Cry of the Earth

Landscape - part flowered field, part parched land with dead tree

Our planet has always had anomalies of climate from time to time but we are currently witnessing a scale of destruction that is new and terrifying.  This last year across the world we’ve witnessed a series of more dangerous and more frequent extreme weather events and devastating disasters – cyclones, deadly heatwaves, wildfires which engulf towns, droughts, flooding – all causing millions to lose their homes, livelihoods and loved ones.

Simply put, changes in the global climate exacerbate climate hazards and amplify the risk of extreme weather disasters.  Increases of air and water temperatures lead to rising sea levels, supercharged storms and higher wind speeds, more intense and prolonged droughts and wildfire seasons, heavier rainfall and flooding. The evidence is overwhelming – in the last ten years, the rate of global sea-level rise was 2.5 times faster than it was for almost all of the 20th century.  We might see this as happening in other places but it’s closer to home than you might think.  According to sea level rise maps produced by science and news organisation Climate Central, huge parts of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – including the city centre – could be submerged in the next 30 years if nothing is done.  You can see this for yourself (and investigate which other UK areas will be lost) on this interactive map link:  Peterborough-on-Sea?

Bishop John Arnold for the Catholic Bishops Conference writes:

More than 20 million people a year are forced from their homes by climate change. At the end of October until November 12th, the UK will host a Conference of the Parties (COP 26), the UN’s annual climate conference, in Glasgow. It will gather world leaders and governments from 197 countries, including Pope Francis and the Holy See, to discuss climate change and renew commitments to ending the climate crisis. COP26 represents an urgent summons to provide effective responses to the unprecedented ecological crisis and the crisis of values that we are presently experiencing, and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations.  For the first time since the 2015 Paris Agreement, States will be reporting back on their progress made, as well as making ambitious pledges to halt environmental degradation and cultivate care for our common home. Yet we cannot leave the healing of our common home merely to a response from governments, we each have a role to play…..which Pope Francis says is made up of simple daily gestures that seek to build a better world.  As we approach COP 26, I hope the below links encourage you and your communities to renew your commitment to living our vocation as protectors of God’s handiwork and make you determined to play your part in caring for our common home. In the weeks ahead, I ask you to pray for all leaders and governments attending COP 26 and to make the most of this beautiful Season of Creation in taking time to reflect on our relationship with our creator God, with each other and the gift that is our common home.

  • CAFOD, the official aid agency for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has produced a useful guide to COP26 and how you can get involved.
  • In the run-up and during the summit, we invite you to pray that the leaders and negotiators work together for positive outcomes for people and for our common home. COP26 – Prayer Card
  • Environment Case Studiesprovide examples of how parishes, organisations, academic institutions, and other church groups are collaborating to help protect our common home. Read more
  • Resources for families and schools to inspire interest – Resource pack

Pope Francis and other top Christian leaders in the world have issued a joint statement pleading for the COP26 attendees and the world as a whole to make choices for the good of the planet:

“Technology has unfolded new possibilities for progress but also for accumulating unrestrained wealth and many of us behave in ways which demonstrate little concern for other people or the limits of the planet”

“As leaders of our Churches, we call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, to examine our behaviours and pledge meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us”.