Sunday, June 21, 2015

What will Pope Francis do about the Internet and Climate Change?

"On the care for our common home" (Laudato si'), the second encyclical of Pope Francis (24 May 2015), touches on the social effects of the Internet and global warming. The Pope does not attempt to debate the issues, but instead point out their moral dimensions. The document has extensive references, but these are to ecclesiastical sources, not scientific ones. This is not a flaw in the document, but a strength. Particularly in the case of climate change, scientists have fallen into the trap of thinking that more facts will persuade people. There is plenty of research to show this does not work. Like naughty children we will debate an issue endlessly rather than do something unpleasant which we know must be done eventually.

However, the test will be what the Vatican does, rather than what it says others should do. What action is the Vatican taking on the use of the Internet and climate change? As an example will priests be trained in how to relate to their flock on-line, as well as in person? How credible are Vatican City's claims to be carbon neutral?

One problem with the document that while the sections and paragraphs are numbered, these are not hypertext targets, making it difficult to point to a particular passage.

Social effects of the Internet

"Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature. Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise."
From Paragraph 47. Section IV. "On the care for our common home", Francis, 24 May 2015.

 Climate Change

"The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it."

From Paragraph 23. Section I. Pollution and Climate Change, "On the care for our common home", Francis, 24 May 2015. 

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