As the first pontiff to speak before the Joint Congress of the United States, Pope Francis challenged the United Nations for peace and environmental justice, as he placed blame “for the exploitation of natural resources on a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity.” At the same time, the Pope endorsed the efforts of the United Nations to reach global compact to fight poverty and climate change.”
As the head of the Holy See, Pope Francis invoked the principle of international law and equality among nations and endorsed the concept of “rights of the environment,” to save the earth’s forest and seas, and humanity as a whole, by addressing climate change now. He said “Any harm to the environment is harm to humanity” and that the global poor are the greatest victims of the destruction of the environment.
Destroying our planet
Our planet would be at an imminent grave risk of being irreparably destroyed, if Global Warming, more appropriately termed Climate Change, as Pope Francis alluded to, continues unabated. And like the multitudes of problems threatening the world, this major one is caused by its intelligent inhabitant, man himself, and his careless and irresponsible behavior, especially in the last two hundred some years. Human beings are not new to self-abuse, self-destruction, and to irreverence to his environment, in spite of their education, culture, and massive data in this age of exploding informational technology and mind-boggling advances in science and medicine.
Man’s self-abuse and rape of his environment, the only one hospitable to him, are almost certain to doom the world he lives in, unless he listens to Mother Nature and promptly starts to take a wise proactive strategy in dealing with his present ecologic dilemma. Man cannot afford to lose this one, his only sanctuary in the galaxy. And what’s happening is scary.
Historically, the earth’s climate has gone through various changes, from ice age to prolonged periods of heat waves. The factors involved include the alteration in the Earth’s orbit, the degree of energy from the sun, and volcanic eruptions. The latter part of the 18th century ushered in the human factor: the industrial revolution which has contributed to more massive environmental pollution.
The human factor includes the carcinogenic fumes from cigarettes, carbon monoxide/dioxide from engine emissions, chemical contamination from the household agents (soaps, bleaches, tile and toilet cleaners, etc.) we use daily, factory polluting our atmosphere and dumping of toxic waste products into our rivers and lakes, deforestation and destruction of our greeneries, invasion of the original habitats of animals and disturbing the natural order of things, and the environmental insults that urbanization brings with it in general. These changes in the landscape of nature have affected the health and atmosphere of our planet, causing its “body” to have a temperature that is rising like a fever from an “infection,” and at an alarmingly faster rate than what it should be. And all this because of what we, its intelligent inhabitants, have done to the one and only “life-sustaining home” we know in the galaxy.
The burning of fossil fuels, such as coals and oil, and deforestation these past two centuries have led to the “greenhouse effect,” where the toxic gasses in the atmosphere have significantly increased to the point of trapping heat, like in a glass panel enclosure of a greenhouse, causing the earth’s temperature to climb more rapidly than ever before in its history. The resultant man-induced depletion of the ozone layer (nature’s protective “umbrella” shielding us from the harmful variety of sun rays) is likewise a great health hazard, a most plausible contributing factor in the alarmingly increasing rate of the various cancers killing people in the world today.
Although greenhouse gasses, at safe levels, are essential for life as we know it to keep our planet comfortably warm, abnormally high levels are far too dangerous for our Planet. At the present, man’s abuse of his environment has adversely affected many aspects of our life, including our means of subsistence, agriculture and aqua-culture, to mention a couple.
Data from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and NASA “show that the earth’s average surface temperature has increased by about 1.2 to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900…the warmest global average temperatures on record have all occurred within the past 15 years, with the warmest two years being 1998 and 2005.” This indisputably means the human factor has caused this dreadful and scary phenomenon.
Indeed, as guests in this Planet we call home, we, humans, have not been ecology-conscious enough and environmentally-friendly at all to Mother Earth. This has resulted in the gradual deterioration of our ecosystem, as Pope Francis pointed out.
What are the signs of a widespread and long-term trend toward global warming? The manifestations include unusually warmer weather and heat waves; glacier melting; Arctic and Antarctic warming; and, ocean warming, rising sea level, and coastal flooding. Aren’t the various volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, typhoons, and hurricanes, and evident weather changes not enough hints for us?
If man does not do anything about this climate change soon, the resultant impact of this global warming, according to experts, will lead to the following “harbingers”: diseases spreading more easily, spring arriving earlier, coral reef bleaching occurring, plant and animal range shifts and population changes taking place, downpours, heavy snow falls and giant tidal waves and flooding, droughts and fires happening often.
While government initiatives by all nations around the globe are vital to the remedial solution to this potentially catastrophic dilemma that could make our world uninhabitable and wipe out civilization as we know it, our individual and concerted community behavioral modifications and proactive lifestyle changes could immensely help and positively impact on how much longer we can keep Planet Earth a safe place to live in. The ball is in our court, as Pope Francis hinted. Indeed, humanity’s fate, our tomorrow, is in our hands.
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