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June 18, 2015

Key messages from the Pope’s Encyclical on ecology

Dr Lorna Gold, Trócaire's Head of Policy and Advocacy, writes about Pope Francis's Encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’ – released today

You can't read Pope Francis’s Encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, and not be deeply moved. 

This is perhaps the most far reaching church document in a generation. It is certainly the most anticipated. It is both deeply political in its content and in its timing, as well as deeply contemplative and deeply practical.

Pope Francis presents a heart-breaking analysis of the various dramatic environmental situations facing the world today – from the terror of climate change, to biodiversity loss in every habitat, to the growing inequality in relation to finite resources, against a backdrop of overconsumption and waste - which results in many people being regarded as disposable.

He points to the deep ethical and spiritual roots of the current 'socio-environmental' crisis: a uni-dimensional paradigm founded on a blind faith in market-based technocratic solutions to resolve the world's problems. He warns of the folly of seeking technical fixes to complex problems, which involve matters of human consciousness. 

In fact, we know very little about the interconnectedness of life and often choose to ignore it. Overcoming this blindness requires an integral ecology, one that doesn’t try to solve problems in a piecemeal fashion, but sees the deep interconnections between the different crises and seeks to resolve them in a holistic, interdisciplinary way.

The Pope dispels the myths around the Judeo-Christian tradition as being about domination of nature. He throws this out as a false interpretation and goes to great lengths to dispel it. 

A phrase that appears several times in the document is "everything is interconnected." In terms of what we can do, the Encyclical points to some very practical pathways for action. In this respect, it really gives hope. 

First, we each need to believe that simple actions make a big difference. We need to start by re-evaluating our own understanding of our place in the environment. He reminds us that we are made from the elements of the natural world. We do not sit apart from it. We are earth and we need to rediscover that deep connection. Reconnecting with our place in nature and rediscovering that "affectionate" relationship is the starting point of an "ecological conversion." 
 
The Pope places a special focus on families and the role of parents in this regard. He makes a very simple call for all families to begin practicing grace before meals again, as a sign of our appreciation of nature and our dependence on God's creation. It is a custom that has perhaps gone out of fashion. He also asks us to consider Sunday as a day of rest, a restorative day for nature and ourselves. 

In our local communities, he affirms that integral ecology is central to the Christian message. He calls for an ecological spirituality and asks us all to consider how we consume. He says that each act of consumption is a "moral and political act". He reminds us of the power of boycott campaigns and the need to create a counterculture based on 'less is more' and a new mindful, contemplation of nature. It calls for a new educational and spiritual awareness to ensure this happens. 

It calls on NGOs, in particular, to continue to work for political change and to organise people to build political pressure for change.

At a political level, the Encyclical does not pull any punches. It highlights the way in which international finance has control over politics at a national and international level and how this is limiting and distorting our capacity to address common challenges. This is a failure of governance, which requires a new way of governing the “global commons". 

We need stronger, effective international agreements to combat environmental degradation, including climate change. In this respect, the need for a fair and binding agreement on climate change at the UN Summit this December is essential to change course. 

Importantly, the Encyclical stresses that poor countries should not have to bear the burden of this transition. They need to be supported both in terms of finance and technology transfers to make the transition to renewable energy.

At a national level, the Pope also has a timely message for Ireland, as we finalise our own climate legislation in the next few weeks. He points to the need for robust laws to protect the environment and the need to ensure that they are enacted. 

These laws should not be subject to the whim of political cycles, but take the long view, thinking of the impact of their enforcement on future generations. In this regard, the need for Ireland's climate legislation to be as robust as possible and to incorporate the principle of climate justice is very clear.

On the economic front, the Encyclical points to the need for macroeconomic strategies and business plans in particular to integrate environmental costs. It points to the fact that the economy currently does not account properly for the use of natural capital, utilising it as if it were an infinite resource. We know now that it is not and that true natural capital accounting is essential. 

Similarly, all businesses need to implement Environmental Impact Assessments, which take the full environmental impacts into account.

The Encyclical starts and ends with a very compelling but simple message: we need to look at nature and each other with new eyes. Before thinking about how we can use nature, we need to recover our capacity to contemplate it, and give praise to God for its and our existence.

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June 18, 2015

Pope's Encyclical is ‘a wake-up call to a world sleep-walking into disaster’

Today Trócaire welcomed Pope Francis’s Encyclical on ecology, saying the Pope’s unprecedented intervention must have a positive impact on the vital climate negotiations this year. 
 
Pope Francis today published Laudato Si’, in which he calls for action at local, national and international levels to combat ecological destruction, and in particular the future threat and current reality of climate change. 

The Encyclical, which is addressed to "every person who lives on this planet," clearly aligns the Catholic Church with the growing movement calling for urgent changes to lifestyles and energy consumption in order to safeguard the future of the planet.
 
Speaking in the strongest terms yet in defence of the environment as "our common home," Pope Francis warns of the unprecedented destruction of ecosystems as a result of human activity, clearly outlining the threats to future generations as a result of our actions. 

Calling for an “integral ecology,” Pope Francis underscores the human roots of the current  ecological crisis in social, political and economic structures. He points to the need for a radical shift in direction in political and economic priorities in order to meet the needs of the poorest, while also warning that our current lifestyles and consumption patterns are unsustainable.
 
Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan said that the Encyclical should mark a turning point in the global response to environmental justice, and particularly climate change:
 
“This Encyclical is one of the most significant Church documents in a generation.  It is a powerful wake-up call to a world sleep-walking into disaster. Pope Francis has clearly aligned the Catholic Church with calls for urgent political action to reduce carbon emissions and set the world on the path to a sustainable future.
 
“Trócaire is dealing with the consequences of climate change on a daily basis. Drought, flooding, storms and forced migration are all on the rise. Although we are insulated from the worst impacts in Ireland, we must not forget that hundreds of millions of people around the world are struggling to survive in great part due to the changing climate.
 
“In less than six months time, world leaders will meet in Paris at the UN Climate Summit. Pope Francis has added the voice of the global Catholic Church to the calls for agreement on a legally-binding framework to decarbonise our societies as a matter of urgency.
 
“The science on climate change is already clear. Pope Francis has now clearly outlined the moral and spiritual arguments for taking action. This Encyclical tackles the lethargy that is felt by many people when faced with this most pressing of crises. Pope Francis makes clear that everything is inter-connected. We are custodians of this planet and we have a clear moral obligation to ensure that everyone has access to its abundant resources, and that we hand it to future generations in a condition that is compatible with life.”

On Monday and Tuesday of next week (22-23 June), Trócaire is co-hosting a major international conference on Climate Justice at Maynooth University. Speakers include Mary Robinson, Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Places at the conference are now fully booked, however, the event will be livestreamed here: www.climatejustice2015.org.

 

Learn more about Trócaire's ongoing Climate Justice campaign

 
Additional Notes:


1. An Encyclical is a letter issued by the Pope to all Catholic Bishops around the world. Laudato Si' is Pope Francis’s second Encyclical. In June 2013 he released Lumen Fidei, which addressed issues such as faith and charity.

2. The environment has been a key theme of Francis’s papacy. In his inaugural address (March 2013), Pope Francis urged people to be “protectors of one another and of the environment,” reminding people that “everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it.”

3. In Evangelii Gaudium, an apostolic exhortation issued in November 2013, Pope Francis warned against an economic system which promotes exclusion, inequality and violence. He warned, “in this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increase profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.” An apostolic exhortation is a letter to all Bishops, clergy and lay faithful.

4. In 2014/15, Trócaire spent almost €58 million helping to improve the lives of an estimated 2.4 million people directly in some of the poorest places in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

5. Climate change is a priority issue for Trócaire. Our Livelihoods programmes offer support to people struggling to grow food in the face of erratic weather patterns, while our Humanitarian programmes respond to situations of crisis resulting from drought, storms and floods. In 2014/15, €13.3 million was spent supporting livelihoods programmes in 14 countries. These programmes are estimated to have benefitted 794,898 people directly. In 2014/15 Trócaire spent €26.8 million supporting humanitarian and disaster risk reduction work in 16 countries. This work is estimated to have supported over 1.1 million people directly.

6. In 2014, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued ‘The Cry of the Earth,’ a pastoral reflection on climate change which noted: “in addressing the challenge of climate change, everyone has a part to play. Every action taken in favour of a just and more sustainable environment, no matter how small, has an intrinsic value. Action at a global level, as well as every individual action which contributes to integral human development and global solidarity, helps to construct a more sustainable environment and, therefore, a better world.”

7. Trócaire issued ‘Glas’, a pastoral resource, to accompany ‘The Cry of the Earth’. This resource has been distributed to parishes throughout Ireland in order to give communities ideas of practical steps that can be taken to promote a healthy environment. Trócaire works with parishes, schools and communities across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to promote responses to climate change.
 

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June 15, 2015

Pope Francis encyclical to call for action on climate change

On Thursday (June 18th) Pope Francis will release Laudato Si, his highly anticipated Encyclical on climate change. The document will mark the Pope’s most significant intervention in the climate debate to date, clearly aligning the global Catholic Church with calls for greater political action to save the planet from climate chaos. 

Pope Francis has already clearly demonstrated his commitment to environmental care through many of his public statements. Last year, he warned, “if we destroy it [nature], it will destroy us”. However, this week’s encyclical will be his most unprecedented intervention on the topic of protecting our planet. 

Laudato Si is expected to make the moral argument for taking political action to reduce carbon emissions. It is also expected to make the link between environmental destruction, poverty and inequality by criticising an economic system that benefits a small elite while at the same time causing environmental destruction that harms us all. It is expected that the Pope will deeply question how we run our economy and our lifestyles and how we value our relationship with nature. 

Tigray, Ethiopia, climate change

Dry landscape in Tigray, Ethiopia, where once-reliable rains have become infrequent and unpredictable. Photo: Jeannie O'Brien, 2014

 

The timing of this encyclical is extremely important. There are a number of international processes taking place this year relating to climate change, culminating in the vital UN Climate Summit in Paris this December. 

Pope Francis’s intervention at such a crucial time will clearly place the Catholic Church on the side of those demanding political action. Laudato Si will be distributed to Bishops around the world, who will then filter it down through the parish network. 

At Trócaire, we have made climate change our number one priority. Increasingly our programmes are focused on tackling the impacts of climate change – be it drought in southern Africa, storms in Latin America or flooding in Asia. 

Climate change is having a severe impact on the ability of already struggling communities to survive and grow food, and the experts warn that this will only intensify over the coming years unless action is taken immediately to reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. 

For example, it is predicted that yields from ‘rain-fed’ agriculture will drop by 50 per cent by 2020 to due drought.

The great injustice of this is that it is the people who are suffering most who have done the least to contribute to climate change. Developing countries are much more dependent on subsistence agriculture and have far fewer resources with which to cope with the changing climate.

Pope Francis’s encyclical will offer timely guidance on how we should tackle the most pressing issue of our time. 

Access Trócaire's schools, parish and policy resources on climate change.

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June 12, 2015

10 climate quotes from experts and activists

Bernie Sanders quote

 

bill mckibben quote

 

eamonn meehan quote

 

jim kim quote

 

joseph romm quote

 

leonardo di caprio climate quote

 

Mary Robinson climate change quote

 

naomi klein climate quote

 

Robert Devoy climate scientist quote

 

Kumi naidoo climate quote

 

Meeting the Challenge of Climate Justice: From Evidence to Action

Trócaire is co-hosting a major climate conference on 22-23 June in Maynooth.

Speakers include Mary Robinson, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, and Jean-Pascal van Ypersele of the IPCC.

The event is now fully booked, but will be livestreamed here: www.climatejustice2015.org.

Please join us!

 

Trócaire's Climate Justice campaign

Find out more about Trócaire's work on climate change and climate justice. Access useful resources and multi-media content and sign up to our campaign.

 

June 12, 2015

Diversity determines destiny: Trócaire partners in Guatemala working to secure land and food supplies

Rose Hogan, Trócaire’s policy advisor on sustainable agriculture, reports from Guatemala on the global lessons that can be learned from local initiatives in ‘ecological agriculture’. 

I’ve just spent an educational and inspiring two weeks meeting with Trócaire partners in Guatemala and El Salvador, learning about their strategies for securing sustainable food supplies, reducing malnutrition and adapting to climate change for families and communities.

Rose Hogan and various Trocaire partners in Guatemala at ecological agriculture workshop

Six partner organisations who all work in the area of ecological agriculture came together for three days in Coban, Guatemala to share experiences and learn from each other.

Halwa and Martin, from Cobán, Guatemala, have been working with Trócaire’s partner Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Comunitario Indígena "Wakliiqo" (ADICI) for five years now. They have adopted a farming technique known as ‘a long-cycle succession forest farming’ which uses long-term tree crops such as cinnamon to develop a tall canopy under which several layers of plants are grown. Green leaf plants cover the soil while beans, pineapples, tomatoes, pumpkins, cacao and other plants all form layers at various heights taking advantage of light and nutrients and finding their own space within the new food forest architecture. 

It sounds chaotic but a natural order does emerge. After five years of using this technique Halwa and Martin now have 110 different plant species which either feed the family directly, or feed the soil, the chickens or the bees who in turn feed the farming couple and their two children. 

According to Halwa and Martin this highly complex permanent cropping system has helped them improve their nutrition through the consumption of a much greater diversity of foods than they would have traditionally consumed and it is also providing a small income that is helping to send their two teenage boys to secondary school. 

Over one hundred families in ADICI’s programme have seen positive changes. ADICI have trained them to monitor their own progress by comparing their food consumption and income with that of neighbouring families. The results show that those families who have adopted the multiple-cropping techniques are eating more often and a more diverse range of foods than their neighbours who have stuck to conventional, business as usual, farming systems, focused solely on growing corn and beans.

RED Kuchubal, another of Trócaire’s  partners in Guatemala, has been very successful in supporting small farmers’ access markets for their produce including coffee, chocolate, honey and various herbal medicines and balms. Some products have received international certification as organic and have even reached international markets.  

Generating a cash income is, however, only one part of the story for achieving sustainable livelihoods for Guatemala’s poor farmers and indigenous families.  Ensuring secure access to land is crucial to producing food for the family. 
Rural Guatemala has been scarred by centuries of conflict, dispossession and unequal access to land that has left the country with the legacy of one of the highest rates of malnutrition in Latin America. 

Malnutrition for children under five is at 43.4%. In rural and communities this rises to 60% and among the indigenous population an alarming 80% of children under five are malnourished.  Eighty-percent of the food consumed in Guatemala is produced by small farmers despite the fact that they only have access to 20% of the land. Whereas 80% of the land remains in the hands of 20% of the population, mostly families of the Guatemalan elite, that use the land to produce export and agro-industrial crops such as sugar cane, coffee, banana, rubber and palm oil.

Trócaire’s partners engage the rural families in land rights education and advocacy with government bodies to ensure land rights are respected. Partners also support families and communities to secure legal title over their lands to avoid future dispossessions. 

Land tenure security is now being threatened by land grabs for mining and hydroelectric mega-projects as well as massive palm oil and sugar cane plantations to produce biofuels. 

Many of the families and communities who suffered both losses of land and loved ones during the 36-year internal armed conflict are the same ones facing this new threat of dispossession.  

Thus organisations like ADICI take a holistic approach to food security by working to protect the rights of small farmers and indigenous communities to lands and resources. They support community peace processes while encourage families to adopt multiple cropping techniques that can provide food all-year-round.

ADICI is in this struggle for the long-haul because “even though projects are short, the processes of development are long.” 

They form part of a local, national, regional and international movement towards ‘food sovereignty’ which fights to retain the legal power over local varieties and species of plant with local communities. 

Partners have engaged politically to prevent international commerce from patenting their seeds and lobbying for local seeds to become recognised as local heritage, maintained by municipalities for their people’s benefit. 

In Guatemala food security is not just about growing enough food, or selling produce in high –value markets but also about taking strategic action to hold onto the agro-biodiversity which enables a diverse diet no matter what the climate brings. 

These local activities provide valuable models for the global actions needed on conversation, land rights and food security into the future. 

Learn more about Trócaire's work in Guatemala

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