quoted seems to have encountered the contrary arguments set forth by such authors as Julian Simon and Jacqueline Kasun. Apparently, the last thing they want is evidence which contradicts their opinion that population increase is responsible for most of the world’s ills.
Two recent Interim articles have sown how this conviction has coloured the thinking of the environmentalists. “Green enemies of life” (Sabina McLuhan, November 1989) showed that Green Party supporters in Britain oppose a woman choosing to have a child.
People, it seems equal pollution in their eyes. Their manifesto states that population must be reduced to achieve a sustainable economy, though such a reduction “need not involve repression.” They would give tax benefits to families with fewer than two children, sterilization bonuses, and payments for periods of non-pregnancy; they advocate an end to infertility research and “a more realistic approach to abortion.”
Regarding foreign aid, the Greens argue that “the cruel truth is that help given to regimes opposed to population policies is counter-productive and should cease. They are the true enemies of life and do not merit support. So too are those religions which do not actively support birth control. Green governments would reluctantly have to challenge head-on such damaging beliefs.”
In her December 1989 column, “Green for danger,” Winifride Prestwich noted that the Green Party in Britain hit the headlines with a claim that if it came to power couples would have to be limited to one child. It would also like to see the population of Britain cut from 56 million to between thirty and forty: it wants to depopulate the country in order to ease pollution and inner-city problems.
Idolatry of Planet Earth
In response a number of newspaper columnists pointed out that Greens put people after trees and whales, but neither trees nor whales have votes: people do. The most effective response, Miss Prestwich pointed out, came from the Sunday Telegraph. Peregrine Worsthorne observed that even though the Greens are not contemplating the slaughter of civilians, even though they are nice people, there is cause for concern: nice people can be dangerous when they start talking about preventing millions of babies from being born: “Can one imagine Jesus, who loved human beings so much that He cam on earth to save us, using the phrase “population control?” Worsthorne asks.
A whole list of wildlife and environmental groups are on record as promoting not just Zero Population Growth, which is bad enough, but in effect pushing for abortion – the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society, the Friends of the Earth, and so on.
Worsthorne used words which Pope John Paul would have no difficulty in accepting: The primacy of man, his central and unique place in the universe (which is intended for his use), is the heart of his relationship with nature. Any other view is pagan and risks making an idol of nature. And idolatry often leads to human sacrifice – the immolation, in the Green case, of millions of unborn babies at the feet of Planet Earth.