Maria Steen and climate justice


A chara, – Maria Steen opines that the “climate justice” movement has become a “pagan” cult (Opinion & Analysis, September 28th). She decries a regrettable nature worship which “values the Earth and nature as ends in themselves”, ignores the Creator and cares more for the planet than for human life. Ms Steen identifies a good example of that extreme in Bernie Saunders citing US abortion availability as an important means of averting “climate catastrophe” through overpopulation.

In this context Ms Steen expressed disappointment at the Catholic Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace for issuing a press statement in support of those on the climate justice strike. On September 20th last, young Irish people took to the streets to call on our government to take action. This marvellous lead by young people is managing to awaken many adults from our complacency. We expressed solidarity with them because there is an absolute spiritual imperative for Catholics to be at the heart of the movement for action on climate change.

Our initiative was to remind Catholics that Pope Francis gives an utterly compelling rationale for change in Laudato Si, his 2015 encyclical on care for our common home: “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change . . . A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.”

As Catholics, we judge some of our contemporaries to be seriously misguided on very important matters, not least the sanctity of all human life and we have a duty to say so. At the same time, our contemporaries have some great ideals and do many things well. Catholic social teaching demands that we work alongside all women and men of good will in the work of justice and peace. Our duty as Christians is not to stand aside wringing our hands at their shortcomings; we don’t like it when they wring their hands at ours.

Our duty – particularly in the light of the climate emergency – is to commit ourselves with all people of good will and show them by our witness that there is no more compelling reason to “save the planet” than reverence for the Creator and the love of Jesus for the poor who will suffer most cruelly of all if we do nothing. – Is mise,

Bishop ALAN


Chair of the Council

of Justice and Peace,

Irish Catholic Bishops’


Columba Centre,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – It was interesting that of the 10 letters (October 1st) you printed which attacked Maria Steen’s provocative column, none of them sought to challenge her main assertion, namely that climate change campaigners are increasingly willing to advocate extreme policies to protect the environment, even if these measures come at the cost of human lives. Could this be because your correspondents hear a ring of truth in it?

Discussions on this issue are now regularly laden with a subtext that the world’s population is increasing exponentially, that this is contributing to the climate problem, and that as a result we should feel guilty about our own existence or our decisions to reproduce.

Ms Steen referenced the recent comments by Bernie Sanders, suggesting that one way to “curb population growth” was “especially in poor countries around the world . . . to allow women to have abortions”. She could also have pointed to recent comments by Prince Harry, who said that he and his wife will have no more than two children due to their concerns about world overpopulation, saying, “we are the frog in the water and it’s already been brought to the boil”.

At best, these views are badly misinformed. At worst, they are deliberately designed to whip up hysteria in order to scare voters into supporting extreme policies.

Darrell Bricker, the current global chief executive of Ipsos Public Affairs, recently published comprehensive research into population projections produced by the United Nations. Far from showing exponential population growth, he and his co-author show that world population will in fact peak at nine billion in 2050, but go into a steep decline thereafter, in all likelihood returning to present-day levels by the end of this century.

Freely available UN statistics show that, as things stand, low birth rates are causing the populations of twelve countries in the world to fall, including Japan, Spain, Italy and swathes of eastern Europe. By 2050, the UN forecasts that 36 countries will be experiencing population decline.

China’s disastrous “one child” policy has been abandoned, as the government there has realised that it will soon bring their society to the brink of a demographic cliff, with their population set to peak in the next 40 years and decline sharply thereafter. And birth rates in India and all sub-Saharan African countries – without exception – are falling rapidly, albeit from a much higher base (and that’s before these countries are introduced to the “compassion” of abortion by a future President Sanders).

Climate change activists love to talk about “science” and “facts”. So why are these cold hard statistical facts ignored, in favour of narrative which parrots a doomsday future of an Earth so overcrowded by an ever-increasing human population that it becomes uninhabitable?

On the back of this narrative, they encourage us all to have fewer children, and promote extreme economic measures, such as the virtual shuttering of heavy industries, which will make the lives of poorer people in developing countries shorter and more difficult, while rich people in western countries can afford to ride out the storm.

“Climate justice” indeed. – Yours, etc,


Harolds Cross,

Dublin 6W.