Like most Filipinos, I spent the past Christmas holidays reconnecting with family, renewing friendships, and of course reflecting on my faith as we celebrated our Savior’s birth.
And like many Filipinos, I spent the New Year thinking about lessons learned from the year that was and how I could be better this 2019.
Now that we’ve taken down our parols and stored our Christmas lights, many of us have returned to work, ready to face the challenges and opportunities of the year that has just begun. But as we resume our daily grind, allow me to share my reflections and how they will shape my actions in 2019.
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 towards each other has all but disappeared online and in much of our public discourse. All of these are issues that must be addressed by our people 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 storm Usman.
Last October, climate scientists warned that humanity may only have 30 years to take decisive action to bring down carbon emissions before these severe weather events intensify to cataclysmic proportions. The science and the facts cannot be denied or ignored any longer. 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.
Acceptance leads to the next question. How do we start? What action can ordinary people take that can have a meaningful impact on the planet?
For Filipinos, these questions are particularly relevant. We live in a part of the world that has had more than its fair share of environmental disasters, as we’ve seen from the many storms that have killed our countrymen and destroyed our homes. We are also the only people in our part of the world that belong in such 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 activities include companies that habitually violate environmental regulations, engage in mining, and build and operate coal-fired power plants.
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 influence the flow of these funds 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 mines, coal plants, and other 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 and their investments 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, FSC