Our ecological damage is a moral issue
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - August 5, 2019 - 12:00am

The recent news on heat wave over Greenland causing massive ice melt should be a grave concern and wake up call to humanity. Human-caused climate change has been affecting our ecological systems. According to the news, the heat wave that smashed high temperature records in five European countries a week ago is now over Greenland, accelerating the melting of the island’s ice sheet and causing massive ice loss in the Arctic.

Greenland, the world’s largest island has 82 percent of its surface covered in ice. Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute said that the area of the Greenland ice sheet that is showing indications of melt has been growing daily and has hit a record of 56.5 percent this year. More than 10 billion tons (about 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools) of ice was lost to the oceans by surface melt last week alone, creating a net mass of ice loss of some 197 tons from Greenland in July.

Very timely is the release of the pastoral letter issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to express concern over the destruction of our ecological systems.  Msgr. Romulo G. Valles, DD, Archbishop of Davao and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in his letter, An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion, Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency calls on everyone to urgently respond to the climate crisis.  He said, “As Christians, however, we have a deeper reason to be concerned with climate because it is “a common good” (LS 23) and to cause its undesirable change is a “moral issue” (St. John Paul II, Peace with God the Creator, no. 15).

Along this line, Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’: “On Care for our Common Home”, cites Patriarch Bartholomew who “has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for in as much as we all generate small ecological damage, we are called to acknowledge our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation. This challenges us “to acknowledge our sins against creation. Foremost among them is our tendency to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate” (LS8).

We are a predominantly Christian – Catholic nation.  Every Sunday we fill the churches around the country.  We also practice all Catholic traditions very solemnly and with strong dedication. Many of our brothers and sisters who are non-Christians also have a god who expects them to be good and moral beings.  Unfortunately, we easily forget our “moral obligations” toward one another, toward our environment and most important, toward God.  Our crime rates are very high.  It is alarming. As a result, government is taking measures one of which is to re-introduced a stronger Values Education program in both public and private schools. It is with fervent belief that the next generation will become a different breed of Filipinos – more God-fearing with a strong foundation of ethical and moral values.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines is turning to our countrymen to look into our hearts. It is calling out to us, by making us discern the actions we take toward our environment.  Clearly, we have ignored our Christian obligations and responsibilities toward the environment as there are many companies (both international and local) who continue to degrade our natural environment.  If we continue such acts, we will fail to protect our land, our waters, our people and worst ourselves.

Last month, the Brazilian mining giant Vale agreed to pay out $107 million in collective moral damages and $186,000 to each of the close relatives of nearly 300 people killed when a tailings dam collapsed on January 25 at its iron ore mine in Brumadinho. Vale is the co-owner of the mining firm Samarco which operated another tailings dam that is said to have also collapsed in 2015 killing 19 people and causing an environment catastrophe.

On July 22, 2019, the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security reported that intense snowfall in the region of Araucania, Chile left thousands of persons without electricity, caused the closing of border crossings, and damaged homes. The report also indicated that there was a total of 4,718 isolated persons and 18 homes affected, two of which were destroyed.  From July 20-22 of this year, a heat wave across the USA affected up to 200 million people.

Climate change has triggered the occurrence of many natural disasters.  Don’t forget the land, the oceans and the air (or the atmosphere) are all blankets of the earth that are inter-connected. The different gases (natural/ chemical) that fill up the earth’s atmosphere change weather patterns that cause climate change.  The daily earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, volcanic eruptions, landslides, heat wave are part of the imbalance of mother nature which man has often ignored by his abuse of it. As a result, people, animals and other living things are killed, injured or displaced.  

In the local scene, abusive government officials have taken part in the exploitation of our environment.  Corrupt officials have been bought by groups, companies, conglomerates to do what they please even if their actions/ works are clearly criminal and immoral – denuding/ mining of mountains, silting of lakes, rivers and seas, illegal logging, etc.  The problem we have with the pollution of Manila Bay, Boracay, Laguna de Bay, Pasig River and other waterways are all caused by men who do not have the decency nor the ability to be responsible of their deeds; and if governors, mayors and councilors continue to allow these immoral acts, they too become instruments if not collaborators to the crimes.  

The recognition of the Rights of Nature is at the core of the call for ecological conversion, as Pope Francis emphasized in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015.  He said that, “true right environment does exist because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.”

We need a paradigm shift in order to reestablish our sacred relationship with nature: “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are all part of nature.”

Today, guided by Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, the Church, consistently caring for our common home, has committed to abide by the following ecological convictions: The Earth is our home. We are to care for our common home. We are to act in order to protect all life forms on Earth, from ridge to reef; We are duty bound to act and resist all forms of destruction damaging our people and our planet; We are connected to the Earth, just as our lives and the life of all other beings are interconnected with each other; We hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. We are to respond and act together in order to mitigate the ill effects of climate change on our planet and our communities; and in the spirit of accountability, we demand climate justice.

This is a higher call to the spirit.  The strong downpour of rains, the shaking of the earth’s crust, the extinction of species are all manifestations, the cry of nature.  Let’s take this seriously and act wisely!

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