Mercy and Justice for the Environmental Migrants
Father Shay Cullen SSC
As we look back on the Paris conference on climate change, we too must
look upon the millions being affected by the great injustice that the
people of poor nations suffer. Mercy and compassion and environmental
justice is what they need and deserve. There is a new positive spirit of
cooperation, tolerance and forgiveness following the conference as deals
to cut back on greenhouse gases and emissions of CO2 are agreed.
Compensation and justice for the poor has been agreed too but perhaps
not enough and no guarantee that it will be implemented. These are the
great values and virtues Pope Francis is practicing and promoting as he
opens the doors to a jubilee year of mercy.
The world needs to get away from the hate speech, discrimination and
rejection of the poor and instead nations must reach out and share the
bounty of the planet with all others for a life of dignity and justice.
The Paris agreement is a breakthrough in important aspects and giving
justice to the poor developing countries who suffer most from global
warming is a priority. They have the least responsibility to global
warming and yet they endure the worst effects. Small nations are being
covered with the rising oceans. It is right and just that they be
compensated by the rich nations.
They have not caused the climate crisis. It is the rich and powerful
economies that are polluting the planet and the Paris conference dubbed
COP21 has recognized that.
Those countries that are genuinely honest in promising to give financial
help to the poorer nations to mitigate the effects of climate change are
to be praised and held to the commitment. It is the poor who always
suffer for the self-serving actions of the rich. The poorest of the poor
nations will still feel the effect of climate change, rising water
levels as the ice caps melt and more and more people will loose their
homes and lands and migration starts.
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.
When the world needs to accept and support the needy and the hungry, we
see the presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for a total ban on
all Muslims migrating to the United States of America.
This is an exclusion policy and racist attitude that is deplorable and
worthy of contempt. Many nations have been built on the skills and hard
work of migrants. Now we will see climate migrants coming to the
developed countries as a result of global warming caused by these rich
nations. The powerful economies have caused the global warming, the
storms and droughts and rising oceans levels and the poor are suffering
the results. Now the migrants are unstoppable, the rich will reap what
they have sown, as the saying goes.
If the Paris conference has any positive effect, it will be to compel
the rich to give aid to the poor countries. 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.
Millions of poor people are driven to poverty and despair by the loss of
crops and homes. They need all the help we can give. This is where
global justice is urgently needed. We cannot turn away with a cold
heart. Compassion and care is what Jesus of Nazareth brought into the
world and the good Samaritan that heals and helps the traveler and the
wounded is what mercy and compassion in life is all about.
The Christmas story is about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth into a life
of dire poverty. Not to be overlooked is the fact that soon after his
birth, the massacres of the innocent children by the despot king Herod
caused his parents to flee into exile as migrants in Egypt. Had they not
found refuge there, they could have been killed. Today we have massacres
every week in the Middle East and that accounts for mass migration, too.
The hungry and the poor travel under great hardship to the North away
from war and famine and climate disasters. They need their rights to be
respected. They need a home, shelter, protection and a change to start
life again having lost all. This is where people of all faiths are
tested as decent humans and good.
They are victims of wars that start by the greed for fossil fuels. Oil
and gas resources are still the most fought over in the Middle East. The
fossil fuels destroy the climate and the environment and the wars
destroy entire nations. So to close, the words of Pope Francis are the
“And also the deterioration of the environment and of society affects
the most vulnerable people on the planet. Today, a true ecological
approach always becomes a social approach. It must integrate questions
of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of
the earth and the cry of the poor. Greater attention must be given to
the needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in debates often
dominated by the powerful and by more powerful interests [cf. Encyclical
Letter Laudato Si, 24th May 2015, n° 48, n°49, n°52]