Five things we must do to tackle climate change

Imagine an asteroid about to hit the Earth in a few months. Think of the widespread anxiety and concern, even panic. Our newspapers would be reporting the news in the front page every day, charting the progress and the route of an asteroid on a daily basis.

Jul 28, 2017

By Anil Netto
Imagine an asteroid about to hit the Earth in a few months. Think of the widespread anxiety and concern, even panic. Our newspapers would be reporting the news in the front page every day, charting the progress and the route of an asteroid on a daily basis.

Talk show hosts on television would be discussing humanity in crisis. Places of worship would be packed, sermons would exhort the faithful to pray to God for deliverance from impending tragedy and pilgrims would flock to popular sites.

Ordinary folk would be making contingency plans to deal with the impending disaster. People would appreciate one another even more — their families, their friends, and all the things they had taken for granted.

Compare the reaction in the scenario above with our collective reaction to climate change. Look at the total lack of urgency on this issue. The attitude seems to be, why be concerned about something that won’t affect us today — never mind if it affects the next generation. Let us make hay while the sun shines.

Why are we so relaxed about it all? Is it because the prospect of damage is in some distant future, far removed from where we stand today?

Is it because we have little idea of the extent of the likely damage? Is it because the actions required to mitigate climate change would demand too much of us and our lifestyles? Is the sacrifice we would have to make be too much a burden to bear — so we avoid thinking of the issue altogether?

But for some people climate change is a reality, which they cannot escape from. Sea levels are rising and entire islands could be submerged. Superstorms are increasing in intensity. Every now and then we read about icebergs breaking up in the Artic. In Chile, an entire lake has all but completely disappeared. For the people in these areas, climate change is a reality.

We cannot delay any further or procrastinate. We need to review how we are dealing with climate change and raise public awareness of this issue. It cannot be business as usual.

There are five things we must do.

One: Put climate change on the agenda Climate change must be put at the top of the agenda — in politics, in the media, in schools and universities, in business, and in socioeconomic planning, and in faith priorities.

For the Church, the last bit should be easier to explain to the people now that the Bishop of Rome’s encyclical Laudato Si has exhorted Christians and other people of goodwill to care for Creation. The Malaysian Church has already begun looking at climate justice as a major justice and peace concern. This has to be stepped up fast.

Two: Prioritise climate change in our media reporting
The media seem to think people prefer to read about politics, material pursuits, sports, local gossip about celebrities and entertainment. News editors seem to think people prefer to read this sort of news — and that they are less concerned about ecological issues.

We must tell news editors that we want to read news that really matter — and what could matter more than the very survival of the planet. The media have a major role to play in raising awareness of the issue.

Three: Review our fundamental assumptions
The mantra that economic growth in a country is the be-all and end-all of progress has got to change. Unthinking economic growth is taking a heavy toll on the planet: forests are cleared, water catchment areas are degraded, emissions from factories, cattle, airplanes are hurting the atmosphere and the planet.

Four: Revamp our economic model
Our capitalistic economy should not escape scrutiny. We need to change the fundamental mindset that is driving the economy ie limitless growth-at-all-cost, profit maximisation, and maximisation of shareholders wealth.

We need to come up with a new economic model that puts the planet and people first, emphasising cooperation instead of competition, solidarity not marginalisation, quality of life not GDP growth, holistic personal/spiritual growth not profitability.

Five: Reposition ourselves in the world
We are not lords or masters of the earth. Neither are the markets or transnational corporations.

Instead we need to look at the relationship between Nature/ the Ecology and the Individual and the larger Community.

The Economy does not sit at the top of the pyramid. Rather, the human economy comes under the overall ecological framework.

We must maintain a balance between our own needs and the needs of the planet to revitalise and rejuvenate itself. The relationship should be one of harmony and solidarity, not violence and exploitation of against people and the ecology.

The future begins now. Let’s reflect and pray for the strength and vision to act before it is too late.

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