Catholic Herald: Stop bickering and save the planet! … just not through family planning

I fear I may have whiplash after reading the latest issue of the Catholic Herald.
There’s inspiring coverage of a firm ruler thwack that Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien delivered to the knuckles of world political leaders at the G20 meetings in New York last week. The Scottish cardinal, who led a delegation of bishops and climate change experts at Rome’s behest, told world leaders to quit arguing, sit up straight, help their fellow man, and save the planet:
The cardinal said wealthy nations had an “unequivocal moral obligation to address the problems their actions have created.” He said: “Global warming is too important an issue for political wrangling and short-term national interest.
“Leaders should be getting down to serious negotiations for the sake of all humanity. Instead, we are seeing political disagreements and a lack of commitment.
“The lives of millions of people in the developing world, who have done least to cause the problem, are at stake.”
via Cardinal: Stop bickering and save the planet – Catholic Herald Online.
Go Cardinal O’Brien! May I suggest you make them stay late and conjugate irregular verbs until they see the error of their ways?
But my warmed heart cooled as I turned to the Opinion page and found myself confronted with an argument that nothing should be done–nothing–about rampant human population growth and its contribution to global warming.
Dermot Grenham, who teaches in the Development Studies program (hmm, “development studies”) at the London School of Economics, attacks a recent study by the Optimum Population Trust, which concluded that contraception is the cheapest way to combat greenhouse gas emissions. “Each $7 spent on basic family planning over the next four decades would reduce global CO2 emissions by more than a tonne,” the OPT contends.
Grenham asserts, among other things, that many technologies are cheaper than family planning:
No mention is made of nuclear power which, from the underlying sources used by the OPT, comes out significantly cheaper than family planning. Also, nothing is said about a whole host of other developments such as building insulation and increased fuel efficiency which are estimated to cost nothing overall to implement. They have been somewhat selective in their comparatives.”
via Contraception is not the answer to climate change – Catholic Herald Online.
You can click on the links above and decide for yourself whether it’s cheaper to save the planet with condoms or weatherstripping. I’m more concerned about Grenham’s endorsement of wanton babymaking:
Economists such as Esther Boserup, Peter Bauer, Julian Simon and Bjørn Lomborg have shown that in spite, and even because of, population growth the state of the world has improved and there is no reason to think that it will not continue to do so. The key resource is human beings — we are the solution rather than the problem.”
It’s a curious phenomenon that in an economics laboratory human beings may be found to represent the solution, but with one step outside it seems rather obvious that the garden has suffered since there were only two of us trampling it. Can the solution be to make billions more?
The billions we have presently are not doing much good for God’s green earth (though they have been a boon for development studies). You needn’t take my word, Dermot Grenham: just ask Cardinal O’Brien.
Grenham reaches for a higher authority, though:
As Pope Benedict XVI said in Caritas in Veritate: ‘Openness to life is at the centre of true development.’ Let’s not sacrifice true development on the altar of assumed cost effectiveness especially when the foundations for that particular altar are extremely weak.
Ah, “openness to life.” It’s not as colorful a euphemism as “hiking the Appalachian trail,” but it works. Teens, if your parents catch you messing around just tell them you’re demonstrating openness to life. And Dermot Grenham said you don’t need a condom. That you should save your money for building insulation.
And then, there’s that word “development” again. “Openness to life” has indeed been at the center of some forms of development. Billions of babies will need billions of cars and condos. But not all development is absolutely good.
Even more to the point: should Dermot Grenham be arguing with OPT when we’re supposed to abstain from political wrangling and heed our unequivocal moral obligation to address the problems our actions have created? Grenham may be a sharp cookie in the econ lab, but he should be sent to Cardinal O’Brien’s afternoon study hall for a few hours of moral education.

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