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Extreme Heat, Fires And Death: Climate Change Is With Us

Extreme Heat, Fires And Death: Climate Change Is With Us July 2, 2021

No photographer listed: Climate Change Brings More Fires /pxfuel

Another summer has just begun in North America, Once again, we find ourselves experiencing extreme weather conditions thanks to climate change.  Extreme heart, wildfires, and drought threatens the United States and Canada. Every year, we things are getting worse. The effects of . climate change is before us as it lays waste our cities and kills off our people. The land itself is being affected, as Alaska experiences icequakes, earthquakes which are the result of all the melting ice:

As the Pacific Northwest region endures a heat wave, we can expect the melting of snow and glaciers to accelerate, which could cause hazards such as flooding.

But they could also trigger seismic activity. Studies are finding that melting glaciers are contributing to earthquakes—the earth sinks under the weight of glaciers forming but it springs back up when glaciers melt. Accordingly, the increased melting of glaciers caused by climate change may lead to an increase in the frequency and intensity of earthquakes.[1]

Climate change is making everything worse. Its effects threatens the whole web of life. New consequences of climate change, which we will look back in hindsight as being surprising we did not foresee, will affect our livelihoods. The situation is going to be dire. What we have done to the Earth is going to come back to haunt us. We have been tasked to take care of it, but instead we have used and exploited it. While some think we have already reached the point of no return, we do not know this, and we have reason to hope that if we made things bad, we can repair the harm which we have caused. While there is much work to do, and we will have to suffer the consequences of our all the years we neglected our responsibility to the Earth, we can still do something. We have to believe we have not reached the tipping point yet. We are near it, but near is not the end. Our experience with animals should show us this as we  found a way to bring many species back from the brink of extinction. This shows us that we can turn things back, we can restore things to the way they were, and this is exactly what we should be doing as Pope Francis indicated:

In the Bible we read that: «The heavens declare the glory of God; / the skies proclaim the work of his hands. / Day after day they pour forth speech; / night after night they reveal knowledge. / They have no speech, they use no words; / no sound is heard from them».

We are all part of this gift of creation. We are a part of nature, not separated from it. This is what the Bible tells us.

The current environmental situation calls us to act now with urgency to become ever more responsible stewards of creation and to restore the nature that we have been damaging and exploiting for too long. Otherwise, we risk destroying the very basis on which we depend. We risk floods, and hunger and severe consequences for ourselves and for future generations. This is what many scientists tell us. [2]

We must protect the beauty and goodness of the Earth. We inhabit it with many other forms of life. Due to the gifts God has given to us, we are responsible for the Earth and what happens to it. We are connected to the Earth, and our own development, therefore, is connected to the way we engage our responsibility:

The Earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator who, in designing its intrinsic order, has given us bearings that guide us as stewards of his creation. Precisely from within this framework, the Church considers matters concerning the environment and its protection intimately linked to the theme of integral human development.[3]

We cannot, indeed, we must not ignore our duty. We see the consequences of our negligence. So many forms of life have been wiped out. Our own communities suffer. People are dying as a result of the extreme heat. We must do something. The longer er wail, the worst the consequences will be. More people will die. More extreme heat, more fires, more droughts will devastate the land. If we don’t act, this will seem like nothing as compared to what can come next. Pope Francis is right, we are in the midst of a “climate emergency”:

We also need to restore the land. Climate restoration is of utmost importance, since we are in the midst of a climate emergency. We are running out of time, as our children and young people have reminded us. We need to do everything in our capacity to limit global average temperature rise under the threshold of 1.5°C enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, for going beyond that will prove catastrophic, especially for poor communities around the world. We need to stand up for intra-generational and inter-generational solidarity at this critical moment. I invite all nations to adopt more ambitious national targets to reduce emissions, in preparation for the important Climate Summit (COP 26) in Glasgow in the United Kingdom. [4]

Christians need to realize that our relationship with God connects with the way we treat God’s creation. Do we despoil it, or do we treasure it as a gift of God? If we are to be true to our calling, true to our relationship with God, we must take care of the Earth and all those forms of life which live on it, as Pope St. John Paul II preached:

The consequence of this doctrine is quite clear: it is the relationship man has with God that determines his relationship with his fellows and with his environment. This is why Christian culture has always recognized the creatures that surround man as also gifts of God to be nurtured and safeguarded with a sense of gratitude to the Creator. Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality in particular has witnessed to this sort of kinship of man with his creaturely environment, fostering in him an attitude of respect for every reality of the surrounding world. [5]

Respect for the world is respect for God. Disrespecting and ignoring the needs of the world demonstrates our disrespect for God, its creator. We cannot ignore all the harm we do to it. We can’t excuse ourselves from our duty. We cannot ignore climate change. We must acknowledge what is going on. We must acknowledge our role in it, just as we had to acknowledge our role in the way many species of life were going extinct. We must repent and work to restore what we have ruined. If we are to survive much longer on the Earth, if there is to be a future for us, we must act now. As Pope Francis understands, there is little time left:

However, we are warned that we have little time left – scientists say the next ten years, the span of this UN Decade – to restore the ecosystem, which will mean the integral restoration of our relation with nature. [6]

Ten years. Perhaps that guess is off. Perhaps we have a little more time. Perhaps we have a little less. But what we do know is that the time is short. We must act. We must work together if we are to get through this crisis. The longer we wait, the worse things will be, and those we love will suffer as a result of our inaction. Every time we try to excuse ourselves from our duty, all we do is show how selfish we are. Such selfishness is far from the love which God expects from us. This is why those who try to use some religious reason, such as that we should not be concerned with material things but only spiritual things, show they do not really understand spirituality. Love must be at the forefront of our spirituality. We cannot abandon the world, abandon our duties to the world, to our neighbor, and believe our spirituality is good or pure: it isn’t. God, in pure love, did not abandon the world, and so we, likewise must not abandon it either. God loves it and so should we.


[1] Craig Takeuchi, “Ice Quake Occurs In Alaska Near B.C. Border While Earthquake Hits Off Oregon Coast” in The Georgia Straight (6-29-2021).

[2] Pope Francis, “Message For The Launching Of The United Nations Decade On Ecosystem Restoration” (5-27-2021).

[3] Pope Benedict XVI, “General Audience” (8-26-2009).

[4] Pope Francis, “Message For World Day of Prayer For the Care of Creation” (9-1-2020). ¶4.

[5] Pope St. John Paul II, “Address To The Conference On Environment And Health” (3-24-1997). ¶4.

[6] Pope Francis, “Message For The Launching Of The United Nations Decade On Ecosystem Restoration.”

 

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