People of Integrity and Virtue will Save the Planet

by Fr. Shay Cullen

| Photo by Juliana Kozoski on Unsplash

There is no more urgent time than now for the world leaders and political decision-makers at the COP26 to listen to their consciences and millions of people crying out for an end to the damage, pain, and hurt that climate change and global warming are causing. With all the talk and promises all these years, there is more CO2 in the atmosphere than last year. It could be the last chance to stop the climate from reaching the point of no return when a cycle of continuing destruction kicks in. The planet will then continue destroying itself and us along with it.

The poor are suffering the most from the destruction of the natural world, the cutting of trees, and the industrial-scale growing of commercial crops like palm oil, soy, and grass on once forest lands to feed cattle. These contribute to the CO2 that is causing global warming. There are more than one billion cattle in the world today. Most are raised for beef to feed the well-off, and these cattle emit millions of tons of methane annually, a greenhouse gas that is, in part, causing global warming. If most people would become vegetarian, they would be stronger, live long, healthy lives, and help save the planet.

The world leaders have promised to stop all deforestation in two years and rewild and grow trees to hold the global temperature to 1.5 degrees celsius.

The financial leaders said banks and pension funds would invest only in renewable energy projects. So did the World Bank. It said it would stop lending to the oil and coal industry. The G7 also said it would stop giving $20 billion in subsidies to the coal, gas, and oil industry. Globally, countries spend $500 billion on supporting the fossil fuel industries.

At the COP26, forty nations pledged to quit coal. However, China, Australia, the US, and India did not sign up for the pledge. In 2014, the rich nations promised to give billions of dollars to poor countries to offset the losses. They failed to deliver on their promises.

“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 emits 0.5 percent of the greenhouse gases. Will the rich deliver on their promises?

The financial leaders said banks and pension funds would invest only in renewable energy projects. So did the World Bank. It said it would stop lending to the oil and coal industry. The G7 also said it would stop giving $20 billion in subsidies to the coal, gas, and oil industry. Globally, countries spend $500 billion on supporting the fossil fuel industries.

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 emits 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 opening 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.

Juan Delgos is a poor Aeta farmer living in a bamboo hut with a grass roof in the Zambales mountains, North of Manila. He is bent with age and hard work and has endured lashing rain and burning sun. He is a subsistence farmer with his wife and three children living on ancestral land. The Aeta are among the most neglected people in the Philippines.

Juan’s grandfather was a hunter and gatherer in the once lush rainforests of Zambales. After World War II and Independence, massive deforestation destroyed the rainforests during the 1960s. The logging families and politicians cut every tree they could find, leaving the mountains in the Philippines with only three percent of the ancient forest. After a massive public outcry by environmentalists in the 1990s, the government outlawed logging, but it was too late, and there is still illegal logging today. If they regrew the forests, they would absorb billions of tons of CO2.

The Aeta indigenous people survived and remained poor. They sold bananas and Pico mangos to commercial traders for exploitative low prices. To help them, the Profairtrade Development Enterprise (PDE) organization came in and paid triple the traders’ price for Pico mangos. They picked up the mangos, paid cash in the field, and gave them a share of the earnings after the mangos were processed into mango puree and exported. The PDE also helps provide sanitation and water supply projects in the villages. It also provides as many as 2,000 mango saplings and fruit trees to restore the mountains and provide income.

The PDE helped the 360 Aeta farmers reach the certified international organic standard for mango five years ago. That was a significant achievement for poor farmers, and they renewed their certification every year after passing strict inspections. They then sold tons of organic mangoes. The Aetas were doing very well during the mango harvest until the climate changed for the worst.

“Now there are no more good harvests, it is too hot,” Juan said. “The rain storms and wind come at the wrong time and wash away the mango blossoms. The fruit flies lay their eggs and kill the flowers on the trees. Then the heat dries what little fruits survive,” he said. That is the tragic impact of climate change. The farmers and the PDE are now working on growing banana for processing into puree since the mangos are failing due to global warming, and coal-fired power plants are the main culprits.

“Only when economic forces greatly favor low-cost renewable energy sources and the people are free and enlightened to elect candidates of integrity, with virtue and values, and with a commitment to justice and equality will save the warming slowly and save the planet.”

There are 28 coal-fired power plants in the Philippines and 22 more planned and approved by the Department of Energy. Will the Philippines cancel the planned 22 coal-fired plants and get development funds to build renewables like geothermal, wind, and solar as new sources of electricity? It’s not likely, as many politicians are puppets controlled by the coal and oil corporations elsewhere in the world.

Forty percent of the world’s electricity is produced by burning coal, and they make the highest concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. China is the worst of all, followed by India, the US, and Australia. As many as 80 countries depend on coal plants, and another 15 countries plan to join them. Only 19 have pledged to quit. So what hope is there for reducing CO2 in the atmosphere to hold global temperatures at 1.5C by 2030? Not much, really.

Only when economic forces greatly favor low-cost renewable energy sources and the people are free and enlightened to elect candidates of integrity, with virtue and values, and with a commitment to justice and equality will save the warming slowly and save the planet.

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