Laudato Si’ Week 2021: Meeting the needs of the furthest behind through climate action and sustainable development

Ahead of Laudato Si’ Week 2021 (May 16-25) Misean Cara Livelihoods Project Officer, Don Lucey, reflects on the role that sustainable development can play in addressing the climate crisis. He highlights two Misean Cara member projects that are helping vulnerable communities protect their environment and adapt to climate change while also promoting food security and income generation.

Laudato Si’ is Pope Francis’s influential encyclical from 2015 calling for urgent action around the global climate crisis. It has inspired millions of people to respond in unity to the ecological crisis and promote ‘care for our common home’.

Laudato Si’ Week 2021 is a celebration of the great progress the global Catholic community has made on its journey to advocate for and protect the environment, and also marks the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030. Tying into this, the theme for this year’s Laudato Si’ Week is ecosystem restoration,

The month of May also hosts the United Nations 2021 Food Systems Pre-Summit, highlighting the need for all of humanity to work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. Too many of the world’s food systems are fragile and vulnerable to the effects of climate change or supply chain interruption, as millions of people around the globe have experienced first-hand during the COVID-19 crisis.

As well, climate change disproportionately affects the world’s poor by putting the safety of their food supplies at great risk. Misean Cara’s missionary members, living and working in communities struggling against environmental deterioration, know the crisis all too well. Through their work and commitment to sustainable development practices, they illustrate the kind of inspiration that is intended by the UN Food Systems Summit, World Environment Day and the Pope’s call to care for creation and address the environmental crisis.

For example, Fr. Charlie Burrows and the Oblate Fathers in Cilacap Regency, Indonesia, have successfully worked with the local rice farming community to be more climate resilient by using more sustainable farming techniques on 150 hectares of formerly failing rice fields. The project diverts damaging silt run-off from reaching the lagoon and the fish spawning grounds and mangroves, thus helping to reverse the environmental damage. The nutrient-rich silt is also an excellent fertiliser for the rice fields.

The Oblate Fathers are also supporting people to grow mangrove trees from seed and sell plants to government agencies for a planting program further downstream in the delta, as recommended in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report. The project team has also persuaded the government to plant trees and shrubs in the uplands to reduce soil erosion into the lagoon.

Although Misean Cara’s funding of the project ended in 2019, the community team has expanded the project to a further 300 hectares, helping even more farms become climate resilient.

The Loreto Sisters in Nyumbani Village, Kitui, Kenya, have not only improved local food security but also increased the village income through the construction of a water pan, a small man-made lake used for crop irrigation. The water pan has allowed villagers to develop 10 more acres of land for farming. This land, along with 12 newly constructed greenhouses operating with a drip-line irrigation system, has resulted in an increase in crop variety and crop production, meaning better nutrition for the people of Nyumbani. The availability of fresh water has also improved sanitation and hygiene resulting in improved health among the village residents.

Laudato Si’ Week 2021 is an ideal opportunity to make sure that the needs of those people who are furthest behind in different situations (vital groupings to be tackled under the Sustainable Development Goals) are brought to the fore ahead of two crucial meetings (COP15 and COP26) about the environmental crisis and climate emergency.

The COP15, the 15th meeting of the UN Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which will be held in China this October, will review the achievements and delivery of the Convention’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow from 1–12 November. The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Pope Benedict XVI said that the “environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole”.

This blog is an invitation to you to reflect on the challenges of climate change and the actions we can all take to help offset its negative consequences.

In addressing the challenge of climate change, everyone has a part to play. Every action taken in favour of a just and more sustainable environment, no matter how small, has an intrinsic value. All action at a global and individual level that contributes to integral human development and global solidarity also bolsters a more sustainable environment, care for our common home, and helps build a better world for the most vulnerable and marginalised peoples around the world.

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