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May 10, 2019

Family life at risk due to climate change 

Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. Image source:

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

On Wednesday, May 15, the world will celebrate the International Day of FamiliesThe 2019 theme is:  Families and Climate Action: Focus on SDG13. The observance focuses on families, family policies and major Sustainable Development Goal 13 targets:

“SDG 13 target 13.3:

Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning

SDG 13 target 13.2:

Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning” (UN).

By now you will all be aware of the name: Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who, in November 2018, initiated the first school strike for climate movement.

As reported, on March 15, 2019, an estimated 1.4 million students in 112 countries around the world joined her in holding a  #FridaysForFuture strike. Another event is scheduled for May 24. Social media continues to play an important part in this movement which is gaining momentum.

At one event, Thunberg stated to the cheers of those gathered: “We have been born into this world and we have to live with this crisis, and our children and our grandchildren. We are facing the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced. And yet it has been ignored. You who have ignored it know who you are.”

The Guardian (UK) reported that on March 15 “an estimated 10,000 young people gathered in London and thousands more took to the streets in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as other towns and cities”.

The environment secretary, Michael Gove, praised the action in a video message:

“Collective action of the kind you’re championing can make a difference and a profound one. Together we can beat climate change. It will require us to change the way in which our energy is generated, change the way in which our homes are built, change the way in which our land is managed and farming operates. But that change is absolutely necessary.”

In the USA “more than a hundred students marched across the Capitol’s lawn in DC, chanting…and were urged on by speakers organised by the Youth Climate Strike US”.

David Graeber, anthropologist, political activist, reported in the New York Times, that from April 15, for more than a week, “thousands of activists from a movement called Extinction Rebellion started occupying several sites in central London, shutting down major roads and demanding the country’s politicians take immediate, drastic action in the face of climate change…

“If ever a time called for grand visions, this is it. Yet politicians almost everywhere seem unable to think beyond the next election…the technocrats have so far proved utterly incapable of addressing the climate crisis. If real passion and vision are necessary, they will have to come from outside the system.”

Take heed of Nicky Ison’s words in the UK Guardian on May 2: “After more than 30 years of climate campaigns, international negotiations, policy change and practical action, climate pollution is still rising. Meanwhile humans have wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970 and species are dying at unprecedented rates.

“Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity…Last year the International Panel on Climate Change launched a report that said we only have 12 years to halve our global climate pollution.”

Here in T&T, we know that as a Small Island Development States (SIDS), we are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Do we have legislation in place and effective strategies to address the impact that climate change is already having on our country e.g. rise in sea levels, increased flooding, hillside erosion, the loss of coastal habitats, adverse impact on our health, agriculture, water resources?

I end with some quotations from Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’: “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years…. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world…A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal. (53, 161, 202).

Let’s act now to save our common home.