Our Right to Speak for Climate Justice

Our Right to Speak for Climate Justice
Father Shay Cullen
08 November 2019

A few years ago Pope Francis challenged those responsible for the well-being of the poor. He established the World Day of the Poor. It is a day that should be stretched into a week, a month or into a year of action challenging and protesting against the root causes of poverty the most perverse of which being the political and corporate corruption that infests societies.

It is a time to challenge the people with the means and power to eliminate poverty, change their communities, build a nation and fight climate change, a cause of poverty, and make the world a safer and healthier place for human kind and creation.

These power brokers are the financiers, the bankers, the traders, multinational corporations and the politicians that support them. They are mostly elected by the rich to do their bidding and make laws to benefit their corporate interests. They have the power of government and can give them permits and police and military protection to exploit the land of the poor, to damage the environment and to cause climate destruction all for their personal benefit. They mine the mountains, burn the forests, pollute the air and steal the wealth of nations. In the process, they destroy the cultures and cause greater poverty. We need to take a stand for climate justice.

A few days ago a very poor man, call him Juan, from a mountain village of indigenous people came asking for help. He said their crops had failed because the weather had changed so badly. The storms and floods were so frequent that the root crops rotted or washed away. They were desperate. He was a subsistence farmer, his family surviving by eating what they grew and selling any surplus to buy rice. He cared for mango trees but they had failed for three years when the untimely rains washed away the blossoms. His only harvest in three years for which the families earned a lot of money was used to pay debts and now the families were in dire need. I saw that they were given enough money to tie them over until the weather improved and they could grow their food in abundance again. His experience is that of millions of poor.

Juan is the face of poverty, of victims of destructive climate change. Then it is hunger and famine. Damaging climate change is caused by the massive pollution of corporate industry that pours CO2 gases into the atmosphere from coal plants and factories increasing the global temperature. That in turn is melting the permafrost and millions of cubic feet of methane, the worst greenhouse gas of all, pour into the sky forming a blanket of gas around the globe. We live in a planetary oven which is being baked by the blistering sun. Eleven thousand world scientists have declared this week a “climate emergency,” proving by clear evidence and scientific proof that global warming will bring untold poverty and human suffering.

Soon, the world’s temperature will reach the tipping point, the point of no return. More crops will not survive, animals will become extinct, and poor people will die in vast numbers. We can see the raging fires, storms and floods across the world. The physical and scientific evidence is plain to see.

The only concern of the ignorant and greedy politicians is their own and corporate interests typified by President Trump withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

We can see and hear the cries and protests of the school children, the unemployed, the hungry and the hopeless that are taking to the streets across the world demanding an end to global warming, climate change, inequality, poverty, injustice and corruption. We too must find a non-violent, peaceful way to express our protest. We can make a placard, join a march, raise it with others and add our voice to the rising protest against poverty and injustice.

Political power is the force that controls and directs a nation, influences our lives and families and, if implemented justly and with competence, it can bring peace, harmony, justice, well-being and an end to widespread poverty. It is the abuse of power, graft and corruption, greed and exploitation that cause poverty, unemployment, hardship, injustice, and human rights violations. Eventually, it can lead to mass demonstrations and even insurrection.

Around the world demonstrations are erupting in many countries. Protest is in the air. The common people want to vent their anger and exercise their freedom of expression and protest and even overturn corrupt governments. Even the children and youth are marching and protesting.

But small issues lead to big public outrage and both peaceful and violent protests. In Chile, an increase in bus fare sparked the fury; in Hong Kong, a law to extradite Hong Kong citizens to mainland China for trial started the protests. In Lebanon, it was because proposed tax on the use of WhatsApp, no less. In Iraq, it is government corruption and almost a hundred have been killed. The elite will hold on to power come what may. In the Philippines, there is silence.

The news feeds are reporting many more street protests and demonstrations in other countries around the world. The poor and the oppressed, the exploited and forgotten, downtrodden people are having their say. Will it change anything? We cannot know for now.

Organized or spontaneous peaceful, non-violent demonstration is a civil right. It is the bedrock of democracy; it is the voice of the people, the cry of truth and freedom. It is the only challenge to tyrants and dictators and corrupt leaders. It is a right that we should respect in our efforts to end poverty.


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