Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. — Mother Theresa
OUR country’s forest area is estimated to have declined from 12 million hectares in 1960 to a current level of about 5.7 million hectares (which includes less than 1 million hectares of virgin forest largely confined to very steep and inaccessible areas).
This is despite Executive Order (EO) 23 which imposed a total log ban on natural and residual forest. However, the policy also allows selective logging, through special permits issued by the Department of Environment and Natural resources (DENR), in certain areas.
Still, environment advocates have long been calling for a total log ban, which would prohibit the cutting or harvesting of trees to prevent disasters caused by climate change-triggered extreme weather events, such as typhoons, floods and landslides, sea-level rise tsunamis or storm surges.
At the recently concluded 27th Conference of the Parties or COP27 held in Sham El Sheik, Egypt, the environmental conference on climate crises heard the voice of the Catholic Church calling for climate justice and restitution payments for the loss and damage caused by the industrial nations against the poor.
It is widely noted, though, that many insensitive rich industrial countries refuse to admit and accept their responsibility and liability for causing the climate crises. And there are the powerful hidden forces of industry that capture government departments and compromise and bribe politicians and bend them to their will so that all deny there is a climate crisis and they leave the world as it is, consuming fossil fuel non-stop.
The planet is heading for destruction at full speed—as United Nations (UN) secretary-general Antonio Guterres have pointed out—with the deniers and opposition’s foot hard down on the accelerator. The tipping point of no return will soon be reached when the heating cycle of the planet continues indefinitely and life on earth will be unbearable for creatures, plants and humans and could lead into extinction, very much like what the dinosaurs experienced millions of years ago.
Paying reparations for harm being done to poor nations is an urgent matter of conscience, according to Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt Archbishop Nicolas Thévenin who was assigned as deputy head of the Holy See’s delegation to COP27.
Thévenin cited that rich industrial nations should pay compensation for polluting the planet and damaging the lives and environment of everyone else and in what may construe as ‘undiplomatic words’, rich countries, he said, must stand up and pay up.
The problem, though, is that the leaders of these hard-hearted countries fail to perceive that all humans have to save the environment and the planet from the destructive forces of irresponsible governments and industry. The archbishop stressed that “it is imperative that (people) build bridges of solidarity, (with) those who are most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change . . . urgently calling for real support in this moment of crisis.” He added that “to ignore them (those affected by climate crisis) would be a failure of conscience.”
Our very own president, Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr., has renewed the Philippines’ commitment to fighting climate change, stressing that it is imperative to do so because this is the greatest threat now affecting nations and humankind.
Speaking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-United Nations Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the former senator pointed out that “the Philippines is committed to supporting and collaborating with the UN in the global effort to fight climate change and other environmental issues.”
And even Pope Francis in Laudato Si has preached that all humans have to save the environment and the planet from the destructive forces of irresponsible governments and industry that cause global warming and the massive disasters that are happening around the world.
The damage to small countries from floods, typhoons and drought is immense and it is brought upon them by irresponsible governments that approve coal and oil power stations and are paying oil companies a trillion dollars in subsidies to explore more oil and gas.
This is extreme hypocrisy and a total contradiction to their statements in the past and at COP 27 where they vow to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane levels in the atmosphere. The truth of the matter is that they are increasing the emissions of CO2 in reality. Currently, our country has 28 polluting coal-fired plants and industry moguls and some government cronies and politicians under their influence are demanding to build 20 more coal plants.
Public opinion, however, is steadfast against any more and clamors for free renewable power from nature. What should be done is for our business tycoons and government to invest in low-cost renewable energy generating sources like wind, solar geothermal, hydro and biomass.
Because of the truthfulness in the papal encyclical, many who learned about its message were inspired to join the Laudato Si Movement (LSM) of committed lay people, priests, religious and, hopefully, bishops. Working together with many organizations, they are now committed to saving our planet by raising awareness and inspiring action to reduce global warming and CO2 emissions.
In this regard, they are urging political, business and social leaders to commit to ambitious climate action to solve this urgent crisis and keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius (relative to pre-industrial levels). Even our government officials can also suit by rolling up their sleeves and getting out of the comfort of their air-conditioned offices or from the august halls of the Senate and the House (of Representatives) and historic Malacañan Palace.
Our global leaders need to be inspired, motivated, and challenged to act and help save our world from global warming. Sadly, not all of them support Pope Francis on his stand in Laudato Si and most of those from rich countries like the US, Russia and China are silent and some are unfortunately misleading on climate change.
According to researchers from Creighton University in Nebraska, of the world’s leaders took up the call of Pope Francis and started their own environmental-changing project and plant at least a thousand tree saplings and care for them, which would be a great contribution.
They could teach by example and encourage every country and their people to have their own tree-planting project. They could offer a prize for the best effort. Action for climate justice is a great encouragement to everyone of us, especially our youth and the next generations so that they will see life-giving forests.
It is also a matter of faith, too, as Jesus taught that truth, goodness, love and action for justice will overcome evil. The willful pollution and causing a climate crisis against the creation are evil so we must act and do so immediately. In the Holy Book, it states in James 2:26: “Faith without action is dead.”
Our forests give life, oxygen, water and protection from storms and landslides.
Our trees absorbers and digests carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and then give off clean, healthy oxygen in return. Planting trees is an action that communities and school children should do together. Let us save our ‘common home’ and instead of buying a cut tree for Christmas, let us plant one instead.
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