As we are living in a “new normal” the CBCP Pastoral Letter on Ecology becomes even more relevant and its advice more urgent.
PRESS RELEASE: On July 16, 2019, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines released the CBCP Pastoral Letter on Ecology: “An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion, Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency”. It calls us to take ecological action on the human activities that perpetuate the destruction of our common home.
Throughout history, we have looked at the earth’s resources through a lens of what it can do to serve our own needs and wants in the name of progress. This pastoral letter explains that this way of thinking has to change. We need to accommodate the Rights of Nature into our plans because when we cause destruction to the nature, we are also condemning ourselves and future generations to the negative effects that these actions can bring. We can neither remove nature from the equation nor remove people from nature.
The CBCP pastoral letter states that, “in this light, our efforts to mitigate global warming and our collective moves aimed at helping others adapt to the new normal brought about by climate change may be meaningfully viewed both as acts of reparation for our ecological sins. We need to go beyond the prevailing meaning of reparation in a manner that includes restitution for the ecological damages we have done to nature.”
Indeed, one year after, we are living in a new normal resulting from a virus that traces its origins to the maltreatment of biodiversity. COVID-19 has affected our lives in ways we did not think possible, most especially the lives of the poorest and marginalized. What we are experiencing first hand- the strain on resources, the unemployment, the health hazards- is only a glimpse into a future where nature continues to be abused. As Pope Francis says: “A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (Laudato Si’ #49)
When we reflect on the issues the pastoral letter raised exactly one year ago (biodiversity threats, mining, building of dams, reliance on coal for energy, and climate-related disasters), we can see that we have made some progress. Institutions of both the private and public sectors are releasing statements and policies withdrawing from environmentally-destructive activities. With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, we see that fare more steps must still be taken, with even more urgency if we hope to avoid a point of no return for the environmental crisis.
The solutions needed to address the crises we are facing already exist. What we must do is to take the path to total sustainability through ecological solidarity as outlined by several key frameworks, the most notable of which is the Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home, Pope Francis’s second encyclical. We are not alone in our fight. As we move towards an uncertain future, let us remember the words within the Laudato Si’ and CBCP Pastoral Letter on Ecology and make our world, our country, and our community better, one day at a time.