By Vivek da Silva
Yehuda Bauer, the Holocaust historian, maintains, “The horror of the Holocaust is not that it deviated from human norms; the horror is that it didn’t. What happened may happen again, to others not necessarily Jews, perpetrated by others, not necessarily Germans. We are all possible victims, possible perpetrators, possible bystanders”
When it comes to climate change we are all perpetrators, victims and bystanders. We have to take responsibility for the fact that our actions – considered or not – impact the lives of others all over the planet. An old African proverb says, “When elephant’s fight, it is the grass that suffers.” And so it is that the poor and the vulnerable pay the price for our throwaway lifestyles.
Pope Francis, echoes similar sentiments when speaking of our irresponsible use and abuse of our environment, “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts… is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22)” (Laudato Si, 2).
According to NASA, 2015 was globally the warmest year since records began in 1880, with average temperatures across global land and ocean surfaces rising by almost 1°C of the 20th century average. The call to act is not only urgent but imperative! Time is running out for many species on the planet as their habitats diminish; rising sea levels are already threatening people’s lives on island nations in the Pacific and Indian oceans; food scarcity, drought and floods are now common place across the globe; coastal areas are pounded by regular storms. Simultaneously, deforestation and excessive mining continues unabated, multi-national interests find new ways and areas to relentlessly suck up the depleting reserves of oil and natural gas, industrial and chemical waste continues to pollute our land, water and air, and our consumerist lifestyles adds to rising piles of garbage and ever increasing landfills. This “ill-considered exploitation of nature” by humanity “runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”. (Pope Paul VI)