Human Rights for the Victims of Climate Change

Human Rights for the Victims of Climate Change
Father Shay Cullen SSC

The anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last 10 December reminds us that migrants fleeing war and the bad economic effects of climate change have rights that must be respected. The growing intolerance towards these unfortunate people is detestable and must be contested and denounced. The US presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States. This is racist and bigotry of the worst kind.

We have to support the rights of migrants and victims of climate change and war. The Christmas story celebrates the coming of Jesus of Nazareth who gave human rights and dignity to the world especially to women and children. Jesus and his parents were migrants fleeing the massacres of King Herod. If Egypt had closed its borders, the holy family might have been killed.

Compensation and justice for the poor has been agreed too at the Paris 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. Last week, Pope Francis joined a soup kitchen and ate with the poor on the streets.

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. We too must do our share and give to the needy like helping the abused children we rescue and help at the Preda Foundation through the Columban Missionary Society.

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. We need a new positive spirit of cooperation, tolerance forgiveness.

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 in causing global warming and yet they endure the worst effects. Small nations in the Pacific 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.

The massive oil and coal-producing and using countries are blocking the adoption of stringent capping of emission levels of greenhouse gasses that are destroying the planet. This is the power of the multinationals who give money to get national leaders of their choice “elected.” This is still a neo-colonial world.

These are the negative powers of greed, the Herods of the modern world, causing massive migration by contributing to global warming and climate change that is destroying crops and the environment. They can then supply the food from their western food production corporations when the famines and hunger and other disasters occur.

With such control, they can force weak, corrupt puppet government officials to open up the natural resources for exploration and extraction by these multinationals in cahoots with local corporations, many owned by the families of government officials. This extraction, like open-pit mining, gas and oil extraction, destroys more of the environment as in South America and produces more fossil fuels.

Pope Francis has made this very clear. “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 (Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, 24th May 2015, n° 48, n°49, n°52)

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.

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.

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