No. 824 Diocese of Marbel, Philippines 30 June 2015
- POPE FRANCIS’ ENCYCLICAL “LAUDATO SI’” (3rd installment)
CHAPTER ONE. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COMMON HOME!
Change today is very fast. Pope Francis calls this “rapidification”. Change has both good and bad effects. One bad effect is pollution which contributes to climate change/global warming.
I. POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Pollution, Waste and the Throwaway Culture
Atmospheric pollutants: smoke, toxic fumes, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general.
Pollution is also caused by residues, including dangerous wastes – non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive – from homes and businesses, construction and demolition sites, chemical, electronics and industrial sources.
These problems are linked to a throwaway culture, example, paper which could be recycled.
Climate is a common good. But disturbing warming of the climatic system leads to constant rise in sea level, extreme weather events which pose danger to the humans and non-humans.
Global warming is mainly caused by the “greenhouse” gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide, etc. Concentrated in the atmosphere they do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space.
Intensive use of fossil fuels – heart of worldwide energy system – and deforestation for commercial profits contribute, too, to global warming.
Warming affects drinking water, energy and agricultural production. It leads to extinction of parts of the planet’s biodiversity.
Melting of polar ice caps can lead to the release of methane gas. Decomposition of frozen organic materials may increase the emission of carbon dioxide. Loss of tropical forest is another contributory cause to global warming.
Carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans, lakes and rivers.
Implications of climate change: environmental, social, economic and political disaster, worst hit will be the poor!
II. THE ISSUE OF WATER
Climate change/global warming will adversely affect fresh drinking water and cause water shortage. Africa is an example.
Safe drinking water is not available to the poor. Dirty water causes dysentery, cholera.
Underground water sources are threatened by pollution produced by mining, farming and industrial activities.
Detergents and chemical products pour constantly into rivers, lakes and seas, endangering fresh water and marine ecosystem.
Water is now turned into commodity by private enterprises. The poor could not afford “bottled” water.
III. LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY
Loss of forest and woodlands entails the loss of species which could be used for food, medicines.
Good functioning of ecosystems requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles, microorganisms, etc.
Construction of highways, new plantations, dams, etc. crowd out natural habitats. These activities limit the freedom of movement of animals, birds, etc. Result? Extinction of species.
Monoculture replaced virgin forest.
Destruction of coral reefs – the “forests” of the sea, habitats of numberless living creatures, continue without let-up. Many coral reefs are barren or in decline. Philippine bishops wrote in January 1988 “Who turned the wonder world of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of color and life?”
IV. DECLINE IN THE QUALITY OF HUMAN LIFE AND THE BREAKDOWN OF SOCIETY
Human beings are creatures of the world. They have a right to life and happiness. Endowed with unique dignity.
Environmental destruction and the throwaway culture are adversely affecting them.
Cities are unhealthy to live in because of pollutions, urban chaos, poor transportation, congestion, squalor, lack of green space contribute to mental and physical ailments.
Social exclusion, inequitable distribution of goods, social breakdown, increasing violence, drug trafficking are features of an unhealthy environment.
Media has both good and bad effects on humans. Media to become sources of new cultural progress.
V. GLOBAL INEQUALITY
The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; to combat environmental degradation we must attend to causes related to human and social degradation.
The deterioration of the environment and of society affects the poorest most.
A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice on debates on the environment so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
Inequity affects also entire countries; “it compels us to consider an ethics of international relations. A true ‘ecological debt’ exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time.”
“The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned.”
VI. WEAK RESPONSES
a) mostly superficial rhetoric; b) sporadic acts of philanthropy; c) perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment.
VII. A VARIETY OF OPINIONS
a. ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the help of technology without ethics or deep change;
b. human interventions are viewed as no more than a threat to global ecosystem.
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