Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
This September, the Season of Creation provides for us a special time to reflect on our relationship with the Creator, with each other, and with the rest of creation. During this time, we remember our place in the Web of Life and our tasks as stewards of God’s creation. But more than that, we also acknowledge that such a task is all the more needed right now, as we face an ongoing climate emergency. Months before the United Nations concurred upon the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, Pope Francis articulated upon the reality and scale of the climate crisis in his historic encyclical, “Laudato Si”: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in the coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry.” (LS, 25)
The Global Peace Index of 2019 currently ranks the Philippines as the most susceptible country to hazards brought about by climate change, with 47 percent of the country’s population in areas highly exposed to climate hazards such as earthquakes, tsunami, floods, tropical cyclones and drought. The CBCP discussed in its Pastoral Letter: “The Philippines, being an archipelago, is prone to climate-induced disasters brought about by sea level rise, storm surges, prolonged drought, flash floods, among others. The Philippines is at the doorstep of all major threats of climate change causing irreversible damage to agriculture, marine resources and the entire bionetworks.”
While the climate crisis affects all of us, some of us suffer more than others. This is because the changing climate is exacerbating many of the problems which are brought about by economic and social realities we face.
This is certainly true of Negros. Here we are witness to the problems faced by those impoverished in rural, coastal, and urban areas. The tensions and instances of violence in our islands, symptomatic of deeply-rooted social and economic problems, are made worse by the pollution, destruction and diminishing of natural resources, and the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters which affect the poor most of all.
And yet, while life is becoming even more challenging for the impoverished in the current climate emergency, the continued exploitation and destruction of the environment remains profitable for many industries. Industries like mining and coal energy cause much of the GHG emissions that contribute to the worsening state of the climate, weaken and destroy forests and other ecosystems which supposedly protect us from weather-related disasters and slow onset effects, and threaten the livelihood and health of host communities due to their pollution of natural resources.
The lack of implementation of positive policies and the lack of reform in areas where changes are necessary only contribute to the problems faced by all, and work to benefit the few at the expense of the many. Banks and financial operations also continue to finance destructive projects such as this, ensuring that business – no matter the cost to the environment and the people – remains as usual.
Last July 2019, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued another Pastoral Letter on Ecology entitled, “An Urgent Call For Ecological Conversion, Hope In The Face Of Climate Emergency.” This letter stressed anew the importance “of pursuing a common agenda to protect our fragile ecosystem from the threat of continuing ecological crisis” and reminded the faithful “that the moral imperative to act to save our Common Home is our Christian responsibility.”
Pursuant to this call, the Diocese of San Carlos therefore issues a declaration of a climate emergency, urging immediate and drastic steps to address and mitigate the causes and effects of the climate crisis in our community.
In light of this climate emergency, we urge parishes, Catholic organizations, and communities within our diocese to commit to the concrete actions encouraged by the CBCP Pastoral Letter, with particular emphasis on the calls to:
1. Live a simple lifestyle to minimize consumption and start to promote ecological awareness and action through integral waste segregation and by minimizing the use of plastics and paper, eliminating single-use plastics and polystyrene, and the like, from our homes to institutions.
2. Grow indigenous plants and trees and expand the forests through rainforestation; advocate and implement programs which lessen biodiversity loss.
3. Participate in efforts to protect and preserve our seas and oceans.
4. Protect our watersheds at the same time using fresh water wisely; promote and establish
massive rainwater collection as substitute to the construction of dams.
5. Conserve energy; just and fair transition to renewable energy sources and reject false solutions; use solar power in our homes and institutions (dioceses, churches, schools, seminaries); promote, advocate and invest in renewable energy (solar, hydro, wind and geothermal power).
6. Not allow the resources of our Catholic financial institutions to be used for coal fired power plants, waste to energy, and destructive extractive activities; divest for sustainability and invest in our common home.
7. Network with international bodies to create a groundswell of worldwide pressure powerful
enough to convince multinational institutions to lower emissions and the protection of our common home and actively engage in environmental actions in behalf of people and nature threatened by development aggression.
8. Strengthen adaptation measures and disaster risk reduction and management for our vulnerable communities.
We have initiated the Trees for Life and Justice Campaign in our Diocese last year; integrating both our call for climate justice and our call to end the killings. We may all contribute to grow 1 Million Trees until 2022; contributing to restore the destruction of nature and campaigning to awaken the systemic killings resulting from the war-on-drugs and war-on-farmers.
Based on the projection made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018, we now merely have 11 years remaining to avert irreversible, catastrophic effects of climate change. In the words of the prominent child advocate for the climate, we should be acting as if our house is on fire. And yet, many of us put off necessary action, policies, and change in lifestyles. From the national level to our communities, to our own homes, we must realize the urgency needed to address these matters of life and death.
Let us proclaim our love for God’s works in creation and our gratefulness to our Creator through the vigilant and adamant protection of the Earth and of one another. As the Pope himself once said, “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.” (LS, 139).
We hope that this declaration and our actions propel other institutions, especially those wielding economic and political power, to heed the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, towards genuine ecological conversion.