(Columnist’s note: We released this statement last Friday,June 19, after reading Pope Francis’ entire encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si. We are publishing it in Kalibutan for everyone to see groundbreaking implications of the Encyclical rarely captured in traditional media coverage.)
‘Laudato Si,’ the much-awaited encyclical on climate change and the environment by Pope Francis, is a painstaking, comprehensive discernment of not only the current global environmental and climate crisis, but of the multitude of critiques and solutions in the great debate on global warming’s roots, consequences, and solutions.
Pope Francis discussed at length the various environmental stresses that have brought about grave impacts to the world’s communities and ecosystems. From large-scale mining to agri-industrial plantations, from extreme weather events to dirty coal-fired power plants, and from the hyperconsumerist culture to the economic system founded on corporate greed, the Holy Father decried how both the public commons and the communities are bombarded by environmental pollution and destruction in the name of profit and for the benefit of the few.
Upholding Common but Differentiated Responsibilities
Notably, Pope Francis went into full detail in reiterating the common but differentiated responsibilities between industrial nations and poor nations, and between the elite and the grassroots sectors of society. It is a much-needed push back against the attempts of big businesses, bureaucrat capitalists, and industrialized countries to deny their historic and current ‘ecological debts’ on climate pollution, ecological destruction, and extreme poverty.
Laudato Si highlighted how the big capitalist countries and the small but entrenched elite in their colonies and neocolonies are plundering the natural resources of the third world, leaving poor countries on their own to face the devastated ecosystems and massive by-product waste.
Pope Francis’ pronouncement truly gives voice to ‘both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ by giving moral impetus to the grassroots’ demand for reparations for the losses and damages they continue to experience from the ecological destruction and disasters wrought by the First World.
On a related note, Pope Francis reiterated the need for a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, a timely recognition of the right of poor countries to develop through their wise use of indigenous energy and other resources and through unconditional financial and technical aid from the rich countries and corporations ecologically indebted to them.
The Pope’s upholding of the need for a just transition is a clear stand for the poor, as the industrialized nations and their transnational corporations have long sought to transfer their obligations to their colonies and neocolonies to carry on their business-as-usual pace.
Pope Francis carefully deconstructed, with relative success, the different myths and extremes that seek to cloud the reality of structural inequity on a global scale. Notwithstanding the reproductive health debate, the Holy Father correctly cites the grossly uneven distribution of resources and its consequent impacts and accountabilities between the moneyed few and the dispossessed many as the core of the crisis, and not simplistically overpopulation.
Another common theme that Pope Francis discussed at length is how engineering and other technological solutions are important but not the be-all and end-all of climate solutions. From genetically-modified organisms, biotechnology to renewable energy solutions, the encyclical correctly explained that the economic and political motives that these technologies serve are what make or break their effectiveness and acceptability to the peoples of the world.
Indeed, despite rapid technological advancements in the world, the technology and its benefits remain concentrated in the hands of a few, and are used as a tool of exploitation and oppression against the nations and peoples of the world.
On the Lines of Approach and Action
Finally, the Pope laid down different pathways the peoples of the world can act on. The Holy Father challenges the First World to respect their obligations to the Third World and to ‘our common home.’ His Holiness did so by refusing instruments such as carbon credits and the ‘internationalization of environmental costs’ that would let big businesses and industrial countries run scot-free while imposing heavier burdens on poor countries in the process.
Pope Francis challenges poor countries such as the Philippines ‘to eliminate extreme poverty and to promote social development of the people,’ while combating the ‘scandalous level of consumption’ and ‘corruption’ of the local ruling classes, and pushing for pro-people and pro-environment policies at the national and local levels.
This is a succinct articulation of our domestic environmental and climate crisis, where the Aquino administration persists in perpetuating the rapacious plunder and pollution of our environment and natural resources at the expense of the worker and peasant majority.
To demonstrate that the Philippines is indeed a model for climate vulnerable countries around the world, the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines is enjoined to not only stay the course but to further integrate its social action in the people’s movement against destructive large-scale mining, land reclamation, coal-fired power plants, and various other forms of ‘development aggression.’
The church, and the public at large that was addressed by the encyclical, should take the cue from their brethren who are already active in various flashpoint people’s struggles for the environment–the anti-coal power projects and anti-large-scale mining movements in Batangas, Mindoro, and other provinces around the globally acclaimed biodiversity corridor of the Verde Island Passage and in the ‘Last Frontier’ of Palawan; the defense of ancestral lands by the Igorots, Dumagats, Tumandoks, Lumads, and other indigenous people across the Philippines; and the cries for justice and accountability by the millions of survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan and other extreme climate events.
We must demand our country’s negotiators to the upcoming climate talks in Paris that the Philippines should take back the moral, scientific, and socially just high ground, by abandoning its acquiescent positions and by instead championing our demands for respect of differentiated responsibilities, reparations for historic and ongoing losses and damages, based on no less than a legally binding international agreement.
The Church and the public are also enjoined to stand against such viciously anti-poor, environmentally destructive, and colonial policies under the Aquino administration as the Mining Act of 1995, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, the Forestry Code of 1978, the Visting Forces Agreement, and the National Reclamation Plan, among others.
Ultimately, the Church should once again be a leading torch in the urgent need for a People Power Renaissance, to take to task corrupt and polluter politicians such as Pres. Aquino.
We, in the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and the rest of the progressive and democratic mass movements in the Philippines are very much open to helping the Church spread these lessons from the Laudato Sii, and to directly apply them to the living, breathing, and vibrant environmental movement in the country and in the world.