“The climate time-bomb is ticking!” This was the response of UN secretary general Antonio Guterres when the IPCC report was published recently. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)
The good news is that we already know what we can do to reverse the current situation. "Multiple, feasible and effective options” exist to slash emissions, and the cost of renewable energy is plummeting” the IPCC says. However, the report warns us that the impacts of global heating are hitting harder and faster now than previously expected; that the pace and scale of emission cuts have been insufficient and that they continue to rise largely due to existing fossil fuel infrastructure. Despite being aware of the damage being done, major projects for oil, gas and coal are still being built and developed. “The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years,” the IPCC warns. The Earth’s delicate ecosystems sustain and nourish life in all its forms. However, extractive industries, plastic pollution, and many other toxic practices are disrupting this relationship.
The report admits that it will be difficult to get rid of all emissions in areas like agriculture, aviation, shipping, and industry, and these will need to be “counterbalanced” by carbon removal from the atmosphere to achieve net zero. However, it goes on to say that this could be done with natural solutions like planting trees, sequestration of carbon in the soil through peatland restoration, and in ocean and coastal ecosystems.
This report is a chilling reminder of how the climate crisis is affecting the whole of humanity and unless we do something more to stop the many ways by which we are polluting and destroying our environment, we will deprive future generations of what we now so love, appreciate and need from Mother Earth. And we know that it is the most vulnerable who are doing least to cause the problem, who are suffering most. They are the victims of weather conditions which have become so much more extreme. Increasingly, destructive cyclones are leaving huge populations in the poorest of places in states of utter devastation.
Alongside the above news headlines, I read in the smaller print: ‘Death in Somalia – In the last 18 months, 43,000 children under 5, have died because of the drought in that country.’ Habitat loss caused by rising sea levels, deforestation, and other climate-related factors are doing enormous damage around the globe and forcing people from homelands that they have lived in for generations to seek shelter elsewhere. They have become hungry, cold and homeless and are often met with conflict and abuse rather than help. They have little hope for a better tomorrow. Those who can afford to pay the people smugglers to help them escape, are risking their lives to seek asylum elsewhere.
Laudato Si was published in 2015 when Pope Francis begged of humanity to listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. In October 2022, we had the wonderful documentary film “The Letter”. (It is available on YouTube if you haven’t seen it). And we have the Season of Creation every October; we have had COP 27 (the Conference on Climate Change) and Cop15 (the Summit on Biodiversity). It is so disappointing and difficult to understand that despite so much awareness raising and an increasing commitment by individuals, communities and governments to the care of our Common Home, that we now have this very alarming report from the IPCC.
I think that we must do more to protect God’s handiwork. Let us begin with ourselves and our own lifestyles and choices. Let us listen to and contemplate the many sights and sounds of creation and allow ourselves to be nurtured by its beauty and diversity while at the same time becoming disturbed by how it is being disfigured by humanity’s greed. We need to increase our efforts to promote climate justice at every level if things are to change.
We can do a certain amount on our own but we will be far more effective if we get involved with those who are raising awareness and organising action to reverse the spiralling trend towards the ‘ticking time-bomb’ described in the IPCC report.
Along with countless people around the world who are deeply committed to mitigating the effects of climate change, Infant Jesus Sisters have responded to the pleas of Pope Frances to ‘Be people of prophetic hope’ in our response to the call of Laudato Si and to the Acts of our General Chapter in 2019. Every IJ individual and community is aware of the need to take responsibility and some amazing initiatives are taking place across the Institute, especially in life style choices and in education. Sustainable living is being promoted and the challenge of reducing our carbon footprint is being taken very seriously. But we know that we cannot be complacent and must work with others in our search for more effective ways to challenge the status quo and play our part in finding more effective ways to diffuse this ‘ticking time bomb’.
Together, let us continue to celebrate the holiness of creation and do what we can to ensure that future generations will also enjoy its abundance.
Sr Margaret Walsh (April 1st 2023)
SDGs 14 and 15 were established by the UN in 2015. Life Below Water aims to “conserve
and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”
Life on Land was created to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial
ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land
degradation and halt biodiversity loss.”
Marginalized groups, Small-Island Developing States, and
countries in the global south are particularly reliant on oceans and land for food security and
Climate injustice – including the loss of homes, biodiversity, and essential food and water
supplies – is one of the most pressing obstacles to achieving the SDGs. Indigenous and local
communities suffering from changes to their environments can often provide solutions to the
challenges we face below water and on land: their insights will be essential in caring for the
Earth as we approach 2030.
Pope Francis’ message for this World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation begins a month- long Season of Creation starting on September 1. This season calls us “to cultivate our ecological conversion” and practice “an ecological spirituality” which acknowledges that we are “not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.” When we reach this deep awareness, we become attentive to the sweet song rising from the luxurious diversity of creation. But we can also hear the cry of anguish from Mother Earth who cries out from the abuses and destruction which we inflict on her. This in turn affects the lives of all people, but more deeply the lives of the poor people, the indigenous people and the elderly. As a first- hand experience, right now, we are experiencing record high temperatures and sweltering heat. Our vocation is to be protectors of God’s handiwork, and so we hear the call to repent and modify our lifestyle. In addition, Pope Francis reminds us that Cop27 (the Conference on Climate Change) and Cop15 (the Summit on Biodiversity) offer us opportunities to join hands for lasting change and for the development of models of consumption and production that respect creation and the integral development of all peoples. The members of the International Union of Superiors General, participate each year in the Season of Creation, using the guide for times of prayer and reflection, and for promoting action. This year’s theme “Listen to the Voice of Creation” requires deep listening that is often absent today. Deep listening is more than just hearing. It is contemplation which opens us to hear the many voices of creation, to be nurtured by its beauty and abundance, and to be disturbed by its disfiguration and destruction. Critical thinking, responsibility, simplicity, truth, humility, respect, and reconciliation are attitudes that help us live eco-justice daily. True transformation calls for a deep spiritual connection with all that is alive.