By accepting a donation of about $130,000 in carbon offsets from the publicity-starved – and San Francisco based! – Planktos International, the Vatican this summer became the world’s first “carbon neutral” nation.

The offsets will go toward planting trees in Hungary and will no doubt have a beneficial, but tiny and temporary, impact on the area’s economy. Hmmm… Not wholly unlike the effort’s impact upon climate change which, as we’ve recently been told, is unavoidable and will be, by any measure, catastrophic.

However, as tempting as it is to…

• deprecate Planktos’ flagrant PR-mongering
• dismiss their primary business model of sowing the seas with iron in order sharply increase plankton levels – with the hopes that this will mitigate global warming – as science fiction or callously opportunistic quackery
• denounce the Vatican’s seemingly earnest efforts to account for their ecological impacts as “too little too late”
• question the sanctity or etymological truth of the Vatican’s “nationhood”
• dig your fingernails into your palms while wondering aloud, but screaming inside, why the hell the “godly” among us aren’t more activist about protecting this paradise which has been bequeathed us, free of charge
• resign yourself to the fact that it’s all completely hopeless and, just as your vote doesn’t really matter, your behavioral impact on the outcomes of climate change carries only so far as any nominal ethical token
• vow to take yourself less seriously and try to enjoy life on Earth while it’s still possible…

…we should be pleased that the Vatican is taking this step, even though they’re not taking a step so much as they’re accepting a one-time donation.

Clearly, this issue has come a long way. The notoriously conservative (politically, behaviorally) and stodgy Catholic Church is endorsing a “green” way of life, however lazily, and even the notoriously anti-science President Bush this past week admitted that there is a problem, however ineffectually.

It’s a small comfort to know that people in positions of authority – God’s voice on earth! the oil industry’s voice in Washington! – are paying attention; but it’s high time for real action and, sadly, a few hundred thousand trees here and there isn’t going to do it. Neither is putting short-term economic development first, when what’s at stake is the long-term saliency of life on earth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *