This year’s campaign marks the beginning of Development and Peace’s new education program for 2011–2016.
For the past five years, we have focused our efforts on the exploitation of natural resources. Whether related to the mining industry, to the conversion of farmland for agro-industrial use, or to the threats posed by the privatization of water resources, these issues are at the heart of the challenges faced by people in many countries of the world. This new program is an opportunity for Development and Peace to take a new approach to these issues. This new approach, centered on the concept of ecological justice, will allow us, among other things, to make the connections between ecological issues, agricultural production and the exploitation of natural resources. In order to do that, we must acknowledge the historic and current responsibility of developed countries for the environmental destruction that we see today. The countries most affected are those least responsible for that destruction. Our western way of life must become more ecologically sustainable. We are called to be in solidarity with people in the Global South who want to improve their standard of living by sharing the knowledge and technical resources that they need, while at the same time, not imposing a model of development that is based on consumption and economic growth at any cost. These are some of the issues we will address in our 2011 to 2016 education program under the banner of Ecological Justice.
What Is Ecological Justice
Ecological justice celebrates the interconnection and interdependence of all beings, and recognizes our human responsibility to co-exist in harmony for the well-being of the Earth community. Ecological justice promotes human dignity, the self-determination of all persons, and the development of sustainable economies with justice for all within a finite world.
From a Christian perspective, ecological justice is based on the belief that the Earth is sacred, and that the dignity of the human person requires particular attention to the needs of the marginalized and the poor – a preferential option for the poor.
From a scientific perspective, ecological justice is based on the knowledge that the Earth and its resources are finite, that ecosystems are complex and fragile, and that the natural world, of which humans are a part, exists as an interconnected and interdependent system. In this web of existence, human ingenuity and activity must be founded on prudence and care.
From a historical perspective, ecological justice is based on the fact that the Earth’s dominant economic, social and political systems have favoured – and continue to primarily benefit – people in the Global North. This has led to the depletion of Earth’s ecological diversity, ecosystem destruction, pollution of soil, sea and sky, species extinction and climate change. This damage has been felt most deeply by populations in the Global South who are least responsible for it.
Working for ecological justice calls for inspiration, prayer, resourcefulness and imagination. Responding to the urgency of the present global inequities and ecological degradation – particularly from the effects of climate change – will require determination, restraint, solidarity and love from each of us.
The Challenge Ahead
The concept of ecological justice implies the recognition that our planet’s resources are finite and that there is a moral obligation to make fair, responsible and sustainable use of those resources so that they can meet the basic needs of all people as well as those of future generations. Among those needs, the ability of people to feed themselves is a priority. By 2050, with an estimated population of nine billion human beings, food production will have to increase by 70 percent to ensure food security for all. Today, more than two billion people are undernourished. Will we be able to meet the challenge of feeding the world while trying to address the ecological health of our planet and the catastrophes already happening because of climate change? This year, we will explorethe models of agricultural production at use in the world today and their impact on both the environment and the living conditions of the people who practise them.
In the next several weeks an action card and a brochure will be available in our Parish. Please pick up one of each. The action card is a message of support for small scale farmers around the world who are working for small-scale agriculture, genuine land reform and a change in production and consumpion patterns.
Support the efforts of small scale farmers.Together we hold the future in our hands. Together we can achieve a healthier planet.
Presentation to Parishioners, Sunday November 27, 2011:
Together, We Hold the Future in Our Hands
Today and I am here to speak about the Catholic organization, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE and its 2011 Fall Campaign. Called “Together, we hold the future in our hands,” this is the first year of a new five-year program promoting Ecological Justice. These next five years will be a journey, as together we imagine a new model of development for the world, one which puts the needs of the world’s poorest first, while respecting the ecological health of the Earth. This is the theme of this year’s fall campaign and the Action Card that we are asking you to sign to support small scale farming globally and locally as well.
The warming of the Earth’s climate is real. It has led to extreme weather events, including floods, droughts and fires. These affect us all, but have the largest impact on the world’s poorest people, most of whom live in Asia, Africa and Latin America, areas where DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE partners are active.
We in the North have contributed to these changes in weather patterns. Most of the climate change caused by greenhouse gases over the past 50 years is caused by humans. Scientists tell us that for the first time in the Earth's history, humans are in the driver's seat in the ecological degradation of our planet.
As baptized Christians we are called to preach the good news to the world. But what ‘good news’ suits times such as these?
Throughout the New Testament, the ‘good news’ represents a world powerfully different than the one we know today. In Luke, Jesus says he is bringing good news not to the rich, but to the poor. In the reign of God, the wealthy and powerful do not come before the majority of humanity which suffers in poverty. Instead, in Matthew’s gospel, the good news is that “the last will be first, and the first will be last”. Ecological justice holds such promise. It promotes a model of development which puts the needs of the world’s poor above commercial and industrial interests, while respecting the ecological health of the Earth.
Small-scale, sustainable farming, the focus of this year’s Fall Campaign, promotes the common good of all creation. Small-scale farming is ecologically responsible, more so than large-scale industrial farming, which has been one of the biggest contributors to climate change in the past 50 years.
Small-scale farming can actually help to reduce climate change and cool the Earth by enriching the soil. Healthy soils can trap up to 40 percent of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – every year! Small-scale farmers enrich the soil through traditional farming practices. These include composting, careful crop rotation, and raising crops and livestock close to each other. This reduces the need for chemicals and chemical dependent crops, thus protecting the land and local water sources.
The result is a healthy human community which can not only feed itself, but can sustain a healthy ecosystem. For example, the work of DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE partner, the Indonesian Foundation on Popular Education, is based on the ecological principle that all living things on Earth are deeply interconnected and interdependent. This organization helps farmers raise traditional food for local people in a way that does not contribute to climate change.
When DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America help groups of small-scale farmers with sustainable agriculture, they are helping the Earth and all forms of life that depend on the Earth’s health. DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE believes that the preferential option for the poor should be extended – ecologically speaking – to include a preferential option for the Earth.
The good news we find in the gospel will require those of us living in wealthy countries to change our lifestyles and our attitudes towards growth. We will need to reduce our unequal consumption of the world’s resources. But it’s a matter of trying to live well, not better. I think this is good news, as we can all be part in reversing the exploitation of the earth and bring about ecological justice and harmony to the planet.
This is the message we are called to preach to the world. By signing this year’s DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE Action Card that is available in your bulletin and on the table at the back of the church, you show your solidarity with small-scale farmers. You help them to feed their communities, fight climate change, and improve their living conditions. You show that together, we truly do hold the future in our hands. Thank you.