Cardinal Turkson on climate change and its effects on human development

“God gave us the earth as a garden, we will not leave it as a wilderness” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Caritas Internationalis 2015 General Assembly.

Cardinal Turkson spoke about some of the most far-reaching changes facing the world today, looking at trends in climate change and its huge effect on human development, especially the poor who suffer the most from the consequences of climate change.

“At a granular level, they are too many and too diverse to even enumerate,” said the cardinal. “ But at the highest level, we can take a lead from Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium, where he cites ‘the advances being made in so many fields [that] improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications.’

This is Sinteyo. She lives with her family in a remote village in Leparua in Kenya. CAFOD (Caritas member in England and Wales) has funded a greenhouse project in Sinteyo’s community, which uses a solar-powered pump to water tomato plants throughout the year. Photo by Annie Bungeroth/ CAFOD, May 2014

“Yet daily life for much of humanity is perilous. Diseases and other factors cause fear and desperation, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise and inequality is increasingly evident.

“This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occurring in the sciences and in technology and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life.

“The earth is both a legacy from our parents and a loan from our children, so we must care for it. Let the world know that there is no divide or whatsoever between religion and sciences on issues of climate change but there should be a collective effort and approach to it.”

Cardinal Turkson said that the Church has been very concerned about issues of climate change and has taken certain steps to address some of these issues through the work of Caritas and other initiatives. One of these he said can be seen as reflected on the pope’s request for an encyclical that is focused on “Concern for the human person, concern for the environment”.

Africa has role

On Africa, Cardinal Turkson reiterated that, like the rest of the world, Africa is not left out in the challenges of environmental degradation and climate change. The concern for environment is rising day by day in Africa as well.

“The significance of 2015 is brought out in the series of world meetings that are lined up to fashion international consensus facing humanity; the Financing for Development conference, United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda and climate change.

“It is very significant for us Africans to recognise that all of these world events require preparations. If we are not out there in the preparations, we will miss out in contributing to the final documents that comes out because it is in the preparations that people try to get their interest formulated and if we are not there to promote our own interests, then going at the end of it will be too late to critique anything or push for interests.”

He said it’s important to have advocacy groups in our countries to ensure that policies formulated are implemented to help reduce environmental degradation, climate change and to improve human development.


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