Giving Voice to the Climate Crisis

Giving Voice to the Climate Crisis

Feature image: Rebuilding the sea wall in Kiribati 2021.

Many people, including producers of goods and numerous communities around the world are working towards sustainable environmental alternatives such as making a switch to alternate energy sources, agricultural adaption and waste management. However it is tiresome to hear still some placing blame on population growth in the developing world when the so-called developed world far outweighs their consumption and environmental emissions.  Australians are in the top five biggest emitters per person on the planet.

In Laudate Deum, a follow up to 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis exposes many of the obvious problems, symptoms and underlying causes that are recognised both within faith communities and more broadly, and draws attention to the necessity to address these issues.

This exhortation addresses six topics:

The Global Climate Crisis

Pope Francis outlines the necessity to act with some urgency.  With “The rise in sea level …. many populations will have to move their homes.” (#6) “What is being asked of us is nothing other than a certain responsibility for the legacy we will leave behind, once we pass from this world”(#18).

The Albanese government has just announced an agreement to make this possible for the people of  Tuvalu (formerly Ellis Islands).

A Growing Technocratic Paradigm

Environmental decay. “Deep down it consists in thinking as if reality, goodness truth automatically flows from technological and economic powers” (#14).  The attitude of unlimited growth as being the ultimate goal has been detrimental to so many other aspects of life. This takes us away from all that is provided in creation locking us into a conversation with technology rather than with other people and the outside world. “God has united us to all creatures. Nonetheless, the technocratic paradigm can isolate us from the world that surrounds us and deceive us by making us forget that the entire world is a “contact zone”. (#66{41})

Weakness of international politics

While initiatives are happening, there is a deficit in political and international commitment.  Elected leaders who reflect little further than the next election develop short-term rather than long-term policies. All governments and international authorities need to stand behind what they say and implement action from treaties and policies.

“It is no longer helpful for us to support institutions in order to preserve the rights of the more powerful, without caring for those of all”. (#43)

Climate Conferences: Progress and Failures

A landmark conference in Rio De Janeiro 1992 has led to the formation of COP (Conference of Parties). There has been a lot of talking between COP 1 (Germany 1992) and the soon to be held COP28 (Dubai 2023). Those people that were in the general community of believers in climate change and overcoming environmental degradation formally named as “hippies”, “greenies”, “activists” and general “misfits” saw this as a great cause for hope.

Despite 190 countries meeting regularly “international negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which placed their national interests above the global common good: (#33). Laudato Deum asks us to continue to Hope and Act.

Those like Palms and the Josephites who work in cross cultural relationships globally realise that unless national becomes international, where we work for the global common good, with mutual sharing, there will always be those who are poorer in their life experience due to others exploitation.

What to expect from COP 28 in Dubai?

COP27 held in Egypt led to an agreement on loss and damage , under which rich countries could compensate poor countries for damage caused by climate change. This requires more development and commitment at COP28.

“We must move beyond the mentality of appearing to be concerned but not having the courage needed to produce substantial changes” (#56)

Spiritual Motivations:

This papal letter has been released as we prepare for the consumerism and overspending of the Christmas and New Year season.  Any time spent in a shopping complex produces a sense of overwhelming paralysis in the face of all the decisions required. The letter provides a backdrop to the general complacency and requires individual acknowledgement decision and action as the catalyst for change.

“I cannot fail in this regard to remind the Catholic faith, of the motivations born of their faith. I encourage my brothers and sisters of other religions to do the same, since we know that authentic faith not only gives strength to the human heart, but also transforms life, transfigures our goals and sheds light on our relationship to others and with creation as a whole”. (#61)

Palms has always worked within this philosophy of individuals immersing themselves in cross cultural placements. While passing on knowledge has been important as a basis for empowering locals Palms participants are prepared for learning through mutual relationship of trust and understanding.  In my placement in the 1990’s I learnt of the destruction of tropical rainforests in PNG. This affected the physical location of some villages but also caused environmental damage due to erosion and road building.

The Josephite charism has an understanding of mutual relationship with the earth.  Founder, Julian Tenison Woods brought to attention issues in two areas which continue to be important today: forestry and fisheries. He tried to balance economic needs and the right of people to earn a just living, with the preservation of natural resources for continued biodiversity and for future generations to use, enjoy and learn from.

The Josephites have developed the LSAP (Laudato Si’ Action Plan) and RAP (Reconciliation Action Plan) in response to Laudato Si’ and currently Laudate Deum and arising action continues to be reviewed. The 2023 LSAP campaign has been on soft plastics. Discussions are currently underway as to the LSAP title for 2024 Urgent Action; Act in Hope; Hope-filled Action. A final decision will be made after consideration of COP28.  You are welcome to join us on our journey. It is important in the meantime that we see the hope that is so missing from the economic messaging that surrounds us. One source of hope that I experienced recently was the story of the hummingbirds. You can view Wangari Maathai telling this story.

By Bridgette Barret – Member of the LSAP committee and PALMS participant PNG 1993-94