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Peace, climate justice to save planet

The good news is that more people are becoming aware of the dangers of climate change

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Peace, climate justice to save planet

A mountainside in the southern Philippines burns as a farmer prepare the land for planting. Slash-and-burn agriculture, also called fire-fallow cultivation, is a method that involves the cutting and burning of plants in a forest. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

The world is afire again. The flames heartbreakingly consume shrubs, trees and forests in Australia, Portugal, Brazil and, recently, in California and Siberia. And elsewhere, too.

The world community has reacted in protest to the hundreds of fires burning in the Amazon rainforest that have destroyed the habitat of thousands of endangered species and the communities of indigenous people.

Naturally recurring fires can be helpful to forests, but man-made forest fires are too huge, too frequent and overwhelming for the forest to recover.

Deforestation is totally destructive, and when primeval rainforests are cut, the loss is almost irreversible.

Let us tell it as it is.
 
In Brazil, the Amazon is on fire and it is caused by farmers, business interests, settlers and corporations that are cutting the trees and clearing forests by burning to create pasture and raise cattle.

The injustice to the indigenous people is enormous. Peace is not present while their lands are being burned and deforested. From the Amazon to Peru and Chile, the destruction goes on.

In the Philippines, the Lumad indigenous peoples in Mindanao have lost much of their ancestral lands and forests to destructive mining and logging corporations. They are now a people under siege.

Corporations hire militia as armed security guards and enforce disputed claims over the ancestral lands of the people.

The government in 1993 ignored the constitutional rights of the Lumad and issued a concession to a huge corporation to extract and exploit natural resources on their land.

There are reported human rights violations and mysterious deaths of opponents of mining and logging corporations.

In South America, forests are lost to cattle raising as the world eats more beef. The trees are supposed to absorb industrial CO2 from factories, power plants, and cars.

The billion or more cattle raised for dairy and beef products on cleared forest land produce millions of tons of methane gas that is worse than CO2 in warming the planet and accelerating climate change.
 
The melting of the Siberian bogs is releasing millions more tons of methane. Then there is the dangerous greenhouse gas that is leaking from the world's electrical supply grids. It is one of the most powerful and polluting. It is called sulfur hexafluoride FS6.

Leaks of this gas into the atmosphere in 2017 are equivalent to the vehicle emissions of 1.3 million vehicles. The leaking must be stopped. The urban poor suffer greatly from the toxic fumes from diesel carbon particles that float in polluted cities.

Voices raised at last

The good news among the gloom and doom is that more people are becoming aware of the dangers of climate change and the need for climate justice, and are calling for change — political, social and environmental.

Students are refusing to go to school on Fridays and are protesting instead. Thousands of people are marching and raising their collective voices.

Global warming is melting the Arctic ice sheet at an alarming rate. Scientists are astounded.

This is causing the sea level to rise, sinking island nations in the Pacific and bringing severe climate disruptions that cause droughts, floods and hurricanes, as seen recently in the Bahamas.

There is more to come. The towns and cities on the coasts will be inundated in the years to come. Those of eastern England, Bangladesh, the Pacific Islands and Florida are the most vulnerable and will be the first to go under. There is no holding back the rise in ocean levels.

Besides this, the polar bears, reindeer and the wildlife of the Arctic are increasingly under threat of extinction and the indigenous people suffer greatly due to the destruction and changes in their environment. We are at war with the planet and each other.

We humans yearn for peace and an end to war. We are the most powerful and aggressive species that dominate the environment, and we are destroying it. The planet has evolved millions of creatures but none so destructive and dangerous as us humans.

The high levels of human antagonism, distrust, fear and insecurity have led to confrontation between individuals, communities and nations. Peace is elusive.

Even in the most economically developed countries, division, violence and racial hatred are present. In Syria, Yemen, the Congo, Northern Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Middle East, war is a daily occurrence. If we are not killed by gunfire as in America, thousands die from opiate overdoses.

Humans have beaten each other to death with clubs and then deadly weapons for centuries. They have nuclear bombs now to bring about our own extinction. We must live with the fear of mutually assured destruction to survive.

To stop this gallop to self-harm and destruction of the planet and our environment, there needs to be a huge change in lifestyle among humans.

We are all responsible for causing pollution by extensive traveling, using non-recyclable plastic, unnecessarily buying imported foods instead of growing food locally and eating millions of tons of beef instead of more fruits and vegetables.

We can save the planet if governments implement the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions of CO2, methane and FS6 gases. Changing to electric cars and renewable energy production are all important ways to combat climate change.

Of course, planting millions of trees is also essential to absorb the CO2.

Respecting the rights of the indigenous people to live on their own ancestral lands and protect their forests is a human and legal right. If the government respects the constitutional provisions and existing laws protecting the rights of the indigenous people, they will not renew the operating permits of many destructive, land-grabbing mining corporations.

Growing public protest and positive action give hope and encouragement to more people to change their lifestyle and demand governments around the world to act decisively to protect the planet and give climate justice to those deprived and hurt by the environmental damage caused by wealthy nations. We have to work for change.

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. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of ucanews.com.

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