- Link to the fuller Mongabay.com story is here.
You take your opportunities where you can get them. I have been in email contact with Marcus Wandinger (left, above), a member of the Holy See Delegation to COP 21, for two days. This morning, he put me in a position to meet the cardinal Pope Francis put in charge of researching and writing Laudato Si, On Care of Our Common Home, the widely influential papal encyclical on environmental protection. I managed to wrangle a 15-minute interview. It will factor into a larger story I will write for mongabay.com, but here’s an excerpt.
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana told me about how the Vatican and Catholic delegates have been fanning out around the world to educate bishops, seminaries and parish priests on the encyclical, and how to teach it to their followers. Asked where he is getting push back, he didn’t hesitate: “Your country, the United States.
“The U.S. has many places that are stubborn. When we talk about social responsibility, they think about Socialism. That’s unfortunate. This is about doing good work. The pope believes faith without works is worthless. We must we live it, and it must play out so that we can show others what we do. That’s how the Jesuits teach it. It’s not Communism or Socialism or anything like that. It is caring for our common home. But that’s a hard message to get across in some American parishes.”
I was a staff writer for the News & Record of Greensboro from April 1987 to April 1998 — 11 years. When I decided to take the job as executive editor of a new weekly newspaper in town, The Business Journal, I was asked to leave the paper immediately, even though I was prepared to give at least four weeks notice. Today, Nov. 29, 2015, I have my first byline in my old daily newspaper in 17 years. It’s a commentary on the UN climate summit in Paris, France, which I will cover for mongabay.com.
He may be beloved in his home region of Latin America. He may enjoy 82 percent approval ratings in Peru, where three out of four people are Catholic. But Pope Francis has some fierce critics. And Elena Conterno is one of them. As Glenn Scherer summed up at mongabay.com:
- Peru’s commercial fishing industry is sustainable, productive and well regulated, says Elena Conterno, but the illegal “artisanal” fleet of the poor is “growing too fast and unsustainable.”
- “Why blame business?” Conterno asks of the Pope’s encyclical, when “the public sector is really lagging,” failing to regulate the environment and the climate, and provide for the poor.
- “Who are the ones doing the most illegal activities? It’s the poor. Not the big companies,” she says. The Pope’s encyclical “is more than naïve. It lacks institutional analysis.”
A tense, compelling interview, start to finish with a the head of the Peru’s fishing industry,
I remember Manuel Pulgar-Vidal well from the UN Climate Summit in Lima in December 2014. He was seemingly everywhere, certainly at every press conference. He was friendly and accessible. I was offered to interview him the day COP20 opened, but declined; I could not get to Lima so soon.
In mid-July, 2015, through the high-level connections of Enrique Ortiz, my fixer and interpreter for two weeks in Puru, I got an hour with the minister. He had studied he encyclical and had a lot to say about it. He was less keen on discussing the Tia Maria copper mine in southern Peru. It was a great interview, linked here, and I’m glad mangabay.com chose to run this and two others.
Mongabay Edior Glenn Scherer’s summary:
Through the good fortune of meeting TV producer Luis Moray in Lima, I was able to spend the last morning of my reporting during my first of two trips to Peru last summer interviewing one of the country’s most influential businessmen — Roque Benavides, CEO of BueanaVentura Mining. He read the encyclical before our interview so he would be prepared. Mongabay.com, with expert editing by Glenn Scherer, published a series of three of my Q&A stories during the week of Pope Francis’ history visit to the United States in late September 2015. My first Q&A is here.
Glenn Scherer wrote as an intro to my interview:
- Roque Benavides makes no apologies for Peru’s extraction industry, noting that it employs tens of thousands, and gives much back to the communities in which it works.
- The CEO fears that the Pope’s encyclical is overly simplistic, putting too much of the blame for the environmental crisis on industry and business.
- He argues forcefully that government has failed in its role as environmental protector, and that the poor are more destructive to the environment than industry.
Emilia Catanoso took a series of amazing photographs. Her best of the entire two-week experience.
Every Pulitzer Center journalist must ensure that his or her work will be published or broadcast before a grant is considered. That’s the model. They pay expenses so that your work can fill the gaps of news organizations that want foreign reporting, but no longer have staff abroad. When my Pulitzer turn came around around again last spring, I called an editor I’ve long admired but never had the opportunity to work for: John Drescher of the New & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. After explaining my project, he readily agreed to take one of my stories. I was thrilled.
So on Sept. 20, 2015, I had my first page 1 story in a Sunday daily newspaper since I left the News & Record in Greensboro in May 1998. That’s a long time before Sunday fronts, but given that the N&O practically cleared page 1 for me and published all 1,900 words I wrote, plus several photos, it was worth the wait. It’s funny, but in buying papers in Chapel Hill, I felt the same thrill I did when I was a kid, seeing my first byline in print.
Emily McCord, the news director at WFDD, has had a huge interest in my climate change reporting since she joined the station a year ago last summer. I am grateful for that. Today, Sept. 21, 2015, she broadcasts my first radio report based on my Pope-and-Peru reporting.
I had the great pleasure to work with mongabay.com editor Glenn Scherer on this important story, that is as comprehensive as it is sad and vexing. As Glenn wrote in the subhead: “Big business and labor in one of the world’s most Catholic nations wrestle with the economic implications of Pope Francis’ revolutionary encyclical on the environment.”
The link to the story is here.
I met Robert Mickens in Rome in May through my good friend, Rome-based freelance journalist Eric J. Lyman. Mickens happens to be a leading expert on the Vatican and the guy who explained how I could get credentials to cover the release of the papal encyclical.
He was also interested in my reporting from Peru, and published my second story that focuses on three Peruvian priests in three parts of the country with three different perspectives on the environmental document. Mickens is the editor of GlobalPulseMagazine.com, which covers the Vatican and all things Catholic. The link to the story is here.