Pope made telling points about need to save damaged planet

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 September, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 September, 2015, 12:01am

I refer to the letter by G Bailey ("Climate is an extremely complex issue", September 5) in reply to my letter ("We all need to pitch in to reduce impact on planet's health", August 30).

Your correspondent misses the point of my plea for those of us who live in the rich world to take individual responsibility for our oversized carbon footprint.

Our actions pose disastrous risks for the poor who live in Mumbai and Lagos, even if we are relatively insulated by the cocoon of our wealth. Pope Francis' papal encyclical Laudato Si intended to provoke a fundamental change in how humans understand their responsibility to a degraded planet close to the point of no return.

The encyclical attributes the predominant burden of the environmental crisis to rich countries greedily extracting natural and carbon-based resources to feed their desire for consumer goods.

It comprehensively reframes the greatest threats facing mankind in recent times (environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, water scarcity, overpopulation and climate change) into a moral context.

This paradigm shift is likely to strike a chord with readers who have become immune to the heated debate surrounding the most reliable prediction models for anthropomorphic climate change and global warming.

The pope proposes a "prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption".

He rejects human beings having "dominion" over the earth as giving us licence to plunder its resources without a thought for other living beings. Laudato Si promotes the moral awakening necessary to persuade all of humanity of our collective responsibility to safeguard a habitable planet to pass on to future generations of human and non-human life.

Importantly, this encyclical delivers with a credible and respected voice the virtually unanimous findings of mainstream scientists, the warning of "unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us". It also advocates for citizens of the poorest countries, who are least able to adapt to rising seas and devastating droughts and floods that are likely to occur without swift remedial action.

The stakes are so high that the whole world has to take global warming seriously. For all of us, there is simply no time to waste, more so for the poor and disenfranchised who are at gravest risk from harm.

Joseph Ting, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia