How to save the Philippines and the planet

By Fr. Shay Cullen

This is not a happy article. It can’t be because the truth is that we live in a sad and tough world where the super rich and powerful politicians own and manipulate the world economy, the financial markets and, above all, the energy sector. They have us ordinary people subjected to their power and decisions. Putin can decide to stop again the export of Ukrainian grain and start and end a famine in Africa. He can stop a war, but will not.

The UN and Turkey forced him to allow the grain to be shipped. His autocratic order to call up young people to fight his war in Ukraine has been met with resistance. Thousands have been arrested for protesting.

In the Philippines and elsewhere on the planet, there are challenges of climate change where immediate action is needed by government and business tycoons. The words of Pope Francis in Manila are challenging and inspiring. “As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.” —Speech, Manila, Philippines, January 18, 2015.

We should also heed the dire message of the Secretary General of the United Nations. He has spoken forcibly and directly recently with a message that we all have to take to heart: to save the planet from catastrophe.

“At least half of all climate finance and climate resilience should go to adaptation and climate resilience, to protect people and economies. Unless action is taken now, unless funds are disbursed now, these tragedies will simply multiply, with devastating consequences for years to come, including instability and mass migration around the world.”

The remarks are a challenge for us in the Philippines, in our local communities, to act together to protect and save the environment. It is especially addressed to government officials and their friends in the energy business to have a lively conscience, a love of your neighbor and the nation, the people, the poor and the planet.

You in power have great responsibility to help remedy the Philippines’ and the world’s problems by a historical and long-lasting decision to implement plans to invest in and install renewable energy sources, adding more wind turbines and solar power fields and starting to reduce coal-burning power stations in the Philippines.

That is the path to greatness. That is the achievement that will win the gratitude of a nation. You will not be remembered for the vast amount of money you accumulated (unless it is from wrong-doing) and donated to charity nor will you be remembered and honored for the use of political power, unless it is abused and violates human rights. Yet, to make the Philippines energy self-sufficient is a feat that will be remembered.

The challenge for you leaders of industry and political dynasties is for you to use the economic and political power that you have to reach great goals of Philippine energy self-sufficiency within 20 years. Every island, every region could have its own independent power grid based on renewable energy. This, too, will be saving the nation from negative climate change and economic disaster.  Pope Francis told us a profound truth, “May the relationship between man and nature not be driven by greed, to manipulate and exploit, but may the divine harmony between beings and creation be conserved in the logic of respect and care.”—General audience, Vatican City, April 22, 2015.

Your primary goal is to avoid corruption and self-serving rule. To be a true leader, you have to serve others, not yourself. Many fake and failed leaders have come and gone and their exuberant empty promises were political lies. UN Secretary General António Guterres said, “Our world is blighted by war, battered by climate chaos, scarred by hate, and shamed by poverty, hunger, and inequality. Conflicts and unrest continue to rage. The war in Ukraine is devastating a country — and dragging down the global economy”.

There are the international tycoons in the global oil and gas industries that are making billions of dollars out of the global warming crisis that causes non-stop disasters. The government officials, some climate deniers, and money moguls that promote investment in the fossil fuel industries must be denied access to funds and consigned to the dark pages of history. They will be considered the destroyers of the planet. No songs will be sung for them but the good committed business leaders of conscience can be encouraged to expand renewable energy resources. Pope Francis had this say to them: “Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin.”—Speech, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, July 9, 2015.

Renewable energy resources such as wind power, solar, geo-therminal and tide resources, are easily available and a free gift of nature that generates electricity without harming the environment but benefits mankind by harnessing the free and abundantly available forces of nature. We have seen the devastation caused by typhoons in the Philippines every year- landslides, floods, powerful winds destroying infrastructure and houses of the poor, crops wiped out and continuous torrential rains. Witness the recent massive floods in Pakistan and China and Costa Rica, the forest fires raging and destroying millions of trees from Siberia in Russia through Europe as far as California, all because we burn oil, coal and gas non-stop.

This is what the Secretary General said before the opening of the UNGA recently in New York. “I have just returned from Pakistan, where I looked through a window into the future. A future of permanent and ubiquitous climate chaos on an unimaginable scale: Devastating loss of life, enormous human suffering, and massive damage to infrastructure and livelihoods. It is simply heartbreaking. No picture can convey the scope of this catastrophe,” he said.

Trees are the hope of mankind to absorb the CO2 in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuel, oil, coal and gas. We have to stop the destruction caused by legal and illegal logging and the bad environmental effects of mining on the lives of indigenous people.

The war of Putin against the peaceful Ukrainian people has disrupted the world energy supply and climate change plans for renewable energy have slowed down as Russia is cutting off gas to Europe. European countries are seeking new suppliers of gas and oil. They are far from being self-sufficient in energy production with renewables.

Without the dire warning of what is happening and will happen to us, we cannot act to prevent it. The world is already on fire, the nations are drowning in floods, the crops are failing and the natural world and ecology upon which many millions of people depend upon for survival are being destroyed. The dependence on coal, gas and oil has to be changed. This is the great challenge facing every government official of good conscience and moral integrity.

What more can we ordinary folk do but to clean the environment, clean up the beaches and ban plastic, buy saplings of fruit trees and plant them, clear the beaches and environment of dirt and debris. It all takes dedication to save the planet and ourselves.