Rubén Martínez in the LA Review of Books:
HEYBELIADA, Turkey: On the eve of the release of Pope Francis’s historic encyclical on climate change, I sat in a conference room with windows that offered a view across the Sea of Marmara toward the skyscrapers, mosques, and ancient Christian churches of Istanbul, fabled crossroads between East and West, or, if you prefer, between the developed world and the “global south.” It was a fitting site for the Halki Summit II called by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, who has long been known as the “green patriarch” for his commitment to environmentalism. Among the few dozen delegates were theologians, environmentalists, and artists of various disciplines, the majority hailing from Great Britain and the United States (the conference was co-sponsored by Southern New Hampshire University), with a sprinkling from other continents. Our charge? To cultivate a connection between, as the summit’s subtitle put it, “Theology, Ecology, and the Word” in the context of the fight against climate change.
One would expect that a gathering convened by an august personality such as the patriarch would hold to punctilious form. It did, for a while. And then the two keynoting Terrys — American naturalist and feminist author Terry Tempest Williams and everyone’s favorite British Marxist literary critic Terry Eagleton — took center stage in consecutive addresses that revealed a deep divide in a gathering where everyone was nominally on the same ideological team. The fissures, of language and culture, of experience and discipline, highlighted the challenges in bringing not just a few conferees into some semblance of order, but of reeling in disparate actors on a global stage into a cohesive movement that joins (as Francis’s Laudato Si’ does) moral, scientific, political, and even aesthetic authority.