By Lydia O’Kane
“Renew Our Common Home”: that’s the message from the UK based Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), which also stresses that the climate crisis has not gone away.
As faith communities pray and organize events during this Season of Creation, CAFOD says, “Homes, food and people’s ability to earn a living are being destroyed by the climate crisis and the pollution of our land, oceans and forests.”
The agency also says, “We need to restore God’s precious gift of creation, enable people to adapt to a warming world and stop the climate crisis from getting worse.”
The Season of Creation got underway with a message from Pope Francis marking the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on 1 September.
Need for urgent climate action
Welcoming the Pope’s words, Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy at CAFOD, said, “Pope Francis’ message is absolutely clear about the need for urgent action, whether that’s on climate, whether that’s on the nature loss we face across the world or whether it’s also on just our economies.”
“He has consistently flagged up the fact that our economies are too much focused on, if you like, superfluous and consumption kind of goods, rather than actually being focused much more about how you give life to economies; how your trade benefits the poorest.”
A global pandemic
Over the last few months the lives of people around the world have been affected due to the coronavirus. Many countries have had periods of lockdown; and poorer countries, which were already dealing with the effects of climate change, are now facing the onslaught of the pandemic.
“There’s nothing new that has come out from this pandemic”, said Mr Thorns. “What it has put a sharp focus on is the inequalities that already existed in our world, and it’s just shown that they have been exacerbated by this pandemic.”
CAFOD’S approach to the pandemic in poorer countries, he explained, has been “survive, rebuild and heal”, because they have to be able to do the things that will last them a lifetime.
He also said he would hope that because of the coronavirus pandemic, people have had a better relationship either with nature, or even with food, making us more conscious of where our food comes from.
Change from the heart
In recent remarks to a group of ecological experts in the Vatican, Pope Francis stressed that “There will be no new relationship with nature without a new human being, and it is by healing the human heart that one can hope to heal the world from its social and environmental unrest.”
The Director of Advocacy agreed that this is fundamental. “You are not going to be able to change the kind of root causes, the real systemic change that we need unless you’ve got that in your heart, so we need to be thinking about the way we live”, he said.
2021 Climate under the spotlight
Next year will be an important moment for climate negotiations. The G7 meeting will be held in the UK, with the G20 taking place in Italy.
China will host the UN biodiversity summit, and in November all eyes will be on Glasgow when world leaders come together for the COP26 Climate Summit.
Mr Thorns emphasized that politicians need to be viewing these upcoming events asking “How can we make a long term difference to the world which puts the poorest at its heart?”
Politicians, he said, need to step up to the plate. “Being a politician is a truly noble vocation and that’s how politicians must view it, and they must view it in terms of action for the common good, not just selfishly for themselves.”
Asked about the importance of having a Season of Creation, the CAFOD Advocacy Director described it as an opportunity for people to step back and reflect and “think about how you’re going to act in this world which is going to make a difference to the whole of creation.”