(This article is part of an ongoing series showing adult obsession in waging “War Against Children” by Fr. Jerry Novotny, OMI..)
“You’ll die of old age; we’ll die of climate change!” Young people strike back against apathy among politicians dealing with climate change. “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” echoed throughout central Glasgow as thousands of protesters took the streets in 2021 during the dedicated “Youth Day” at COP26. Young leaders did their best to make their voices be heard, expressing their discontent with the current state of climate action, or, as some claimed, “climate inaction.” Even very small children gathered in the demonstration. “Climate change is worse than homework”, one of them told UN News. Will COP26 produce leaders who really care and enact polices to protect our planet and children or will it be the same old “blah blah blah”???
The rich nations are irresponsible. They are the biggest emitters of CO2 by pumping out 86 percent of the CO2 in the atmosphere. Lower income countries emit only 14 percent. The Philippines emits 1 percent. The poorest of the poor nations that have nine percent of the world’s population emit 0.5 percent of the greenhouse gases. Will the rich deliver on their promises? Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister told delegates, “When it comes to tackling climate change, words without action, without deeds are absolutely pointless.” He then took a private flight to London where he will likely approve the opening of a new coal mine in West Cumbria. If that is any indication of what is to become of promises and pledges, we must brace ourselves for the worse. (preda.org)
Climate change is gradually changing our present lifestyle. The intense drought, frequent storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans directly harm wildlife, create wide destruction on people’s livelihoods, especially those living in Asia and Africa where the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children live. WHO estimates that 80% of the illnesses, injuries, and deaths occurring due to climate change are poor children under 5-years of age.
Worldwide, over half a billion children are forced to live in extremely high flood area-zones; nearly 160 million live in extremely high drought area-zones. While flash flooding and intense dryness will gradually have an impact on every child in the world; however, the above 80% are suffering today and face a very dangerous and unknown future.
To mention a few countries, 19 million children living in Bangladesh need to deal regularly with high level flooding which is due to: (1) sea level rise with salt water intrusion, (2) the quantity of water resulting from heavy rain, snow, or hail in a limited period of time, and (3) an increase in the number of cyclones. This type of global warming continues to limit the freshwater supplies in Bangladesh, which results in various health problems, especially for children and infants.
In another example we note children growing up in the Marshall Islands, where climate change has already become a reality. Global sea level has risen 20cm and is causing erosion and flooding. Within the next 25 years, the Marshall Islands will probably become uninhabitable forcing the 50,000 inhabitants to move elsewhere, leaving behind their homes and cultural heritage.
What is climate change and its cause?
Climate change is the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a given area or continent. … The cause of climate change is largely human activity, eg. burning fossil fuels, like natural gas, oil, and coal. Burning these materials releases what are called greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. Though we often think about human-induced climate change as something that will happen in the future, in reality it is an ongoing process threatening people’s livelihoods now.
How does Climate Change affect children?
In every crisis, children are the most vulnerable. Climate change is no exception. As escalating droughts and flooding degrade food production, children will bear the greatest burden of hunger and malnutrition. (See: War Against Children: Hunger – “18 million starving” Part 3) As temperatures increase, together with water scarcity and air pollution, children will experience the deadliest impact of water related diseases and dangerous respiratory conditions. With more extreme weather patterns, children will pay the highest price and their future lives will be disrupted.
We must realize that children are not little adults.
- Children’s immune systems and organs are still developing, and they eat and drink more for their size.
- *They breathe at a faster rate than adults, increasing their exposure to dangerous air pollutants that can damage their lungs.
- *Climate change makes heat waves hotter and longer – and potentially dangerous for kids to play outside.
- *Climate change impacts not only a child’s physical health but also mental health more directly. Research shows that children today face nearly three times as many climate disasters as their grandparents did, including wildfires, storms, floods, and droughts.
Excerpt taken from “Children and Climate Change” Volume 26: “Compared with adults, children are physically more vulnerable to the direct effects of extreme heat, drought, and natural disasters. Climate change’s indirect effects can also derail children’s developmental trajectories – for example, through conflict, vector-borne diseases, economic dislocation, undernutrition, or migration – making it harder for them to reach their full potential. As some of the most vulnerable members of society, children generally suffer whenever there is social upheaval. Given the profound changes to society that may accompany climate change, it is likely that children will be especially severely affected.””
As climate change disrupts the environment, children are being forced to grow up in an increasingly dangerous surroundings. Their survival, development, nutrition, education and access to health care are Children Human Rights guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The adult world has a responsibility to create a future environment as stated in this Convention. To do so is to protect our survival as a human race.
How is the Catholic Church helping climate change?
CATHOLIC CHURCH TEACHING insists that care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of Gods creation. This environmental climate change has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.
Pope Francis describes “the poor man of Assisi” as “a man of peace, a man of poverty, a man who loved and protected creation” – in other words, a person who embodies integral ecology. Care for creation and a concern for climate change is a definitely a pro-life issue. “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life.” – Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, June 2015
Laudato Si’ is an encyclical written by Pope Francis, it was published on the 18 June 2015. “It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an ‘ecological conversion,’ whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ becomes evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.” Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, 217
Click here and see the 2021 concrete involvement of Laudato Si’ in action: Laudato Si’ urges us to transition to renewable energy
Audience with the Diplomatic Corps: “Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.” Pope Francis, Audience with the Diplomatic Corps
Message for World Day of Peace: “Fraternity helps to preserve and cultivate nature. The human family has received from the Creator a gift: nature. The Christian view of creation includes a positive judgment about the legitimacy of interventions on nature if these are meant to be beneficial and are performed responsibly, that is to say, by acknowledging the “grammar” inscribed in nature and by wisely using resources for the benefit of all, with respect for the beauty, finality and usefulness of every living being and its place in the ecosystem. Nature, in a word, is at our disposition and we are called to exercise a responsible stewardship over it. Yet so often we are driven by greed and by the arrogance of dominion, possession, manipulation and exploitation; we do not preserve nature; nor do we respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations.” Message of his Holiness Francis for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2014, 9
The Bible reveals to us that creation is a good gift which God has made and invited us to steward. Through Scripture, we come to recognize and appreciate God’s vision for the awesome world which God created.
“The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” Genesis 2:15
“How varied are your works, LORD! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:24-30
“For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Romans 8:20-23
Throughout His ministry, Jesus wove creation into teachings, parables and prayers. Jesus often used creation to illustrate how we are called to love one another, and in doing so affirmed the goodness of God’s gift for which we must care.“‘Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.’ He added, ‘Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.’” Mark 4:3-9
In Conclusion, the threats facing our children today are real and taking place as I write. Unless we act forcefully to stem the climate crisis now, the danger will only escalate. It is a prospect for our children so painful to imagine that many adults would rather not think about it. As adults, we need to take a different approach to how we produce and consume. Protecting the planet and protecting our children go hand-in-hand and both can be achieved if we act now.
Listening to the Holy Spirit guiding us through our Holy Father, this homily given by Pope Francis on the feast day of the “Solemnity of Saint Joseph”, focuses on the need for a Protector of the Universe.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.
I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.
In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!
Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.
To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.