October 25, 2014

John Couretas. Greek Patriarch: No Nukes

With the terrible human toll from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami catastrophe only now being comprehended, and the grave follow on crisis at the country’s nuclear power plants unfolding by the hour, the anti-nuclear power crowd has already begun issuing statements such as the one Greenpeace put out saying that “nuclear power cannot ever be safe.”

Predictably, reports Geoffrey Lean in the Telegraph, “battle lines” are being drawn:

On Saturday, some 50,000 anti-nuclear protesters formed a 27-mile human chain from Germany’s Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant to the city of Stuttgart to protest against its government’s plans to extend the life of the country’s reactors. Green politicians in pro-nuclear France urged an end to its dependence on the atom, and Ed Markey, a leading Democratic US Congressman, called for a moratorium on building new reactors in seismically active areas.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel, after holding a meeting of the German cabinet on the issue, reaffirmed her confidence in the safety of nuclear power. The leader of Silvio Berlusconi’s party said that Italy would stick with plans to build new reactors. And a spokesman for US Senator Lisa Murkowski said it would be “poor form for anyone to criticise the nuclear industry, or pronounce the end of nuclear power, because of a natural disaster that has been a national tragedy for the Japanese people”.

Poor form, indeed. Now we have an example of an unseemly statement on nuclear power at the worst possible time from a religious leader.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Orthodox hierarch based in Istanbul, Turkey, today called for nations to stop using nuclear power and to adopt “green” energy technologies:

… with regard to the explosion of the nuclear reactor and the aftermath of a nuclear adversity, there is indeed a response that we are called to make. With all due respect to the science and technology of nuclear energy and for the sake of the survival of the human race, we counter-propose the safer green forms of energy, which both moderately preserve our natural resources and mindfully serve our human needs.

Our Creator granted us the gifts of the sun, wind, water and ocean, all of which may safely and sufficiently provide energy. Ecologically-friendly science and technology has discovered ways and means of producing sustainable forms of energy for our ecosystem. Therefore, we ask: Why do we persist in adopting such dangerous sources of energy? Are we so arrogant as to compete with and exploit nature? Yet, we know that nature invariably seeks revenge.

This is magical thinking about very practical policy questions and complex technology overlaid with a spiritual gloss. The statement also attempts a clumsy preemption of what will be an inevitable and necessary policy review worldwide of nuclear power in the wake of the Japan disaster. But even as the dead are being pulled from the wreckage in Japan, we’re getting a finger-wagging lecture about Mother Nature seeking her revenge and the stupidity of our “dangerous” sources of power. Not for nothing is Bartholomew known as the Green Patriarch.

According to the Energy Information Administration, nuclear power will generate 17 percent of U.S. electricity needs by 2035. That’s down only slightly from the current 20 percent. If we shut down nuclear power, what will we replace it with? As Louie today pointed out in his post, the push for renewable or clean technologies has largely been driven by government incentives. Why isn’t the technology advancing more rapidly, despite the billions poured into these projects? What would be the economic consequences of shunning fossil fuels in favor of Bartholomew’s “sun, wind, water and ocean” driven technologies? (What would a tsunami do to wave power technology?). The EIA is projecting that coal will still provide 43 percent of U.S. electricity needs in 2035. Why is that?

The patriarch could be more effective if he stuck to principles of Christian stewardship of the environment and left the practical implications to those who have some expertise in these matters. Bartholomew has extended himself outside of his competency with this statement on Fukushima and nuclear power. He, or his advisors, should read the following words from Steven Hayward’s new AEI booklet Mere Environmentalism — A Biblical Perspective on Humans and the Natural World before crafting similar statements in the future.

There is a fine line between applying biblical faith to social conditions in the service of God’s purposes, and becoming an adjunct of current secular political and social trends. A spirit of discernment is the most needful thing when considering the intersection of Christian faith and social issues, lest Christian thought become reinterpreted and subsumed as a mere component of contemporary social idealism. Indeed, the allure of compelling secular perspectives on social issues, usually and confusingly derived from the Christian heritage of Western civilization, needs to be regarded as a classic form of temptation. Often there will be overlapping aspects of Christian and secular approaches to social issues. The primary task of a Christian thinker, therefore, is to focus on what is distinctive about a Christian approach to an issue.

Full text of the patriarch’s March 14 statement follows:

Message on the nuclear explosion at Fukushima

It is with burdened and painful heart that the entire world is witnessing the drama of the tragic earthquake, which over the last days has afflicted Japan and cost numerous lives of our brothers and sisters. Moreover, it is with much anguish and sorrow that we behold the related devastation in the Land of the Rising Sun as well as in other nations of the Pacific. Every corner of the planet is offering prayers both for the repose of the departed souls and for the support of those who continue to be grieved and imperiled by the ensuing seismic tremors and ferocious tsunami. Lamentably, yet another calamitous consequence has struck the region with the explosion of the nuclear plant at Fukushima, rendering still more frightening the recent nightmare in Japan.

The disastrous ramifications of this event will become more evident over the next days. Of course, with regard to the earthquake, no human response is adequate. The causes and results eclipse human words. Nevertheless, with regard to the explosion of the nuclear reactor and the aftermath of a nuclear adversity, there is indeed a response that we are called to make. With all due respect to the science and technology of nuclear energy and for the sake of the survival of the human race, we counter-propose the safer green forms of energy, which both moderately preserve our natural resources and mindfully serve our human needs.

Our Creator granted us the gifts of the sun, wind, water and ocean, all of which may safely and sufficiently provide energy. Ecologically-friendly science and technology has discovered ways and means of producing sustainable forms of energy for our ecosystem. Therefore, we ask: Why do we persist in adopting such dangerous sources of energy? Are we so arrogant as to compete with and exploit nature? Yet, we know that nature invariably seeks revenge.

From the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we raise fervent prayers for our beloved Japanese people for the trial and tribulation it currently faces, while at the same time passionately appeal to all those responsible for a reconsideration of the nuclear policy of nations throughout the world.

Comments

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Another case of ideology over faith. Power over love.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    With all due respect, HAH thinks the same rules apply to power generation as apply to appointment of bishops with no people (aka Metropolitan of Bursa) i.e. pretend there is no problem, and it disappears.

    Wrong on both counts…but at least they are consistent.

    Best Regards
    Dean

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    I wonder what prompts an Orthodox Patriarch to adopt such atheistic, neo-pagan nature-worship language, typically used by radical environmentalists:

    Are we so arrogant as to compete with and exploit nature? Yet, we know that nature invariably seeks revenge.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Great question Chris. Even a cursory reading of the Holy Scriptures and the Patristic texts would explode such language (or should). But, if I am not mistaken he was trained in a western dialectic approach to theology which is fundamentally dualistic deism. It is the downfall of a natual law approach to morals, ethics and theology. The understanding and experience of “God with us” is lost. The understanding articulated by St. John Chrysostom that: “God created everything not only for our use, but also that we, seeing the great wealth of His creations, might be astonished at the might of the Creator and might understand that all this was created with wisdom and unutterable goodness for the honor of man” or

      Psalm 103/104:

      1 Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty,
      2 Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.
      3 He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, Who makes the clouds His chariot, Who walks on the wings of the wind,
      4 Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.
      5 You who laid the foundations of the earth, So that it should not be moved forever,
      6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; The waters stood above the mountains.
      7 At Your rebuke they fled; At the voice of Your thunder they hastened away.
      8 They went up over the mountains; They went down into the valleys, To the place which You founded for them.
      9 You have set a boundary that they may not pass over, That they may not return to cover the earth.
      10 He sends the springs into the valleys; They flow among the hills.
      11 They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst.
      12 By them the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches.
      13 He waters the hills from His upper chambers; The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.
      14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the service of man, That he may bring forth food from the earth,
      15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man, Oil to make his face shine, And bread which strengthens man’s heart.
      16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap, The cedars of Lebanon which He planted,
      17 Where the birds make their nests; The stork has her home in the fir trees.
      18 The high hills are for the wild goats; The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers.[a]
      19 He appointed the moon for seasons; The sun knows its going down.
      20 You make darkness, and it is night, In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
      21 The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God.
      22 When the sun rises, they gather together And lie down in their dens.
      23 Man goes out to his work And to his labor until the evening.
      24 O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions—
      25 This great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things, Living things both small and great.
      26 There the ships sail about; There is that Leviathan Which You have made to play there.
      27 These all wait for You, That You may give them their food in due season.
      28 What You give them they gather in; You open Your hand, they are filled with good.
      29 You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
      30 You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.
      31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; May the LORD rejoice in His works.
      32 He looks on the earth, and it trembles; He touches the hills, and they smoke.
      33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
      34 May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the LORD.
      35 May sinners be consumed from the earth, And the wicked be no more.
      Bless the LORD, O my soul!
      Praise the LORD!

      The best part of Dn. Kuraev’s essary on evoloution described how the earth responds to God’s word without resistence. The EP’s approach is conditioned and informed by the mind of the world. It is a temptation to which we are all subject and none ever entirely escape. Man’s use of technology is a topic that needs profound discussion and a topic on which the Church has quite a bit to say, but not today and never in a context of GAIA. That is simply heretical.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    Revenge implies personality. Not sure he wants to go there.

    Church leadership should not take sides (in the name of the Church) in political questions unless there is a clear Orthodox position on a question which goes back to antiquity (abortion, for example). The rest is political commentary, not pastoral care. The death penalty, form of government (apart from opposition to totalitarianism, which is idolatry), environmentalism, global warming, social justice (in the modern sense of the term), etc. These are all outside the competency of the clergy. They can certainly have personal opinions on these issues. It’s just that these opinions have no religious “teeth” whatsoever since they are not addressed by Holy Tradition. Whatever they make up on these questions, even if they attempt to root it in Holy Tradition, is little more than a construct from wholecloth based on their political convictions.

    I’d be much more interested in their stock picks.

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    Andrew says:

    Lets say the Green Patriarch gets his wish and all nuclear power is eliminated thus reducing the supply of energy to be distributed throughout the world. Energy prices would no doubt skyrocket with a reduced supply. If my monthly energy bill goes fromo $150 per month to somwhere around $400 per month then the average household will have less discretionary income for things like Church stewardship pledges and parish donations. This means people will be giving less and the Church will have less to work with. I continue to be amazed that there are leaders who advocate policies that ultimately harm the ability of the people to financially support the Church. The Church does not have a limitless supply of money. Even in countries where the Church is state supported tax revenus can easily plummett while in countries like the USA giving can drop drastically under poor economic conditions.

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      Eliot Ryan says:

      The purpose Christ created His Church is for the salvation of souls. Can’t help the feeling that we are once again in the stage when Jesus admonished the Pharisees and Sadducees for turning people away from God and for worrying about “unclean food and hands” (or “clean technologies”) instead of their eternal salvation.
      “How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You don’t go in yourselves, and you don’t allow those who are trying to enter to go in. Matthew 23:13

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