Many years ago, I wrote an article for Jain Spirit magazine that explained the religious roots of my early conversion to environmentalism. A philosophical collision in the mid-1950s with a Mother Superior in Limavady, Northern Ireland, when I was 6 or 7, derailed any belief I may have had in monotheism. Mother Superior said I was either a pagan or a pantheist, but even my ill-developed mind knew it sure as hell wasn’t destined to take the Catholic path.
That said, and given the reality that is the Catholic Church, it’s encouraging that Pope Benedict used yesterday’s New Year address to underline the need for environmental responsibility – and to change their lifestyles to save the planet. But I wonder whether he has – or his cardinals have – been introduced to what I see as the single most fundamental equation in the sustainability field: I = P x A x T?
The logic here is that the environmental impact of an individual, community, corporation or economy is a function of population numbers times the prevailing levels of affluence/lifestyles times the level of technology used to sustain those lifestyles across that population. Perhaps its time for the Vatican to launch an internal environmental literacy program? Perhaps Daniel Goleman’s book Ecological Intelligence could be laid alongside all those Bibles?
In a world headed towards 9-10 billion people, if you believe the demographers, how long will it be before the Vatican finally bites the bullet and accepts the need for population control? Until it does, pious calls for lifestyle changes are unlikely to move the needle very much. How long before we are lucky enough to see a truly ‘unreasonable’ Pope in St Peter’s Square?