...And Then He Got Fired

Two Christian religious leaders combined yesterday to warn that time was running out for the life of the planet.

Pope Benedict XVI was supporting the "green" Patriarch Bartholomew 1, leader of 300 million of the world's orthodox Christians at the opening of the eighth Religion, Science and Environment Symposium in New Orleans. The symposium is concentrating on the fate of the Mississippi and its delta.

The Patriarch was most direct: "We have expanded our dominion over nature to the point where absolute limits to our survival are being reached."

"We are consuming environmental capital and destroying its sources as if there is no tomorrow."

The Pope delivered his message via the Archbishop of New Orleans, Gregory Aymond. He said, "Concern for the fate of the great rivers of our earth must lead us to reflect soberly on the model of development which our society is pursuing."

The solution to the ecological crisis of our time necessarily calls for a change of heart on the part of our contemporaries.

The idea of gathering scientists, theologians and ecologists together in a symposium ahead of the climate talks in Copenhagen in three weeks is to urge politicians to act before it is too late.

Both leaders think the Mississippi and its delta with its crippling environmental issues are a clear example of the problems facing the planet. The world's richest nation, with its development of the gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploitation and navigation channels for shipping, is at the same time destroying the delta that protects the coast and the city of New Orleans from sinking and being overwhelmed by the sea.

So while it would seem superficially that everyone is on the same side, that is saving the delta and its environment, there are some powerful conflicting interests.

Journalists from Europe got a taste of this when they were shown around the city by Professor Ivor van Heerden. He is an expert on hurricanes and spent 18 years at Louisiana State University. He warned of the vulnerability of New Orleans to hurricanes before Katrina struck. He was appointed head of the state investigation into the disaster afterwards and pointed to the many failures in the levee system and the construction of canals for navigation as the principle causes. In other words it was a man-made not a natural disaster.

He also took part in a court case aimed at getting compensation for the victims, who without help will never be able to return to the city and rebuild their homes. A decision on the causes of the disaster and compensation for the victims is imminent.

Professor Heerden, shrugs his shoulders when asked why, having first being proved right about the coming disaster and then correctly analysing the causes, the university terminated his contract.

I guess there are some big players out there who do not like uncomfortable truths and the university felt unable to support me.

The struggle to give New Orleans a viable future clearly still has a long way to run.