By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ
(http://rcsocialjusticett.org) & Director, CREDI
Tomorrow, Monday, November 6, the world will observe the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. In Genesis 2:15, we read: “God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it.”
Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si (On Care For Our Common Home) is a call for conversion of hearts, minds and lifestyles if we are to save our planet. He says dialogue and education can “help us to escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us”. He urges us to “hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” … He calls us to promote authentic human ecology which connects ecological issues and life issues.
On September 25, 2015, Pope Francis addressed the UN. He called for a ban on nuclear weapons, highlighted climate change, and the ‘ecological crisis’: “Man, for all his remarkable gifts…can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity… the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorised to abuse it, much less to destroy it.
“The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently-abled, or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action… Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses.”
Currently the media brings into our homes images of the result of countless wars and armed conflicts around the world. The following is just one example of the impact of these on the environment. Simon Torkington’s article: ‘Nuclear weapons test: what’s the damage to people and places?’ is informative. Inter alia, he says:
“On 9 September 2017, North Korea confirmed it had carried out its fifth test of a nuclear bomb. The first data on the test came from the US Geological Survey, where monitors detected a 5.3 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter of the quake was located close to North Korea’s nuclear testing site…With the explosive power of up to 30 thousand tonnes of TNT, the latest North Korean warhead was more powerful than the bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima… there have been more than 2,000 nuclear weapons tests since the end of the Second World War…
“The human and environmental devastation caused by decades of nuclear testing is still being felt today… the people of Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands (in the Pacific) were told they would have to leave the island for just three months before it would be safe for them to return home. More than 60 years after the detonation of the Castle Bravo bomb in 1954 (by the USA) the island is still too dangerous to live on… It was 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb… Known as the most nuked place on Earth, the Nevada Test Site (USA) was used for almost 1,000 nuclear tests between 1951 and 1992…we may never fully know how many people are at risk from the nuclear tests being carried out. What we do know is that the human and environmental impact of the tests will last for decades or even centuries to come.”
The environmental crisis is a moral challenge for us in T&T also. Just look around at the environmental degradation that surrounds us. We are the stewards/trustees of our environment. As Pope St John Paul II said: “We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the wellbeing of future generations.”
If we love God and all His creation, let us acknowledge our interconnectedness/interdependence and build right relationships with our environment.
“The human and environmental devastation caused by decades of nuclear testing is still being felt today…”