On Environmental Protection and Climate Change Adaptation

“When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:50)

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The Earth is groaning from a climate crisis of catastrophic proportions. Global temperatures have increased immensely in the last fifty years and experts predict that these will rise even more in the coming decades. Global warming is disrupting weather patterns, severely damaging the environment, and destroying lives and livelihoods. The biggest impact is felt by the poorest and most vulnerable.

Climatic change is caused by the unprecedented increase in human-generated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But the most dangerous increases are carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions from the burning of fossil fuels for industry, commerce, transport and militarism – mostly by industrialized nations.

The Philippines has been declared recently by the United Nations as the third most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change. The Philippines yearly experiences at least 27 floods and 17 landslides, and loses tens of millions of pesos in agricultural and infrastructural damage. Images of destruction wrought by typhoons Ondoy, Pepeng and Pedring lie festering in our collective memory.

The country’s fragile ecological state aggravates the country’s susceptibility to the impact of climate change. A decade ago, only 18% of our forest cover remained. Today, it is down to an estimated 6% of the original forest habitat, and is further threatened by an average loss of 157,400 hectares per year. Our forests are being destroyed to make way for the operations of mining trans-national corporations (TNCs), commercial logging, geothermal explorations, dam construction and other so-called development projects. Forests which make up the focal ecosystem and is responsible for ecological balance and climate regulation, is being decimated at an alarming rate.

Despite the disturbing facts that stare everyone in the face, the administration of President Benigno Aquino III has not shown signs of reversing the situation. It is taking the country down the  road, as his predecessors have done, toward a brand of development that is fuelled by neo-liberal globalization which throws open our soil, seas, forests and mountains to plunder by big foreign corporations and public-private partnerships in the mining, energy, and agri-business industries. Of late, we have seen the mushrooming of coal-fired power plants which according to the government is a better source of energy, in spite of a foregone conclusion that they are notoriously responsible for greenhouse emissions.

The Spirit of the Creator God that infuses the whole inhabited earth, impels us to realize that, left to the development designs of the present dispensation, our children will one day find themselves in an arid wasteland or worse yet, this land may be dragged into the depths of the sea. It behooves all who acknowledge that the “earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” must care for God’s good earth. And this begins with an understanding that climate change is not merely an environmental concern but is a social justice issue. Therefore, stewards of God’s creation should critique the neo-liberal development policies, put forward by developed countries in the light of our Biblical imperatives to serve the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters. The deafening groans of creation and the creating spirit of God call us to renew the face of our dying earth.

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This statement was unanimously approved by the delegates of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines 23rd Convention held at Philippine Rice Research Institute in Batac, Ilocos Norte on November 24, 2011.