Thoughts on the edge of the world
I spent some time this afternoon sitting on the edge of the world – well, the edge of a very narrow, sheer-sided peninsular called Brow Head in the extreme west of Co Cork in Ireland. Way below me gulls were gliding in the air currents. Further down cormorants were perching on unbelievably narrow ledges on the otherwise vertical cliff face. Hundreds of feet down, waves crashed and foamed among the rocks. Sitting there contemplating the power, grandeur and beauty of God’s creation, I thought about a conference on climate change I had attended a few weeks ago.
I was there as a volunteer for Trocaire, CAFOD’s Irish sister agency. It was a high-level conference, the main speakers being Mary Robinson (the UN Special Envoy on Climate Change and former President of Ireland), Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and Bill McKibben (co-founder of the global campaigning body 350.org).
The two days were packed with essential scientific facts and inspirational opinions. The conference was recorded on video and can be seen on the Trocaire website at www.trocaire.org/climate-justice-2015. But a few aspects particularly stuck with me.
The science is clear that the climate is changing, it is being caused by human activity especially burning carbon fuels, the changes are happening at a frightening rate and we need to take action now. Despite that, governments lack the political will to take that action, thinking only of their short-term popularity. Meanwhile, energy companies continue to pursue more carbon, be it oil under the arctic or shale gas under Surrey and Sussex, thinking only of their short-term profits. Unless we ordinary citizens make our voices heard, we will leave our children and grandchildren a world in which life as we know it will simply not be possible. At the conference, a 17 year old called Amy said “Our most precious resource is our future – and we’re going to fight for it”. We all need to stand alongside Amy and fight for her future.
The conference coincided with Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ – on care for our common home. This was described by Bill McKibben (not a Catholic) as “an astonishing document”. It gives a scientific, ethical and theological analysis of our current lifestyle and its impact on how we treat each other and the environment. Pope Francis concludes that “Many things have to change course.”
What can we do? Three things come to mind:
First, take the time to carefully read and reflect on Laudato Si’ – don’t rely on someone else’s summary or comments.
Second, pray. Pope Francis has declared September 1st to be a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. As well as our own prayers, let’s ensure that every parish in the Diocese marks the day with a special service or prayers at Mass.
Third, act. The Government will only take climate change seriously if we, the present and future voters, insist that they do. So, if you have not already done so, sign the petition to the Prime Minister at www.cafod.org.uk/Campaign/One-Climate-One-World/climate-petition. If you have already signed, thank you and please ask your family, friends, neighbours and parishioners to sign as well. For the sake of Amy and future generations. For the sake of our brothers and sisters in the developing world who are already being affected by climate change and who will suffer the most although they have done least to cause it.
If enough of us raise our voices, the Government will have to listen.