‘Environmental conversion’ needed to build a new creation

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s action in making public audio tapes of conversations between certain elite personalities in the former administration and even a foreign leader is commendable.

Jan 17, 2020

By Anil Netto
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s action in making public audio tapes of conversations between certain elite personalities in the former administration and even a foreign leader is commendable.

It has shone a light into the murky manoeuvres and provided telling insights into the power dynamics within what was internationally acknowledged as one of the world’s biggest kleptocracies. The recordings have also provided valuable background context to what was going on.

True, there are concerns among lawyers about legal implications and legal principles, given the ongoing trials. But in this particular situation, surely the question of public interest and accountability to the larger public overrides other considerations.

Often, the powerful get away with a lot of things. Indeed, there is a lot that is unfair in this world we live in.

Politicians get rich quickly often at the expense of public coffers. Cronies reap profits earned from the privatisation of the Commons. Private interests earn windfall profits by depleting natural resources and damaging the ecology.

As irresponsible firms destroy the livelihoods of farmers, fishermen and indigenous people and emit toxic waste and greenhouse gases, they earn huge profits. They also fatten their bottom line by keeping wages low, forcing workers to earn subsistence wages.

Some big banks join in the party by financing ecologically damaging mega-projects earning huge fees in the process.

All the while, climate change is taking its toll around the world. Australia is burning. The Artic is melting. And we have just experienced the second hottest year ever. And while all this  is happening, Donald Trump is planning to ease environmental regulations in the US to make it easy to build mega projects without thinking of their ecological impact.

More and more, the impact of climate change is arriving at our door-step. The paddy fields in Kedah are drying up. At the source of the Muda River, logging has encroached into catchment areas. Kelantan recently experienced hellish floods – the same state where extensive logging has take place.

Off southern Penang Island, precious coastal fishing waters — local fishermen call it “the golden area” — are about to be destroyed to make way for three artificial islands. This will allow developers to earn higher profits by selling mostly expensive “sea-view” homes to wealthy buyers from abroad.

So here we are, worried about climate change, including its impact on our food security.

How do we respond? Of course, we can do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint. We are told to stop using plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, disposal razors, water in plastic bottles, styrofoam containers. All well and good, and we can even pat ourselves on the back when we do these things.

Unfortunately though, all these well-meaning efforts will only have a minimal impact in the real battle to save the planet.

The entire economic system is weighted in  favour of the biggest polluters, the largest corporations and industries, that destroy our forests, promote fossil fuels, wipe out coastal marine fisheries and pollute our rivers and air.

The political system is often aligned with these dominant economic interests, facilitating the ecological damage. That is why we find politicians often loathe to do what they should be doing – protecting public interest.

At the other end of the spectrum lie the poor, “les miserables” (the miserable ones), who lose out and end up as “the invisibles”. They too invariably feel the brunt of the impact of climate change.

Ordinary people will have to come together to protect their interests and organise themselves against mega-projects that damage the ecology. It is not enough to work against climate change, we have to recognise the damaging forces at work that are pushing the world to destruction.

While we know what we oppose, it is equally important to understand what we stand for and what kind of world we want.

The Bishop of Rome says, in thoughts published in a new book, Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Environmental Challenge, we need an “environmental conversion”.

We need a truly ecological education, especially for the young. We have to understand that safeguarding creation and protecting human life go hand-in-hand.

And we need to develop a theology of the ecology. Creation is borne out of God’s love for us and for all his creatures. So there is a connection between us and creation, a communion even.

At the heart of the problem is the irresponsible exploitation of natural resources to gain power and wealth, which is then concentrated in the hands of a few. This creates an imbalance that could destroy the world and humanity itself.

The environmental emergency, Francis says, could give us a chance to choose life and consider alternative economic models that promote justice and sharing so that all can live in dignity. We need to focus on “being” instead of “having”.

In many ways, we cannot rely on politicians and political parties, which are often close to corporate interests and lobby groups. We have to come together and see what we can do as ordinary people working together for a common goal. We have to use our individual talents in our collective work to save the planet and build a new creation.

For Francis, awareness is not enough. We need an “authentic spirit of communion”.  We have to start by asking forgiveness from the poor and then move on to asking forgiveness of “the earth, the sea, the air, the animals…”

All this requires reorienting our thinking and profound personal renewal. And we cannot do this without tapping into the Spirit.

“And just as in the Eucharist the bread and the wine become Christ because they are bathed by the Spirit, the personal love of the Father; so creation becomes the personal word of God when it is used with love”.

From this love, should spring our work to save the planet and build a new creation.

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Dorothy Goh Suan Simdorothygoh96@gmail.com
Why talk about building a new creation when people the whole world around cannot even maintain, sustain and take care of what is existing and what they have now. I think it is so idealistic and unrealistic