Why do Catholics need to act on the Climate crisis?
The roots of Catholicism have stressed on our interconnectedness and interdependence between the rest of creation. We see nature as a bountiful gift given to us by God and as human beings we are granted stewardship to protect his creation. Unlike other animals we have a conscience and the ability to discern our actions.
The Earth belongs to the smallest fungi, the soaring sparrow , the buzzing bees and the wildest beast. They have an equal right to thrive, grow and multiply. They own the forest as much as we do. The Earth belongs to tribal and indigenous communities who have lived for generations preserving their native land .
The mission of the catholic church has always been to serve the poor and create equitable opportunities for all. Natural disasters in the form of wildfires , floods , and hurricanes have the most damaging impact on the financially disadvantaged, destroying their homes and livelihoods. Due to lack of affordability, the poor live in informal settlements like slums and are thereby exposed to greater levels of pollutants. We cannot talk about equity without addressing the basic needs of the vulnerable like access to a clean environment and a space to grow.
Our well being depends on the quality of our environment. Access to a clean, pollution free environment has to be at the forefront of our struggle to achieve equity. We have a Pope who has understood this idea well and is doing his best to take it forward through dialogue. An event on ‘Faith and Science’ towards COP26 was held in the Vatican on Oct 5th which brought together scientists and religious leaders from across the world. During the meeting, an Appeal was signed, addressed to the participants of COP26.
In the address Pope Francis said, ‘We plead with the international community, gathered at COP26, to take speedy, responsible and shared action to safeguard, restore and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship. We appeal to everyone on this planet to join us on this common journey, knowing well that what we can achieve depends not only on opportunities and resources, but also on hope, courage, solidarity and good will.’
The core problem of the climate crisis lies in the hands of the fossil fuel industry which is financed by banks. Investing in these industries helps them to expand further.5 days before COP26 in Glasgow 72 faith institutions from six continents announced their commitment to divest from fossil fuels. This announcement can be seen as a starting point for change.
The Laudato Si’ Action Platform launched by the Vatican Dicastery for promoting Integral Human Development is an invitation to catholic institutions to protect our common home by creating a plan and implementing it through a 7 year journey. If all catholic institutions participated in the journey we can make a significant contribution in reducing our carbon footprint.
The Catholic church has survived for more than 20 centuries and continues to grow. The History of the church is filled with events and actions that have disrupted many systems and brought about a lasting change. With its wide reach and prevalence in different sectors like hospitals, old age homes, schools, Parishes, universities it has the potential to break the chains of the climate crisis. There is still hope and we must carry forward the mission of bringing about change.