We should listen to what Pope Francis says about the climate crisis

Climate change and environmental destruction are the greatest threats facing humanity today. It is a scandal that our world’s most vulnerable communities, those that have contributed least to the climate crisis, are the most affected, with millions facing hunger and displacement due to increasing drought and extreme weather conditions.

The spotlight will be on this critical global issue when government leaders, powerful business leaders and activists gather in Glasgow for two weeks in November for the next round of United Nations climate negotiations, or COP26.

This crucial summit will be a test of solidarity between the world’s rich and poor, and the most important climate talks since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Caoimhe de Barra is Managing Director of Trócaire, an agency of the Irish Catholic Church that works around the world to fight poverty, inequality and injustice.

In June 2015, Pope Francis published his revolutionary encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si ‘- On the protection of our common home. The timing of its launch was recognized as a significant contribution to the signing of the Paris Agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) that same year.

It is addressed to “every person living on this planet”, of all faiths, exhorting each of us to listen to “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”.

Human impact

Every day, Trócaire testifies to the burden and human impact of climate change facing people like Madalena Mangadzuwa (45), mother of six from Malawi. She operates a small plot of land in a country repeatedly hit by droughts, floods and cyclones, all directly linked to the climate crisis.

Malawi, where I worked for three years, is one of the countries in the world most affected by climate change, but the least contributing to it. Over the past 36 years, Malawi has experienced eight major droughts, affecting more than 24 million people.

Before Madalena joined a program run by Trócaire’s partner, Eagles Relief and Development, she was only able to produce enough food to feed her family for six months a year.

There is now a growing mobilization of people of all faiths and no one in the world behind climate justice

For the rest of the year, Madalena and thousands of other women in her dire situation were forced to use coping strategies that no mother should resort to: taking children out of school to work. ; doing daily “piecework” to earn enough for an evening meal; reduce meals to one or two a day or beg the neighbors. The girls got married when they were still teenagers so that families could eat.

But it doesn’t have to be. We in rich countries should not be asking people like Madalena, who are vulnerable to serious exploitation and abuse, to shoulder the burden of climate change.

Every political failure to act on climate change and every delay in implementing commitments places the burden of climate change on the shoulders of women like Madalena.

However, there is now a growing mobilization of people of all faiths and no one in the world behind climate justice. Laudato Si ‘is a radical document, which calls for deep and urgent action.

It challenges the status quo of a political economy that continues to increase carbon emissions more and more, despite all the evidence pointing to the devastating effects of climate change on current and future generations.

Madalena now produces 11 months of food from her own small farm, following training in agroecological practices supported by Trócaire

He urges those in power to rethink the structures and policies that put unlimited economic growth and private gain at the forefront. Laudato Si ‘encouraged Catholics around the world to link climate change to global injustice and to take action locally and globally.

Irish action

The church in Ireland has played its part. In 2018, the Irish Catholic Bishops ‘Conference became the first bishops’ conference in the world to announce their divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and individual dioceses have followed suit.

Wildfires in the drought-stricken western United States and Canada continue to burn large areas.  Photograph: US Forest Service / AFP via Getty

“Every political failure to act on climate change, and every delay in implementing commitments, places the burden of climate change on the shoulders of women like Madalena.” Photograph: US Forest Service / AFP via Getty

Trócaire, inspired by Laudato Sí ‘, is not only committed to ensuring that Madalena and others in her situation are protected from the worst impacts of climate change, but that they also have a voice in this global debate on climate change.

Madalena now produces 11 months of food from her own small farm, following training in agroecological practices supported by Trócaire. She participates in community discussions on how to reduce the impact of climate change.

Her community is represented by young Malawian activists who campaigned both for climate legislation in Malawi and for the global community to take concrete action under the Paris Agreement.

Trócaire’s Living Laudato Si ‘project is mobilizing communities across Ireland to take action. Ahead of COP26, Trócaire supports a petition approved by the Vatican entitled “Healthy Planet, Healthy People”.

He calls for a united and fair response to the crises of Covid-19, climate and biodiversity. It calls for an end to fossil fuels and harmful agricultural approaches, as well as the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Signing the petition at www.healthyplanetandpeople.org is a simple action we can all take today and invite our friends and communities to do the same.

We all have to play our part.

Details of Trócaire’s Living Laudato Si ‘project are at www.trocaire.org/our-work/working-in-ireland/parishes/laudato-si/

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