Climate Change: Now is the Time to Live Laudato Si

By Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja

Posted on Wednesday, 3 August 2016 15:05

Pope Francis is truly inspirational. From his ubiquitous presence as he travels around the world to his words both spoken and written, there is perhaps no one more widely respected than our Pontiff.

In Laudato Si, Francis emphasized that we all have a role to play when it comes to caring for our common home – our planet. Francis reiterates that humans are both a part of creation and set apart by God who calls humanity to “cultivate and care for” the gift of creation (Genesis 2:15).

Maybe I am biased, but I find the Encyclical to be an Encyclical for Africa

A year after the Pope inspired us with Laudato Si, it is especially vital to now focus on finding ways to live Laudato Si – after all, it is action, not words that are the true test of the Pontiff’s message.

As the Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Abuja, I am keenly aware of what caring for this planet, and taking on climate change means. Hardly a day passes when we don’t feel the impact of climate change.

Changes in our rainy seasons, crop disruptions and dangerous diseases are facts of life that are only exacerbated by our collective addiction to fossil fuels and the emissions they spew into our sky. We feel the impact also on the socio political plane.

As desert encroachment dry up traditional grazing grounds in the North, itinerant cattle herdsmen invade the South seeking better pastures, thus leading often to bloody clashes with farmers in their villages. This is often perceived as Muslim-Christian conflict.

There is another side to the story. Nigeria depends a lot on proceeds from the sale of oil. It seems that our government has not been able to resist the temptation to allow the oil companies to employ criminally careless production methods that maximize profit but destroy the environment. The ecological degradation of the oil producing area of the Niger Delta has led to serious security challenges from armed militants.

And while we can share our worries about the changes we are seeing in our climate here in Nigeria, I find true inspiration in the solutions we are embracing across Africa, particularly since Pope Francis delivered Laudato Si.

Maybe I am biased, but I find the Encyclical to be an Encyclical for Africa. While it’s well known that Africa does little to cause climate change, it hasn’t stopped us from being leaders for climate solutions.

Morocco, which will be hosting this year’s UN Climate Negotiations in November, is already poised to host the largest solar plant in the world. When it is completed in 2020, the Moroccan super-solar plant will power one million homes with over 500 megawatts of clean electricity.

In Cape Verde, a wind farm provides 20 percent of the West African country’s current electricity needs. Last year at the UN climate negotiations in Paris, the African Renewable Energy Initiative took flight, and once it is fully supported with a total of 20 billion dollars in the coming years, Africa will be able to develop as it reduces emissions. For the more than 620 million people who live in Africa without electricity, this is good news.

Of course, not everyone can take so-called, “big actions,” to tackle on climate change, but that certainly doesn’t mean small actions don’t add up. They do. Actions come in many forms, and speaking up is one of the actions we can all take. We cannot be silent when it comes to impacts we are seeing at home.

We must pressure leaders at home and abroad, to wake up and see that climate change is not some far off thing that will appear in a few decades. It is here now. We know it. We see it. We live it. We need to make sure the global transition to renewable energy is a just transition that includes Africa. Across our beautiful continent, we have had great examples to follow when it comes to speaking up.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has long been a champion for caring for our environment, speaking against pollution and for a healthy Africa. Just recently, Archbishop Tutu, along with many other leaders from a number of faiths, including the Muslim community, urged churches to divest their investments from fossil fuels, just the same way Nelson Mandela urged the world to divest itself from interests supporting apartheid.

Across Africa, you will see that the ways people live Laudato Si knows no single region, no single country or religion – it is something all Africans have been doing.

I urge you all to keep it up. Together, we can take good care of creation for future generations. I urge everyone to not just listen to the words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si, but to keep finding ways to live them. You will find that you will be in good company, and the results will be a planet that we will all be proud to share.

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