The Last Chance to Save our Planet
Fr. Shay Cullen, mssc
2 December 2015
They call the great climate conference in Paris the last chance to save the world from catastrophic rises in global temperatures and the negative consequences that it will bring. The conditions that sustain life on the planet will be so changed as temperatures rise that life, as we know it now, will be very different for the next generation of children and grandchildren. It will not be for the better but for the worst.
These consequences we cannot foresee exactly but the scientists can. There are hard truths and scientific facts that are not going to disappear because we refuse to acknowledge and believe them. Much of the developed nations, the richest and wealthiest, have become that way because of industry, manufacturing and trade. That has been made possible with the power of electricity and transportation. The continuous burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas has made that possible.
This growth in prosperity has given the industrialized nations weapons of hideous destructive power and with these the rich have easily conquered the poor. The northern empires dominate the south albeit not as crudely as before with standing armies of occupation (except for Iraq perhaps). Nowadays it is control by economic and political networks. The governments of many a poor nation have been set up as puppets by the rich and they help the rich to exploit their own nation’s natural resources and their people.
There, in a few sentences is the history of the world.
This has been the hottest year for the world on record. In the Philippines the ocean currents changed and caused gigantic typhoons like Yolanda (Haiyan). Now we face pending drought that will cause less water for irrigation and lower crop yields. In Africa where almost the entire continent depends on rainfall to produce crops for daily meals, the terrible images of emaciated children and mothers with skeletal bodies dying by the thousands in a man-made famine is too horrific to think about. We will need hundreds of thousands of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for emergency meals to save the severely malnourished children.
Famine will surely happen again in Africa if the global temperatures rise above 1.5 degrees centigrade. The trend is almost unstoppable and unless there are drastic cuts in the burning of fossil fuels and the emissions of the greenhouse gasses the worst may be inevitable. The planet will reach a tipping point at 2 degrees centigrade where the trend can’t be reversed. Anyone who ever left a cake in the oven for too long knows what is going to happen.
The ice of North and South poles is melting faster and faster and the level of the oceans is rising rapidly. Several South Pacific islands are soon to be inundated and will have to be evacuated. In the rich nations, it will be goodbye to beachfront properties and ocean-side villas. A watery grave awaits them all. The rich can relocate, the poor can’t. They will suffer the most as always and they are not responsible for any of this murky climate mayhem.
The poor nations don’t burn fossil fuel like the rich nations of the north and now China and India are among the worst polluters on the planet. As I write, Beijing is covered in a dark cloud of toxic smog. It is choking on its own emissions. It’s the industrialized nations who have caused the greenhouse gasses, cut the rain forests and dirtied the earth and have been arrogantly unrepentant. Hopefully, the Paris COP21 as it is called, will change that suffocating attitude as 159 heads of state either confess and repent as wrongdoers or claim to be victims and demand climate justice and compensation for the terrible damage being done to them.
The indigenous leader from New Zealand at the conference was skeptical that there will be real change. Corporations more powerful than many nations control the world economy, not governments. She told the delegates, “If our leaders were really committed to ending the climate crisis, they will put more pressure on corporations to stop oil drilling, to stop coal mining, to stop making emissions.”
Here are some sobering facts to think about. Indigenous peoples, who own, occupy or manage about 65 percent of the world’s land surface “have been largely excluded” from national climate change mitigation and adaptation plans, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
There are at least 370 million indigenous peoples in 90 countries, comprising 5 percent of the global population and 15 percent of the world’s poor, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous People’s Issues reported.
“This injustice calls for a commitment by the international community to compensate for the historical, social, and ecological debt we are suffering,” the indigenous participants demanded.
They want to get a clause into the global agreement declaration that would include that all nations who sign it will ‘respect, protect, promote, and fulfill human rights, including the rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Since these people inhabit most of the earth that is being destroyed by global corporations there is strong resistance to their compensation claims.
As Francis said: “The future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction, this process of change. I am with you. Each of us, let’s repeat from the heart: no family without lodging, no rural worker without land, no laborer without rights, no people without sovereignty, no individual without dignity, no child without childhood, no young person without a future, no elderly person without a venerable old age. Keep up your struggle and please, take great care of Mother Earth. Believe me, I am sincere when I say from the heart that I pray for you and with you.”