A Catholic scientist speaks on Climate Change

Sophie Caldecott has a wonderful inetrview with Glenn Juday, Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The interview focuses on climate change, and expresses through Juday’s ideas what a Catholic position should be. As Sophie says, he “has a refreshingly positive attitude towards the issue of global climate change.” I have spoken at length about the Church’s (here and here) and specifically Pope Benedict’s statements  here, here and here. Juday claims his views are fundamentally the Pope’s views, and I could not agree more. They also strike a similarity in tone and vision with another prominent Christian scientist (a scientist who is a Christian) who writes on climate change, Mike Hulme. Below an excerpt of what Juday has to say:

Juday believes that there is a profundity to the Church’s understanding of the climate change issue that is unique. “As the scientific consensus developed, the Popes, certainly John Paul II and Benedict XVI, informed themselves and have offered their reflections.” The last two popes have addressed environmental concerns through statements such as the address for the 1990 World Day of Peace and the 2009 encyclical Caritas in veritate.  However, the Left has claimed the issue and imposed a political idealism that involves a certain loathing of humanity and reproduction, seeing mankind as the root of all evil in the natural world. Catholics who are reluctant to accept environmental issues “are reacting to the enthusiastic embrace of the climate change issue by people whose philosophical presuppositions they utterly reject, the radicals who are interested in collectivist solutions, the people who tend to value less or completely disregard questions of human freedom and – in the case of population control – human dignity.” Because these Catholics lack the scientific and theological background to see the urgency and importance of the issue from a Catholic perspective, they feel uncomfortable associating with it at all.

Glenn has often found himself caught in the midst of controversy. Once, he found himself in the middle of the battle over whether Alaska’s ancient forests should be timbered or not. He understood both sides, and argued for sustainable farming and logging that maintained both environmental concerns as well as human needs. Now, as then, he does not see in black and white. About environmentalists who see humankind as a pest to the planet, he says “Lacking the Catholic understanding of the human condition and our place in nature, it’s no surprise that they lack some of the tools for the appreciation of a positive understanding of the relationship between humanity and nature, hence their anger.” A true environmental ambassador, he believes that it is a Catholic mission to minister to those at both ends of the spectrum. Papal teaching, he argues, offers “a balance between those opposing poles.” 

The Church’s ecological vision “is grand, it’s all encompassing”. A relationship with God, an understanding of the purpose of creation as being ordered towards worship formed within the ecology of the family, should naturally flourish in a profound respect for the natural world around us. As William Patenaude of the Catholic Ecology blog says, “For [Pope Benedict XVI], man is at war with nature because we are too often at war with God.” Juday continues, “It’s not an add on, it’s not the case that the Church is digging up a new issue to add on to a whole lot of others,”; it is an integral part of Catholic teaching.

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