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Father Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary who has worked in the Philippines since 1969. In 1974, he founded the Preda Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and children and campaigning for freedom from sex slavery and human trafficking.

A world crisis that's still hotting up

A world crisis that's still hotting up

Global warming has resulted in prolonged droughts in the southern Philippines affecting crops and the livelihood of farmers. (Photo by Vincent Go)

Published: January 28, 2019 06:07 AM GMT
A lack of political will risks seeing the planet's temperature exceed the two-degree threshold

Something strange and unusual is happening to our world, and every one of us will be impacted. 

The indigenous peoples of the Philippines, for example the Aeta, have survived for years. They have survived by their unique survival skills in the rainforests as hunters and gatherers. Their love and respect for nature and its cycles and seasons and intimate knowledge of the hundreds of plants helped them survive.

The Aeta's lives are, however, changing with climate change at a pace they never experienced before. 

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Life today is very different than it was about 70 years ago when there were still lush rainforests. Now the forests are almost gone. Hundreds of thousands of trees have been cut and shipped out to Japan, Korea, and Europe. The Aetas retreated further up the mountains and became subsistence farmers.

The Aeta people of Luzon had all of their ancestral lands stripped bare, and they being a peaceful people living in small remote villages, became planters and harvesters on the bare hills and mountains. They planted vegetables, root crops, and a variety of fruit trees. But the absence of the forest has changed the climate drastically. Crops are failing.

The earth is warming, overheating, and the last few years were the hottest ever recorded. It caused disruption all over the globe. Nothing like this has happened for millions of years, and when it did the earth was uninhabitable. Thousands of species became extinct.

It is happening again because of us humans, the most intelligent species who should know better. We humans are less human and more driven by our animal instincts and passions and not guided by reason, discipline or self-control.

We as a species are the most destructive species after the dinosaur Tyrannous Rex. Our society is powered more by greed than by love of each other. Many of us know what is right, but choose the wrong. Rainforests are destroyed, the air is polluted and poisoned, and our lifestyle is causing the planet to overheat. It will have more devastating consequences than we have already experienced.

Many politicians and corporate bosses, especially in developed economies, refuse to face and admit the truth of global warming and the dangers of climate change because of corporate greed and the love for comfort and money. Some say it is a hoax.

We need to elect politicians who have education, strong moral values, and a love for the environment and who can see and respond positively to the needs of the poor people and the planet.

The absence of political will and the refusal to admit the threat is making the planet's temperature creep upward to the maximum allowable temperature set by the 2015 Paris climate treaty of two degrees before disaster strikes. Even this present level, experts say, is already a calamity. An increase in ocean temperatures is causing the death of coral reefs. They produce life-giving food for thousands of species of fish upon which millions of families depend for their daily meal. Damage the coral reefs and we damage the food chain.

The wanton destruction of black coral in Mindanao is the result of corporate and local government corruption. They take a long time to recover. Besides, the oceans are absorbing all the CO2 they can and they are becoming more acidic. Global fish stocks are threatened too.

There will be more massive crop failures, drought, floods and rising sea levels. There will be greater forest destruction in the Amazon and massive population migrations. The Aeta and farmers everywhere will have fewer harvests as a result of global warming. Food prices are increasing at an alarming rate and as production drops, famine could once again kill millions.

The tipping point of global temperature is approaching. The earth is already warmer and vast tracts of permafrost in Siberia and near the Arctic Circle are melting, releasing billions of tons of methane into the atmosphere. It is adding to the blanket of gas that insulates the planet and prevents heat from escaping.

Meanwhile, the sun penetrates directly, unreflected by the ice cap that has melted. Severe winter storms are harsher, colder, and prolonged. As I write, parts of Europe are buried under mountains of snow. The rising level of CO2 emissions causes global warming. Before the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide levels were about 280 parts per million. Now the level is close to 400 p.p.m.  

If we humans continue this destructive behaviour, like destroying forests and burning fossil fuels in coal plants to make electricity, we are going to cook the planet and destroy our own ability to survive. We have to protect the environment, clean the oceans of plastic, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. 

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia