stock tip? con game?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jul 13, 2007

Easily the oddest story coming out of Rome this week is the news that the Vatican has become the world's first "carbon-neutral" state, by planting enough trees in a Hungarian forest to offset the Vatican's CO2 emissions. The announcement was made jointly by Planktos, a for-profit environmental firm, and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

And if you're now wondering why the Pontifical Council for Culture is handling questions about CO2 emissions, you're beginning to share our bewilderment.

The American Papist blog had a long and thoughtful piece on this story, asking the right questions. Notice that I don't say the Papist asked all the right questions, because there are so many questions that could be asked. Still, I'll confine myself to just one:

Cui bono?

It's obvious what Planktos gets out of this deal: A whole lot of publicity. Two days ago I hadn't heard of Planktos. Now I have, and so have you. The firm hopes that you and I will buy our own plots in the Hungarian forest, so that we too can be carbon-neutral. Now they can show us a quote from Cardinal Poupard, implicitly endorsing the idea. It's not often that a Prince of the Church plugs a commercial product.

But what does the Vatican get? Yes, Planktos made an in-kind contribution; the Vatican won't actually pay for those trees planted in Hungary. That's nice, certainly. But it's fairly standard policy in the advertising biz. When you see the star quarterback in a TV spot endorsing a local automobile dealership, you can be reasonably sure he didn't pay the list price for his new SUV. And in this case the Vatican doesn't have anything as tangible as an SUV: just a piece of paper attesting to its sponsorship for a tract of forest land. Which is... well, it's nice. But it still leaves you wondering why the Vatican-- why the Pontifical Council for Culture-- would think it's enough to justify a commercial plug.

Our friend the American Papist is rightly troubled by this line in the press release:

Planktos/KlimaFa has further committed to work with the Vatican and the Pontifical Council of Culture to develop methods to calculate the CO2 emissions of individual Catholic churches and offer ecorestoration options to turn their carbon footprints green.

You can almost imagine the Planktos salesman's line, approaching, say, the head of a Mexican diocese: "Gee, Bishop Nació Ayer, the Vatican wanted to be carbon-neutral. I just thought you'd make it a high priority for your diocese, too."

And just by the way, what sort of help does Planktos expect from the Vatican in determining the CO2 emissions at your parish? Ordinarily you wouldn't expect to find that sort of expertise in the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Enough. Just thinking about the whole thing makes me hot under the collar-- thereby contributing to global warming. I'm going to run out and plant a tree. But for the foreseeable future, whenever you mention the Pontifical Council for Culture, I'm going to think about that forest in Hungary, and how fast the trees are being planted there.

Yessir, you could almost say there's one born every minute.

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  • Posted by: - Jul. 16, 2007 9:36 AM ET USA

    Pat Buchanan made an interesting observation on how people shape their beliefs along party lines. "Mention environmentalism and a red-flag goes off in his head: Environmentalism is a liberal cause so it is bad!" I am not commenting on this story and the deal that was made. This is regarding people who react at the mention of global warming and envrionmentalism. Today's conservatives more resemble 19th century liberals who promoted the industrial revolution.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 15, 2007 2:03 PM ET USA

    It makes me want to throw up. So absurd. Scientific American, Feb 07, maintains a new discovery that plants produce very significant amounts of methane. "One kilo of methane warms the earth 23 times more than a kilo of CO2". I think the Vatican ought to back out of this before they make a huge fool of themselves. The contribution of natural sources will have to be vastly revised. NRG production as a source seems to fade appreciably.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 15, 2007 12:01 AM ET USA

    khall, thanks for the website. The study showed a large decrease in male fish (from nearly equal numbers of male and female to almost 8 times as many females) when the estrogen was present in the water. It would be interesting to study the effect on human beings and whether there is a correlation with the increase in men claiming innate homosexual tendencies or bisexual men and women.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 14, 2007 8:50 PM ET USA

    they better be careful or 500 years from now the Pope will have to apologize for another "Galileo Affair" . . . except this time it might be "The gaia Affair."

  • Posted by: - Jul. 14, 2007 2:55 PM ET USA

    We already know that the USCCB is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party. But the Vatican?

  • Posted by: - Jul. 14, 2007 2:17 AM ET USA

    A total and absolute crock. The words "laughing stock" come to mind.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 13, 2007 11:00 PM ET USA

    I can relate to Mike and his nun. There was a meeting of several orders of nuns here several years ago, a kind of annual Nun Convention. What was the topic? Attracting new vocations? More consistent committment to Jesus? Holier lives? Better worship? No, no, no, and no! It was the environment and global warming! Of course it was sold as "stewrdship of God's Creation." But in this time of declining morals, paucity of vocations, abortion, and decline of family life, they discuss trees!

  • Posted by: - Jul. 13, 2007 9:24 PM ET USA

    You think that is bad? Today I received a letter from my insurance co. announcing a steep increase of the price of the house insurance policy due to – you guest it – global warming.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 13, 2007 7:09 PM ET USA

    I tend to be in favor of Kyoto myself, but this publicity stunt by the Pontifical Council of Culture is ridiculous, if not downright punishable. That being said, for the anti-Kyoto freaks who added comments here, see: "Global Warming, And Frozen Christian Brains"

  • Posted by: - Jul. 13, 2007 5:44 PM ET USA

    The scientist in me reminds the reader that this carbon-neutral business depends on the right answers to 1) is the globe warming? (yes, slowly) 2) is it a bad thing? (maybe, but most likely not) 3) is it the fault of humans? (uncertain) 4) is there anything humans can do to stop it? (probably not) Global warming is a scam to redirect tax dollars to research and green projects.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 13, 2007 5:29 PM ET USA

    I wonder if the Pontifical Council for Culture plans to address the issue of birth control water pollution: Now that they are carbon-neutral, surely the Vatican has the environmental moral authority to speak out about an issue that actually has a Catholic angle and, in fact, supports the Church's teaching. Given the current trends, what could a better Catholic message than "birth control is environmentally evil?"

  • Posted by: - Jul. 13, 2007 5:14 PM ET USA

    One of the great lessons of two millennia of the Church, and of the preceding several millennia of Israel was patience. One might hope that as nice as trees are (and I plant them as well), the Vatican might want to let the whole issue of global warming-cooling-climate change get a bit more ironed out beyond the yelps of partisan pro-change fanatics and corporate hucksters before endorsing these schemes. It seems that the "spirit" of VC II thrives...but where better than with Cardinal Poupard?

  • Posted by: - Jul. 13, 2007 4:59 PM ET USA

    There's a nun in our diocese ranting about the pending doom caused by global warming. She instructs us to jump on the band-wagon of Al Gore and the other elites. She will grab on to this story, for sure......and will spin it to say the Holy See is endorsing Al Gore and all that he is jamming down our throats. This is all the feul she needs to push harder, and distract even more, the faithful with such folly. All the while, millions of babies are exterminated in the womb. Social justice???

  • Posted by: - Jul. 13, 2007 4:48 PM ET USA

    and for your penance... absolvo te OR te absolvo?