Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on climate change elevates protecting the environment to a moral issue. Hopefully, this will have a much greater impact than the scientists, environmentalists and politicians combined.
Every religion in the world proclaims that the Almighty creates heaven and earth. The atheists may think that this all happens somehow by chance. Regardless, humans cannot ignore the environment that sustains them. They can only thrive subject to the benign support of the natural forces. All human inventions come from utilizing the earth’s resources and its natural laws taken for granted. If we only know how to exploit without thinking about how to enable the natural resources to regenerate and replenish, the environment will one day reach a point of no return that will lead to eventual collapse.
Climate change is a complicated issue. The main factors are: the explosion of technology over the last few decades, the increase in population, the rise in living standards, and the greater amounts of wastes especially due to burning fossil fuels. The impacts of climate change do not necessarily involve the weather getting hotter locally. It exhibits itself in extreme droughts, floods and other weather conditions all over the world resulting in reduced agricultural production.
Why has it taken so long for people to accept climate change? This is even more complicated despite the overwhelming scientific evidence. The biggest obstacle is the huge established commercial interests such as the fossil fuel industry and all those associated with it. They see climate change and the required remedy as a threat to their profits and ways of life. As a result, they try their utmost to erect barriers, prevent the passage of stricter environmental laws, and even discredit climate scientists of their findings.
A second reason is the uneven distribution of wealth worldwide. The First World where the minority of the world’s population live used to be the heaviest polluters but they control the bulk of the world’s production and consumption. With the rise of China, India and other populous countries adding close to one billion middle-class consumers, the dynamics of climate change has now shifted. The First World tends to blame the developing world for creating most of the pollution nowadays. The developing world argues that they need a larger share of the world’s resources to sustain their economic development, and counter-charges that it was the First World that has been polluting heavily for most of the last few decades.
Blaming each other cannot solve the world’s greatest challenge. It’s time for all countries to come together to find a solution to the earth’s climate problems. The earth is our only place to live. We did not create it but we need it to sustain our lives and those of later generations. It’s very selfish and short-sighted to view the world’s resources in terms of material benefits to be exploited without restraints.
We are a creature of the natural world where achieving a balance is mandatory to avoid an environmental collapse. The mindset of “beggar your neighbor” does not work because of its boomerang effect. Every one of us must contribute our part by wasting less natural resources and reducing our carbon footprints. Just like doing no harm to others, let’s make doing no harm to nature a moral issue.