On World Health Day, speakers from various Catholic organizations gathered to discuss biodiversity loss and ways to protect our planet and our health.
This year’s World Health Day theme, “Our Planet, Our Health”, provided the backdrop for this webinar discussing the urgency to act as we approach the Biodiversity Conference, COP15, which has not been held since 2018.
The upcoming conference this August in Kunming, China, will be a momentous occasion to amplify the interconnectedness of biodiversity and climate crises and the need for them to be tackled together.
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Nations must commit to protect half of the Earth, 50%, by 2030 to avoid massive biodiversity loss and the worst effects of dangerous climate change. The scientific paper entitled “A Global Deal for Nature: Guiding Principles, Milestones, and Targets” highlights that “nature needs half”.
The webinar delved into the deliberations that took place in Geneva, Switzerland, this March, including outcomes from the resumed sessions and actions looking into COP15, together in synodality with collaborators across the world.
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Speakers’ main reflections:
Allen Ottaro, Founder and Executive Director of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA), gave his impressions of the Geneva outcomes while focusing on Catholic care for creation and what can we do today in light of the ongoing international negotiations:
On the outcomes of the Geneva meetings, Ottaro highlighted the complex nature of the processes, which often leave less substance when the negotiations are over and “the rubber hits the road”. He noted that there was a constant reference to Indigenous Peoples and local communities, who are those on the frontlines who protect our common home the most.
“We see that there is increasing recognition, inclusion and consciousness of the need to reduce our global footprint…however, due to COVID-19. We’ve lost time to catch up on important decisions.”
“We share this common home and are called to a higher responsibility to be involved at every level. We must take up this calling and find concrete ways to apply it in our own communities.”
Sister Jyotisha Kannamka, Laudato Si’ Animator with the Sisters of Notre Dame, India, spoke of the meaning of our moral duty to care for creation according to our Catholic social teaching highlighting how sisters are making their contribution. She spoke of how God has made us stewards of creation, stressing that protecting biodiversity is our moral responsibility given to us since the beginning of creation:
“Human beings are spiritual beings. When you look at the loss of biodiversity, we human beings are failing to be spiritual beings.“
She also showcased how the Laudato Si’ spirit was integrated into the numerous projects and activities regarding ecological engagement and education on creation care in her region: “In my province, we have taken it as a transformative spiritual journey. We promote biodiversity to enhance and promote our integral ecology journey.”
Eric Dinerstein, Director of the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions program at RESOLVE, talked about the need to fight the twin crises together. He also noted the importance of Indigenous People and local communities who are custodians of biodiversity:
Stressing that policymakers generally lag behind the scientific community, he presented graphic samples from his work demonstrating the need for urgent focused efforts towards protecting at least half the Earth in an interconnected way.
“We face two more existential threats: pandemics due to the loss of natural habitats and ecosystem collapse, where ecosystems are so disrupted that they no longer function.”
“The single most important thing we can do is to empower and finance Indigenous People to care for the areas they inhabit.”
Sister Rainer Boniface, Laudato Si’ Animator and Loreto Sister, discussed biodiversity collapse and how climate change affected her region. She also touched on how it is our moral duty to care for all of creation, showing examples of how Sisters work to care for our common home:
“Life is really changing because of the increased temperatures on Earth. We cannot farm and sustain our economic activities. Nature has a way of balancing itself, and the system is being disrupted.”
“It is our moral duty to promote, preserve, share, care, and protect our common home.”
Dr Franziska Kohlt, Research Associate, University of York, spoke about the role of emotion and conceptualization, stressing the importance of feeing that we are an integral part of creation:
Dr. Kohlt noted how the phrase, “biodiversity loss,” provokes a powerful emotional response, noting how different species can have various degrees of success in advocacy campaigns, as people feel more connected to more “charismatic” species.
She explained how the word “environment” depicts a world happening around us, putting us in the center and making us the main arbitrator of things: “The solutions cannot come alone from us. They lie on creation itself.”
She praised Pope Francis’ terminology in Laudato Si’, “our common home”, which takes into consideration that, “The world is not a thing happening around us. We are an integral part of it, and we all have a place in creation. We must give important consideration to this, which is true not only of nature, but also of the most vulnerable members of our human species.”
As we are all part of creation, we are called to work together to protect our common home. When we protect our planet, we also protect our health.
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