(Photo from APC: Juvelyn and Rosalie, senior high school students at the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC) that operates an upland indigenous school in Bukidnon, Philippines, learn skills in organic farming as part of the APC Youth Work Experience.)
Climate change affects every part of the world and is changing our common home. In the Philippines, it has led to extreme rainfall and stronger typhoons that cause floods and landslides. It has also brought about prolonged droughts which in turn has upset farm production and increased food insecurity. These natural disasters lead to loss of lives and livelihood, forcible displacement of people and further impoverishment of small farmers, fisherfolk and those living on the margins of Philippine society.
Island nations in Oceania are experiencing sea-level rise and extreme weather. In other parts of Asia, climate events continue to impact vulnerable communities as they see the destruction of their forests and coastal areas. This further impacts the biodiversity that sustains all lives. The Amazon in Latin America, the Congo Basin in Africa, the boreal forest and other remaining great forests, along with the oceans, are crucial in sustaining the planet’s health as well as the lives and livelihoods of those in the margins, the people that these landscapes and seascapes support.
With the release of the latest report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shortly before the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, there was great hope there would be greater recognition and acknowledgment of the findings by the scientific community on the urgency of the climate crisis. More than 200 scientists who took part in writing the IPCC report affirmed that “unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.”
There was hope that COP26 would have brought about serious commitments from the United States of America, China, members of the European Union, India, Russia and other countries responsible for much of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet, when COP26 wrapped up in Glasgow, Scotland last November 13, 2021, its outcome, the Glasgow Climate Pact, fell short on commitments, real action, transparency, and accountability vis-à-vis the severity of the global climate situation and the exposure of vulnerable communities that bear the damaging impacts of a changing climate. Political forces had the upper hand in the decisions to reduce emissions. Scientific arguments, while seemingly heard, were not really listened to and commitments from major emitters remain inadequate.
Working together is more important than ever because voices from vulnerable countries, the youth and Indigenous Peoples were nearly shunted aside at COP26. However, because of their persistence and courage to be heard in and out of Glasgow, they continue to sustain hope for action.
As communities struggle to adapt, global efforts need to address these problems at the core. Ecclesial networks must continue to respond to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. They must accompany Indigenous communities and build inter-faith collaboration with a common goal of caring for all of creation.
Father Arturo Sosa SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, recently urged Jesuit institutions and networks to join the student-led climate strikes, as part of the Vatican’s Laudato Si’ Action Platform and as a way to keep hope alive through action amid the climate and pandemic crises. He said, “COP 26 ended in Glasgow a few days ago with unsatisfactory gains. Without losing hope, let us continue to walk with the vulnerable and work more vigorously, in advocacy with decision-makers for policy reform in favour of climate justice. Without waiting for political leaders to act, let us do what we must. As responsible citizens of this planet, let us together commit to do our part to care for our Common Home.”
The climate crisis cannot be left only for politicians to resolve. As the world braces for the impacts of a warming planet in the coming years, the voices of vulnerable and marginalized people, of youth and Indigenous Peoples, will carry the hopes of a wounded world.
Hope seems to be a naïve word in a world that crushes and thwarts. Yet a hope that is deepened by faith and the resilience and creativity of the human spirit can uplift and strengthen us, especially when there are many voices that work in solidarity.
This article was originally published in the 2022 winter newsletter of Canadian Jesuits International.
Sylvia Miclat is the Executive Director of the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), a Jesuit research and training organization in the Philippines. Sylvia also assists the Reconciliation with Creation network of the Jesuit Conference Asia Pacific (JCAP) and is part of the editorial team of Ecojesuit online.