- St. Francis of Assisi
While Francis was not referring to the phenomenon of Climate Change in his canticle since it wasn't known then, clearly he was aware of the importance of climate and the atmosphere for sustaining life on earth. Although Francis lived in the 13th century, his insight into the kinship relationship we have with everyone and everything else around us is now being verified by scientists. Today we are beginning to realise that how we live on this planet effects planetary systems such as Climate, and the effects of our lifestyles can be felt thousands of miles away by people on the far side of the globe!
Hopefully by now, most people are aware of the phenomenon of Climate Change, and how it is already having a devastating impact on the lives of millions of people worldwide. The 55,000 people of the Maldives off the Indian coast fear losing their very homeland due to rising sea levels. It is widely understood that climate change is being caused by human activity particularly the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas to produce energy for our homes and for industry, for our cars and for all sorts of transport which are emitting excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the air causing global warming.
Climate Change is a justice issue for the poor since it is they who will suffer most from the effects of Climate Change even though it has been the rich nations who have caused it for the most part. Some of its effects are droughts, flooding, harvest failure, and loss of livelihood. Climate Change also threatens peace and stability in many regions as fresh water and productive land become scarse. It is also an ecological crisis as the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica and many important glaciers melt at unprecedented rates and many species face extinction as they lose their habitats too quickly for them to adapt to new environments.
This is an urgent issue! It might already be too late to reverse Climate Change but it might be possible to limit the consequences if we act now. We need to work together to bring about a global reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in order at least to slow down Climate Change.
We can plead with our political, religious & business leaders to voice our concerns for effective action on Climate Change and to take the necessary decisions to make our neighbourhood or town or city a low emissions zone thereby challenging other neighbourhoods to do likewise. As people inspired by St. Francis, lover of the poor, peacemaker and patron saint of ecology, what else can we do?
Catholic Bishops' Reflection on Climate Change, The Cry of the Earth (Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, 2009)
Hickey, Kieran, Five Minutes to Midnight? Ireland and Climate Change (Belfast, The White Row Press, 2008)
- St. Francis