TIME faith

Exclusive: Patriarch Bartholomew on Pope Francis’ Climate Encyclical

Pope Francis (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople speak to the faithful after the Divine Liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 30, 2014 in in Istanbul.
Gokhan Tan—Getty Images Pope Francis (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople speak to the faithful after the Divine Liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 30, 2014 in in Istanbul.

Bartholomew, 270th Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, is spiritual leader to 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.

Ecology, Economy and Ecumenism

In a series of seminars organized between 1994 and 1998 on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul in Turkey, we drew attention to the close connection between ecology and economy. Both terms share the Greek root oikos, which signifies “home.” It therefore came as no surprise to us that our beloved brother Francis of Rome opens his encyclical, which is being released today in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican, with a reference to God’s creation as “our common home.”

Nor again did it come as a surprise to us that Pope Francis underlined the ecumenical dimension of creation care – the term “ecumenism” also shares the same etymological origin as the words “ecology” and “economy.” The truth is that, above any doctrinal differences that may characterize the various Christian confessions and beyond any religious disagreements that may separate the various faith communities, the earth unites us in a unique and extraordinary manner. All of us ultimately share the earth beneath our feet and breathe the same air of our planet’s atmosphere. Even if we do not do enjoy the world’s resources fairly or justly, nevertheless all of us are responsible for its protection and preservation. This is precisely why today’s papal encyclical speaks of the need for “a new dialogue,” “a process of education,” and “urgent action.”

How can one not be moved by the criticism of our “culture of waste” or the emphasis on “the common good” and “the common destination of goods”? And what of the vital importance attributed to the global problem of clean water, which we have underlined for over two decades as we assembled scientists, politicians and activists to explore the challenges of the Mediterranean Sea (1995), the Black Sea (1997), the Danube River (1999), the Adriatic Sea (2002), the Baltic Sea (2003), the Amazon River (2006), the Arctic Sea (2007) and the Mississippi River (2009)? Water is arguably the most divine symbol in the world’s religions and, at the same time, the most divisive element of our planet’s resources.

In the final analysis, however, any dissent over land or water inevitably results in what the Pope’s statement calls “a decline in the quality of human life and a breakdown of society.” How could it possibly be otherwise? After all, concern for the natural environment is directly related to concern for issues of social justice, and particularly of world hunger. A church that neglects to pray for the natural environment is a church that refuses to offer food and drink to a suffering humanity. At the same time, a society that ignores the mandate to care for all human beings is a society that mistreats the very creation of God.

Therefore, the Pope’s diagnosis is on the mark: “We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.” Indeed, as he continues to advance, we require “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature.” It is also no surprise, then, that the Pope is concerned about and committed to issues like employment and housing.

Invoking the inspiring words of Scripture and the classics of Christian spirituality of East and West (particularly such saints as Basil the Great and Francis of Assisi), while at the same time evoking the precious works of Roman Catholic conferences of bishops throughout the world (especially in regions where the plunder of the earth is identified with the plight of the poor), Pope Francis proposes new paradigms and new policies in contrast to those of “determinism,” “disregard” and “domination.”

In 1997, we humbly submitted that harming God’s creation was tantamount to sin. We are especially grateful to Pope Francis for recognizing our insistence on the need to broaden our narrow and individualistic concept of sin; and we welcome his stress on “ecological conversion” and “reconciliation with creation.” Moreover, we applaud the priority that the papal encyclical places on “the celebration of rest.” The virtue of contemplation or silence reflects the quality of waiting and depending on God’s grace; and by the same token, the discipline of fasting or frugality reveals the power of not-wanting or wanting less. Both qualities are critical in a culture that stresses the need to hurry, the preeminence of individual “wants” over global “needs.”

In the third year of our brother Pope Francis’s blessed ministry, we count it as a true blessing that we are able to share a common concern and a common vision for God’s creation. As we stated in our joint declaration during our pilgrimage to Jerusalem last year:

“It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard – both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness – the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us … Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME India

See Images of Indians Trying to Cope With the Country’s Deadly Heat Wave

Temperatures are as high as 117 degrees Fahrenheit

More than 1,800 people have died as a severe heat wave persists across India.

The southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh has been the worst affected, with more than 1,300 people succumbing to the blistering heat that has driven temperatures as high as 117 degrees fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius) in parts of the country.

“Our wards are completely full,” J V Subbarao, medical officer at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Medical Sciences in Andhra Pradesh, told the AFP news agency. “I have worked as a medical officer in this district for 40 years and I have never seen anything like this, with so many people arriving already dead.”

As the death toll rises, the country is bracing itself for a continuation of the extreme conditions, with forecasters expecting temperatures to remain high for several more days. In the meantime, ordinary people must try and keep cool in any way they can.

TIME Innovation

Why Food From Forests Could Help Feed the World

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Education alone won’t end income inequality.

By Maureen Conway in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

2. Here’s why ISIS is so successful at recruiting young people.

By Jesse Singal in the Science of Us

3. Are there moral limits on free speech? (What if it gets someone killed?)

By Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View

4. Could food from forests help feed the world?

By Bhaskar Vira in the Conversation

5. Use data, not nepotism, to deliver aid to Nepal.

By Ravi Kumar in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Are We Breaking Up With Saudi Arabia?

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Is the special Saudi-U.S. relationship on the rocks?

By Ray Takeyh at the Council on Foreign Relations

2. Two-year degrees can really pay off.

By Liz Weston at Reuters

3. A self-contained urban farm, delivered in a box, could slash water use by 90 percent.

By Danny Crichton in TechCrunch

4. How a lake full of methane could power Rwanda and DR Congo.

By Jonathan W. Rosen in MIT Technology Review

5. Nope, we’re not going to live on crickets in the near-future.

By Brooke Borel in Popular Science

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Environment

California Could Become a ‘Dust Bowl’ Like 1930s Oklahoma

Dry earth is seen between rows of grapevines in Napa, California
Elijah Nouvelage—Reuters Dry earth is seen between rows of grapevines in Napa, California April 9, 2015. The state is in the fourth year of one of the worst droughts on record.

Thousands of families were forced to leave areas around Oklahoma because of drought and bad farming. Many went to California

As California enters a fourth year of drought, it’s possible that the state could experience conditions like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

At a presentation by the Assn. of California Water Agencies, climatologist Michael Anderson said, “You’re looking on numbers that are right on par with what was the Dust Bowl,” the L.A. Times reports.

In the 1930s, drought and bad faming methods destroyed 100 million acres of farmland around Oklahoma and forced families to leave, many for California. Their journey was immortalized in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

The organization raised awareness about the impact on the state’s farmers, who have seen a loss of $1.5 billion due to lack of water for cultivating their crops.

[L.A. Times]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 8

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Mountaintop removal coal mining has made the air and water in Appalachia carcinogenic.

By Jeff Biggers in Al Jazeera America

2. Police officers are far more likely to commit intimate partner violence.

By Leigh Goodmark in Fusion

3. Why the “Internet of Things” might mean the end of privacy.

By Danny Bradbury in the Guardian

4. Don’t worry. If we wipe out all of the planet’s crops, we have a backup plan.

By Chris Mooney in the Washington Post

5. Here’s how a slum in Ghana’s capital is preparing young women for careers.

By Thomas Page at CNN Voices

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 12

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Protecting whistleblowers protects national security.

By Mike German at the Brennan Center for Justice

2. Could we treat pain by switching off the region of the brain controlling that feeling?

By the University of Oxford

3. Small businesses are booming in China, and it might save their economy.

By Steven Butler and Ben Halder in Ozy

4. Not so fast: Apps using Apple’s new health technology could require FDA approval. That doesn’t come quick.

By Jonathan M. Gitlin in Ars Technica

5. We might feel better about driving electric cars, but they’re still not good for the environment.

By Bobby Magill in Quartz

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Environment

El Niño Arrival Too Late for California Drought

"Too little, too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California"

El Niño has finally arrived, but the precipitation brought by the weather event is unlikely to alleviate California’s severe drought, officials said Thursday.

“After many months of watching, El Niño has formed,” said Mike Halpert, an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. “Unfortunately, this El Niño is likely too little, too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California as California’s rainy season is winding down.”

El Niño, a cyclical phenomenon that lasts several years, begins with warming in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and eventually affects weather around the world. In the United States, it can lead to storms along the West Coast and affect hurricanes and other tropical storms. Tropical storm activity could be reduced due to El Niño, but it’s too soon to know for certain, the NOAA said.

Forecasters have been waiting to declare the start of El Niño for nearly a year. The late arrival may make El Niño-related storms “weak in strength” with “fairly low influence on weather inclement,” Halpert said.

TIME climate

Senator Throws Snowball! Climate Change Disproven!

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Is Sen. James Inhofe really the person we want chairing the Senate's environment committee?

What’s all this talk about global hunger? I don’t know about you, but I just tucked into a burrito and there are plenty more where that one came from. But that doesn’t mean the nation’s soaring obesity rates are anything more than a rumor. Most of the people I work with look pretty darn good, so QED right?

Something similar is true of climate change—at least if you’re Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and a man tasked with knowing a thing or two about, um, the environment and public works. The Senator, who has made something of a cottage industry out of arguing that climate change is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” at last has drop-dead, case-closed proof that he’s been right all along. The evidence: a snowball. And not just any snowball, one right there in Washington, DC!

Inhofe brought his snowball onto the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday and declared that “we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record.” Yet in a plastic bag, right on his desk, he had the evidence to demolish that claim. “I ask the chair, you know what this is?” he said. “It’s a snowball, and that’s just from outside here, so it’s very, very cold out, very unseasonable.” Then he tossed the unexpected snowball to the unsuspecting chair and returned to his prepared text with self-satisfied, “Mm-hmm.”

Inhofe is completely correct, of course: It was very, very cold on Thursday—unseasonably so. And it was also very, very hot in Opa Loca Florida, where the temperature was 87º F (30º C)—awfully sweltering even for that part of the country, at least at this time of year. Presumably, Opa Loca’s unseasonable steam bath is equally compelling proof that climate change is real.

Look, it’s easy to take shots at Inhofe, which is why everyone is doing it today—here and here and here and here just for starters. But the implications are real. Either he really doesn’t understand that weather isn’t climate, that long-term trends are different from short-term bumps, that what happens at your house or in your town really, truly isn’t what’s happening everywhere else on the planet, or he does know and he’s pretending he doesn’t. Either way, it’s hard to argue that he’s the man you’d want as the Senate’s leading voice on climate policy.

Here’s hoping, if nothing else, that Inhofe has an easy commute home tonight. It’ll be long-awaited proof that the U.S. highway system has at last solved the problem of traffic.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME climate

These Maps Show How Much Trouble We’d Be in if the Sea Level Rises

New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Vancouver, Seattle and London are all in trouble

At some point in the future, your favorite city might be a patch of sea floor.

Spatialities, a site devoted to spatial information and visualizations, has unveiled a series of maps that show how several urban cities and coastal regions would be impacted by various rises in sea level. And it’s bad news all around for cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Vancouver, Seattle, London, among others, which are prone to flooding—and total submersion.

All the depicted sea levels are possible scenarios: They’re all less than the maximum rise in sea level calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey, which estimates that if all the planet’s glaciers melted, then the potential sea rise is about 80 m., or 262 ft.

But the good news is that you won’t see a sea level this high in your lifetime — according to one study, it would take about 1,000 to 10,000 years.

 

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