Friday, 21 March 2008

Pure, unadulterated genius!

My compliment to the person who chose such a simply brave but meaningful and short title for a major Roman Catholic conference in Manchester. "LIVESIMPLY!" was the title to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the papal encyclical 'Populorum Progressio' (On the Development of Peoples).

The challenge to livesimply "is this generation's response to the document and the values it embodied", according to the event booklet. That 1967 document commands: - sharing the earth's resources with all; there is more to progress than economic growth; free trade can only work well between two equal partners; justice and the removal of the over-rich and the over-poor must be the basis of peace with justice; a duty to be of service to all, especially generations to come; dialogue between the wealthy and those in need; and, education to feed the mind.

This conference summarised the document for today as live simply, live sustainably and live in solidarity with the poor. For me, living simply is the perfect summary for living sustainably and, for standing alongside the poor. To live simply, you have to live sustainability and in solidarity with the poor. 'Sustainable' is now hopelessly overused with the word, but not the deed, being incorporated into so much. We now have sustainable development instead of economic development. It has long been hijacked by the concrete, brick and tarmac brigade of expansion come what may. Yet, this kind of sustainability is no way like the Green Party's unique 'Manifesto for a Sustainable Society' that is a blueprint for making human life - and all life - last indefinitely on earth.

It was the best conference I have ever been to with the most outstanding speakers, first rate drama and children signing reflections. Throughout, excellent organisation and timekeeping, too. However, where were the clergy? Few were in evidence in this 600 strong gathering of only the laity! Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor really should have been there. The Rt Rev Vincent Nichols was.

Livesimply means simply smaller - smaller families, smaller cars, smaller homes. However, the Catholic emphasis on the sanctity of life and the outlawing of even abortion brought within the law, and contraception, does make me think that
that sanctity is jeopardising all life on earth as we relentlessly press on with more wanted babies and more unwanted babies. And the babies of us lot - the over-rich - are living ever longer to have an increasing impact on climate change, peak oil and resource depletion, with their attendant famines, floods and droughts. Our babies are more of a problem than the teeming billions in the poor South. Yet, it is their population growth that worries us; not our own smaller growth in the UK that has a much bigger impact on deteriorating life support systems! Hypocritical? I think so.