Sunday, July 5, 2015

#186 / On And Off

Not long ago I took a little bit of a shot at New York Times' columnist Thomas L. Friedman. I was commenting on a column by the Times' food writer, Mark Bittman, and I referenced a brief note that appeared at the foot of Bittman's column. The note said, "Thomas L. Friedman is off today." My observation was that "Thomas L. Friedman is 'off' most days!"

Well, on June 23, 2015, I happened to read a column by David Brooks, another one of the Times' regular columnists. In this case, there was a little note at the bottom of Brooks' column that said, "Joe Nocera is off today." Maybe Joe was "off," but so was David Brooks. At least that is my opinion.

In case there is any uncertainty about who David Brooks is, the picture to the left side, above, is a picture of Pope Francis, not a picture of David Brooks. On the right side is a picture of Brooks in front of a stained glass window with many Christian references, apparently including a depiction of the Last Supper. Shortly after that get together, if you remember your Bible, one of Jesus' disciples betrayed him. The religious background for the Brooks' photograph seems relevant to me, since the column I am talking about was an effort by Brooks to discredit Pope Francis, and specifically to discredit his recently-issued Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si', "On Care For Our Common Home."

After first praising the Pope as "one of the world’s most inspiring figures," Brooks goes on to attack the Pope and his Encyclical Letter, above all because the Pope was "relentlessly negative when describing institutions in which people compete for political power or economic gain." 

And here is the real kicker in the column: Brooks' argument against the Pope is cemented by the fact that the Pope objects to "fracking."

Yep, according to Brooks, fracking has "produced some of the most important economic and environmental gains." And Brooks believes that there is "no evidence that fracking [is] causing widespread harm to the nation’s water supply. On the contrary, there’s ... evidence that fracking is a net environmental plus." Bottom line? According to Brooks, "fracking has ... been an enormous boon to the nation’s wealth and the well-being of its people."

So, going back to the beginning, the Pope is rather (even relentlessly) "negative" about efforts basically intended to produce "economic gain," as fracking has done (at least according to Brooks). 

Brooks seems to have missed the Pope's main point: human efforts aimed at producing "economic gain" are terribly wrong, if that economic gain is based upon the destruction of the Natural World, our "Common Home." 

Contrary to what Brooks says, "fracking" does pose a danger to scarce water supplies, and has other massively negative environmental impacts, the most notable one being that it perpetuates and extends the burning of hydrocarbon fuels, which is the mechanism mainly causing the global warming that is on track to wreak incredible environmental and economic damage on a global basis.

David Brooks versus the Pope? I'm sticking with Francis. 

If I had been putting the paper together, I would have sacrificed the reference to Joe Nocera and told the truth. The following advisory (and in bold type would have been good) should have appeared at the bottom of Brooks' June 25th column: 

David Brooks is off today!

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