CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 March 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
The warming of Planet Earth

There is something strange and unusual happening to our world, and every one of us will be impacted. One indigenous people of the Philippines, the Aeta people of Luzon, have survived for as many 30,000 years by their unique survival skills in the rain forests as hunters and gatherers. 
 
Their love and respect for nature and its cycles and seasons, and their intimate, knowledge of the hundreds of medicinal plants helped them endure. However, with climate change, their lives are changing at a pace they never experienced before.  
 
Life is very different than it was about 70 years ago when there were still lush rain forests in the Philippines. But now the rain forests are almost all gone. Hundreds of thousands of trees were cut and shipped out to Japan, Korea and Europe for reconstruction after World War II. The Aeta retreated further up the mountains and became subsistence farmers. 
 
Their ancestral lands stripped bare, these peaceful people living in small remote villages became planters and harvesters on the bare hills and mountains left behind. They planted vegetables, root crops and a variety of fruit trees. But the absence of the forest has changed the climate drastically. Their crops are failing. There is more drought when there should be rain and powerful typhoons where there should by dry sunny weather.  
 
The earth is warming, over heating and recent years have been the hottest ever recorded. This causes disruptions all over the globe. Nothing like this has happened for millions of years and when it last did, thousands of species became extinct. 
 
It’s happening again all because of us humans, the species with the big intelligent brains who should know better. We humans are less human and more driven by our animal instincts and passion, and not guided by reason, discipline and self-control.
 
We as a species are the most destructive. Our society is powered more by greed than by love of each other. Many of us know what is right but choose the wrong. So rain forests are destroyed, the air is polluted and poisoned, and our lifestyle is causing the planet of overheat. It will have more devastating consequences than we have already experienced.  
 
Many politicians and corporate bosses, especially in the developed economies, refuse to face and admit the truth of global warming and dangerous climate change simply because of corporate greed, the love of comfort and money, and to retain political power and economic growth. Some say it is a hoax. 
 
We need to elect politicians who have education, strong moral values and a love of the environment, and who can see and respond positively to the needs of the poor people and the planet. 
 
The absence of political will and the blindness of denial is allowing the planet’s temperature to creep upward to the maximum allowable temperature increase of two degrees Centigrade before disaster strikes. Even the present level is already a calamity, experts say. 
 
An increase in ocean temperatures is causing the death of the coral reefs—they produce the life-giving food of thousands of species of fish upon which millions of families depend for a daily meal. Damage the coral reefs and we damage the food chain. 
 
The wanton destruction of the Philippine black corals of Mindanao is the result of corporate and local government corruption. They take a long time to recover. Besides the oceans are absorbing all the carbon dioxide they can and are becoming more acidic. 
 
Global fish stocks are threatened too. The European Union has a law making nets bigger so small fish can escape, live and reproduce.   
 
There will be more massive crop failures, drought, floods and rising sea levels. There  will be greater forest destruction in the Amazon and massive population migrations. The Aeta and farmers everywhere will have fewer harvests as a result of global warming.  
 
The prices of food commodities are increasing at an alarming rate and, as production drops, famine could once again kill millions in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The tipping point of global temperature is approaching that could make the warming irreversible.    
 
The warming earth has already sen vast tracts of previously permafrost marshlands in Siberia and near the Arctic Circle melting, releasing billions of tons of methane into the atmosphere. This is adding to the blanket of gas that insulates the planet and prevents the heat from escaping. 
 
Meanwhile the sun penetrates more directly unreflected by the disappearing northern and southern ice caps. Severe winter storms will be harsher, colder and more prolonged. As I write, parts of Europe are buried under mountains of snow.  
 
The rising level of carbon emissions causes global warming. Before the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels were around 280 parts per million (ppm) now they are close to 400 ppm.  
 
If we humans continue this destructive behaviour— destroying forests and burning fossil fuels in coal plants to make electricity—we are going to cook the planet and destroy our own ability to survive. 
 
We have to protect the environment, clean the oceans of plastic and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.  
 
Father Shay Cullen 
www.preda.org