Father Ray Blake raises an interesting question on his blog about why CAFOD has objected to the prospect of a new London airport in the Thames Estuary; whatever is the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development doing commenting on a development in Britain, regardless of the ecological damage such a development might cause? CAFOD's mandate, after all, concerns overseas development.
All told, he feels this objection goes beyond CAFOD's mandate, and raises the question of whether this is simply another instance of CAFOD alligning itself with left-wing politics in general.
On the face of it, this seems a reasonable question, but I'm not sure it's a fair one. Leaving aside how I can't see that opposition to this development could in any way detract from any of CAFOD's more obvious and immediate projects, such that it surely does CAFOD's objectives no harm, it's striking that in objecting to the 'Boris Island' project, CAFOD, Christian Aid, and others specifically said:
'A new hub airport in the Thames Estuary would be a disaster for the environment, and, as a result, for people and wildlife in this country and globally. [...] Aviation is already responsible for more than a fifth of the UK transport sector's greenhouse gas emissions, and an airport accommodating 180 million passengers each year, as proposed by Boris Johnson, would be much larger than any airport in operation in the world today. Such a scheme would effectively be the death knell for the Government's promise to be the greenest ever, and would undermine its ability to show international climate leadership. That's why we will be opposing it every step of the way'
In other words, CAFOD is adamant that isn't merely a local or national issue; it seems to be taking the view that the planned development would be detrimental to the environment in a global sense, in that traffic through the airport would itself contribute in no small way to greenhouse gas emissions, and perhaps more importantly in that it would undermine Britain's credibility as a leading voice in international campaigns to care for the world we live in.
And is this a Catholic concern? I'd think so, yes. After all, if we look at the Pope's 'State of the World' address to the Vatican's Diplomatic Corps, as discussed here a couple of weeks back, you'll see how he drew his speech to a close by speaking of our need to care for our world, stressing a fundamental link between our duty to care for our world and our duty to care for each other.
'Finally I would stress that education, correctly understood, cannot fail to foster respect for creation. We cannot disregard the grave natural calamities which in 2011 affected various regions of South-East Asia, or ecological disasters like that of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Environmental protection and the connection between fighting poverty and fighting climate change are important areas for the promotion of integral human development. For this reason, I hope that, pursuant to the XVII session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change recently concluded in Durban, the international community will prepare for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio + 20”) as an authentic “family of nations” and thus with a great sense of solidarity and responsibility towards present and future generations.'
That seems pretty clear: 'environmental protection and the connection between fighting poverty and fighting climate change are important areas for the promotion of integral human development.' If the proposed 'Boris Island' development would indeed harm the environment and Britain's ability to show real leadership on climate change, then it would undermine the Church's intrinsically connected campaigns to fight against climate change and poverty.
I don't think this is just about left-wing sympathies. It looks to me that it's about loyalty to the teachings of the Church.