During COP21 in Paris, religions have joined efforts together with citizen’s movements and other stakeholders advocating for decision makers to reach an agreement that will hold the global average increase of atmosphere temperature under 2º C. Cardinal Claudio Hummes puts it straight forward: “There has been a global warming since the start of industrial age, which has devastated the planet. This is not only an environmental problem but also social. And this is why the Catholic Church is challenged to sustain a living planet; as Laudato si reminds us, everything is connected”.
The Brazilian Cardinal Hummes is a high official of the Catholic Church. He was Archbishop of Sao Paulo (1998 – 2006), then he was appointed as Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy. He is very well known because of his engagement in favour of the poor and excluded. Pope Francis himself referred the story that at the Conclave of his election, and when the number of votes made evident that he had been elected as Pope, Cardinal Hummes turned to him and said: “Don’t forget the poor”.
Once ended his appointment in Rome he went back to Brazil keeping always an active role in favour of the poor and marginalized. Recently he was appointed as the President of the Pan-Amazonia Church Network (REPAM) a network that brings together the Catholic dioceses established in the Amazonia basin belonging to eight different countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. Cardinal Hummes has come to Paris in the framework of COP 21 as part of a delegation of REPAM advocating for the Amazonia region and its people.
He is quite aware that the Amazonia is not only important for the region but for the entire planet highlighting that “20 per cent of the land of the Amazon territory is at risk of desertification and this can be fatal for the rest of the globe; this process will keep ongoing unless strong measures are taken”.
At the origin of all this environmental degradation is the connection among fossil-fuel dependency, climate change and the vast consumerism in our societies, that leads to further impoverishment and degradation. “The only goal in life for many is to accumulate wealth and this attitude excuses of everything, we need a change in the financial and economic system, including the only profit-based businesses, all this needs to be changed”, he added.
As for the role of the Christians and the Catholic Church into this social transformation Cardinal Hummes pointed that we need to be “less consumerist and humbler, indeed the Catholic Church has several challenges and responsibility for our societies, for those who believe, we cannot destroy the creation of God, but to take care of because it is our common home”. And for all, believers and not believers, “there is an ethical dimension, since the destruction of the environment increases poverty, we all must listen and be in solidarity with they cry of the poor and the cry of the earth” added referring to the encyclical Laudato si (49).
The Brazilian Cardinal expressed concern about the situation in the Amazonia concretely because of the development of mega hydroelectric plants that will modify even the course of the river and certainly will affect the life of the population leaving at the banks; the mining activity that through the intense use of technologies for extraction impacts heavily in the environment. He also recalled respect for the indigenous peoples that claim for their legitimate rights although their voices are still few and not sufficiently respected in the decision making processes. “The indigenous peoples must become active agents in their own history”, he stated.
Asked about ways to confront this situation, Cardinal Hummes emphasizes the role that the education and the media must play. “Sustainability should be taught at the schools; we need education to transform the way we look to the world”; the media also have an important role to play. They built up the public opinion and we need the people be informed and aware of the importance of the Amazonia for the entire planet and for the peoples that live in the region”.
The Ecojesuit Team