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Francis, a pope who saves the creation

Fr Shay Cullen - Columban missionary - Mon, Aug 1st 2022

Francis, a pope who saves the creation

This aerial photo taken on July 6 shows residents clearing a flooded street after heavy rains caused by typhoon Chaba, in Yingde, Qingyuan city, in China's southern Guangdong province. (Photo: AFP)

As we see ecological disasters caused by climate change, we must heed Pope Francis’s call to save the planet. Pope Francis, who took the name of the Italian saint, has vowed to defend the rights of the poor and the creation. His 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’, was both a wake-up call and an inspiration to Christians and the world to save plants and animals from extinction.

“Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see because they have been lost forever,” his stirring words said.

The world has to change, and those who control the oil, gas and coal industries and power plants have to change. They are the root cause of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is causing the planet to overheat. Immediate evidence of this is the present heatwave overwhelming parts of the world. This is driving plants and animals to extinction.

"We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental
challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affects us all"

The news is truly disturbing. Sometimes I don't want to read about the devastating drought in Somalia, Sudan, Mozambique, Iran, Morocco and elsewhere in Europe and the United States.

Devastating floods in China and Bangladesh are ecological disasters, leading to homes being washed away, millions of animals dead and crops destroyed. The forest fires in Portugal and the US add to the ecological woes. In two years, forest fires destroyed 14,000 sequoia trees in California — 20 percent of the world’s greatest trees. I have been to Muir Woods National Monument to see the giant redwood trees and they are truly awe-inspiring.

Pope Francis said in Laudato si’: “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affects us all.”

Not all will engage in dialogue about what must be done. Human greed and selfishness and profligate lifestyles continue to consume energy by burning fossil fuels, gas, oil and coal. Everyone must demand an end to these industries and replace them with renewable energy: wind, solar, geothermal and wave-generated electricity.

Business tycoons want profits from selling destructive fossil fuels. Corrupt politicians are benefiting, too. Several governments, while lauding the change to renewable energy, pay taxpayers’ money to the rich oil and coal companies to explore and produce more fossil fuels.

Most of the G7 governments pay out as much as US$1 trillion annually in subsidies to oil, coal and gas companies. Their ulterior motive is to please their voters and get corporate funding for re-election campaigns. Most likely, the politicians have investments in corporations. Some of them are like white tombs, looking clean on the outside but rotten and corrupt within.

" The imminent extinction of almost a million species of plants, animals and fish is caused
by climate change and how humans are affecting the planet"

An important study by the International Monetary Fund in 2015 shows that the collateral damage and unpaid costs of the production of coal, oil and gas fossil fuels amount to as much as $5.3 trillion annually or paying $10 million per minute to these companies. If this money was invested in alternative clean energy sources such as wind, solar, geo-terminal, hydro and tide generation, the climate crisis would be solved.

Yes, we the human species with intelligent brains, are hell-bent on self-harm and the destruction of nature. Today, we are causing the third great extinction — a million or more plant and animal species will go extinct in the coming years as the planet gets hotter as they will not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive.

A new scientific report based on extensive studies and research named ‘The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ says the imminent extinction of almost a million species of plants, animals and fish is caused by climate change and how humans are affecting the planet.

The report says that globally about 50,000 wild species are used for food, energy, medicine, material and other purposes through fishing, gathering, logging and terrestrial animal harvesting. More than 10,000 wild species are harvested for human food with one in five people dependent on such species for income and food.

About 70 percent of the world's poor are directly dependent on wild species and on businesses fostered by them. Humans directly consume or use about 7,500 species of wild fish and aquatic invertebrates, 31,100 species of wild plants (including 7,400 trees, 1,500 species of fungi and 7,400 species of wild trees), 1,700 species of wild land-based invertebrates, and 7,500 species of wild amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

We make about 8 billion visits to wildlife-protected areas each year, generating €600 billion ($600.8 billion) in tourism revenue. One-third of humanity — 2.4 billion people — rely on wood for cooking, including 1.1 billion people without access to electricity. Two-thirds of global industrial roundwood is provided by wild tree species. Twelve percent of wild tree species are threatened by unsustainable logging.

"We humans with our unsustainable consumption are destroying the life upon which we depend. It is self-destruction"

Unsustainable hunting threatens 1,341 wild mammal species, including 669 species already assessed as threatened.

The data is based on rigorous scientific research, which shows millions of people depend on the natural world of living animals, fish and plants. We humans with our unsustainable consumption are destroying the life upon which we depend. It is self-destruction. It will have catastrophic consequences unless we work together to save the natural world from climate change.

Pope Francis said: “All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.”

This week I’m off with a team to plant 863 mixed fruit tree saplings in the Zambales mountains in Central Luzon, with the help of the indigenous Aeta people. They will care and nurture and benefit from them in the years to come. This is the first of several planned plantings this rainy season.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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