Crisis Requires Creativity

Andreas Carlgren (Photo credit:

Andreas Carlgren, Swedish Minister for the Environment, in an interview with Philip Geister SJ

Q. Mr. Carlgren, did you ever calculate your personal carbon footprint?

A. Yes, I did that online. Since I live in the city centre and easily go to work by metro, and since I am not a big meat consumer, my result seems reasonable, namely, only 2.2 “Earths”. The average in Sweden is over three “Earths”.

Q. Many Catholic bishops question nuclear energy and believe that its use is irresponsible, since its risks are too high. How do you see this responsibility as a Christian?

A. There are to two important questions: How do we solve waste problem? And, since all energy sources have environmental impacts, which sources have the most catastrophic consequences and the least bad effects for upcoming generations? For my part, I concluded that fossil fuel usage is a threat at least as great as nuclear power, because it produces much carbon dioxide and burdens future generations. Therefore, I think we should extend the transition period for the use of nuclear power in Sweden.

Q. A group of researchers claim that the human influence on climate trends is marginal and cannot justify the substantial investments made in the worldwide climate policy. What’s your answer to the “climate sceptics”?

A. My answer to the sceptics, in general, is that if you have such doubts, then see this investment as a ‘risk premium’. Also, think about the benefits of what you are paying for: greater energy efficiency, wind power, less pollution. If, in future, we saw that the climate problem was not so great as we had believed (which I personally do not expect, quite the contrary), then we would gain by having paid the risk premium, because it would have produced significant additional benefits.

Q. In an article for the review Signum in 2008, you formulated a rather grim comparison. In the ecological crisis, you wrote, we are experiencing “something of humanity’s night of Gethsemani” – referring to the prayer of Jesus in agony and despair, on the one hand, and to God the Father’s silence on the other. Do you therefore think that the real crisis still lies in store for us?

A. I am convinced that humanity will solve these problems. But what we do not know is what crises we may need to go through in order to reach a solution. There are many positive forces that interact in the world, and ultimately humanity’s collective common sense will be so powerful that we can manage this. I have met many environment ministers. We come from very different parts of the globe, we live under completely different conditions. However, there is nevertheless a fundamental solidarity between us and a willingness to solve problems jointly. For the first time ever, perhaps, we might become truly one humanity. This is the grand perspective.

Andreas Carlgren, Swedish Centre Party, became member of the Swedish parliament in 1994. Since 2006, he has been minister for environment in Sweden. He is also a member of St Eugenia catholic parish in Stockholm.

This interview was first published in the Jesuit review Signum (5/2010) and has been shorted for EcoJesuit. See the full text version here.


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