Our country faces many challenges. Too many of us still are not able to adequately care for our families. Our democratic space has diminished. Civility toward each other has all but disappeared online and in much of our public discourse. All of these are issues that must be addressed this year, and there are many brave voices dealing with those questions.
But there is another very important issue that has not received the attention that it needs, and that is the state of our environment.
In 2017 and 2018, carbon emissions increased, creating more frequent and severe weather events that have impacted millions of lives, including many here in the Philippines, most recently with Tropical Depression “Usman.”
Last October, climate scientists warned that humanity may only have 30 years to bring down carbon emissions before severe weather events intensify to cataclysmic proportions.
If we care for the future of our children, we must accept that the need for collective action is more urgent now than at any time in our history.
We live in a part of the world that has more than its fair share of environmental disasters, as we’ve seen from the many storms that killed our countrymen and destroyed our homes.
We are also the only people in our part of the world that belong in vast numbers to the Catholic faith.
In 2015, Pope Francis exhorted us all to take collective impactful action to protect the environment.
This encyclical, called “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” inspired a group of concerned Filipino Catholics, including myself, to launch Living Laudato Si—a homegrown faith-based movement to persuade financial institutions to stop funding environmentally dangerous commercial activities.
These include companies that habitually violate environmental regulations.
Our faith-based institutions have resources that are invested in various financial instruments like stocks, bonds, loans, trust funds, and deposits.
These financial assets can and must provide a powerful voice to give meaning to our Pope’s call to save the planet. Together, as part of the Catholic community, we urge our brothers and sisters who are in a position to take steps to prevent these funds from being used to support environmentally damaging activities.
As shareholders, depositors, fund managers and customers, we can require banks and other financial institutions to redirect our money away from big polluters and into more responsible businesses.
For those who say this cannot be done, one must simply look at similar successful efforts around the world.
Bowing to pressure from shareholders, depositors and bondholders, many large financial institutions—21 large global banks in fact—have ended all direct funding to coal mines and coal-powered power plants.
These banks include some familiar names like ING Bank, Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.
Beyond banks, there are ongoing efforts to persuade mutual funds to divest from fossil fuel investments.
One such effort is fossilfreefunds.org, which tracks large investment funds in fossil fuels.
For the sake of our children and our planet, it must be done. Let’s make 2019 the year that we turn the words of “Laudato Si” into action.
By: Bro. Armin Luistro