By Dominique Heffes-Doon
Social Media & Research Officer, CCSJ/AMMR, rcsocialjustice.org
This year the United Nations (UN) World Habitat Day falls on October 4, which is also the Feast of St Francis of Assisi.
This revered saint, from whom our own Pope Francis has taken his name, was the first to coin commonly used names such as “Mother Earth” and “Father Sun”. We can find these references in St Francis’ ‘Canticles of the Sun’,
“Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun…Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.”
‘Canticles of the Sun’ is a poem of love so profound that it is still cherished hundreds of years beyond its Medieval composition in 1224.
However, the conversation around our home, the Earth, has drastically changed. The Earth is still the only “home” known to the human species. Yet, by our actions, we must question whether we adore and honour it as St Francis of Assisi did during his lifetime.
The UN’s theme for this year’s World Habitat Day is Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world. UNHabitat.org goes on to state: “Cities are responsible for some 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions with transport, buildings, energy, and waste management accounting for the bulk of urban greenhouse gas emissions.
The future of our planet depends on national, regional and local governments and organizations, communities, academic institutions, the private sector and all relevant stakeholders working together to create sustainable, carbon-neutral, inclusive cities and towns.” This is a critical point that was recently highlighted by Environmental Consultant, Ryan Assiu, on the CCSJ’s Facebook Live segment, Climate Change is a Human Rights Issue, which airs Mondays at 1 p.m. from Facebook CCSJ Trinidad and Tobago.
Much of the carbon footprint societies generate come from each of us and the way we live, our lifestyle habits. We do not live sustainably with the Earth and the result is rising global temperature and a loss of biodiversity that may now be beyond repair.
Yet, Pope Francis calls upon the Catholic community to do two things. First, have hope that we can change. We as a global community can have a change of heart and ecological conversion, whereby understanding Pope Francis’ key message in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, “we are all interconnected”.
Our Mother Earth requires restoration, and we must end the selfish and greedy pillage of her precious resources and live in harmony with all of creation. This is our role as stewards of the Earth.
Second, we must act now! The world as we know it is changing. To quote University of the West Indies Professor John Agard, and one of the authors and review editors of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Global warming has not slowed… global surface temperatures are 1.1 degrees centigrade higher between 2011 and 2021 than between 1850 and 1900… we had set 1.5 degrees centigrade as a limit and now we are 1.1 degrees. We are close to the point when there will be no turning back.”
One of the most impactful ways we can make a change is to come together in solidarity for the Earth and for the survival of humanity by signing the Catholic Petition – www.thecatholicpetition.org.
Pope Francis will be present at the next UN Climate Change Conference COP26 and is asking all Catholics to sign. He hopes to present the global Catholic petition to the world leaders present at COP26 (Glasgow, November 1–12, 2021).
The petition seeks to:
• “Tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis together”
• “Limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and promise no more biodiversity loss”
• “Ensure equitable global action, including support for those most affected”
• “Protect and respect human rights, including the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in climate and biodiversity action.”
Your voice and action are critical in these times, not only for the collective well-being of humanity, but all of us as individuals within T&T. The extreme weather systems that we are now experiencing, extended rainy seasons and flooding, intense heatwaves and larger, more frequent tropical storms and hurricanes will only increase, especially within our Caribbean region, which struggles to recover economically.
The Catholic Commission for Social Justice call upon you to make a change today. Sign the petition www.thecatholicpetition.org and reuse, recycle and reduce. This is your world and our “common home”.