This was the question posed during the recent meeting of the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania (Australia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, New Zealand, CEPAC – the rest of the Pacific).
An urgent ethical challenge facing the worldwide human family today concerns economic development dependent upon fossil fuel based energy, especially coal.
“More than any other factor, this form of commercial growth is contributing to destructive climate change. Every day our people are suffering from the negative - indeed sometimes disastrous - effects of global warming,” says the FCBO.
“These include rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures, acidification of waters and coral bleaching, and threats to bio-diversity (cf. Laudato Si’ 41) alongside the more widely noticed increasing extreme weather patterns of cyclones, typhoons and storms.
“Why is it that notwithstanding the indisputable negative consequences upon our human ecology, still many governments not only permit but support the expansion of coal based industries?
“For whom and what is this myopic ‘growth’?
“We draw attention to article 195 of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ which unmasks the often ignored long term social costs of leaving unchecked the pursuit of short term profits, through allegedly cheaper (but exploitative or destructive) means of production.
“Sooner or later future governments will have to address these social health and environmental costs and thus, in effect, subsidise the very industrial bases they should be curbing.
“As people of faith, we remain leaders filled with hope. Conversion of attitude is the catalyst to convince political parties and governments to address climate change. For too long we have been subject to the shallow defence that legislating for effective industrial change would be ‘political suicide’. We reject this belief and appeal to all people, particularly those in the continents of industrial strength, to hear our voice from the south. In your hands lies the power to make sustainable, responsible, economic development a political non-negotiable for voters.”
“In conclusion, we offer our support to all businesses with a strong ethic of care for workers and the environment, and we again implore governments to exercise responsible leadership in favour of the common good, future generations and our mother earth.”
The Catholic Bishops’ meet in Port Moresby hosted the theme: “Care for our common home of Oceania: a sea of possibilities”.
(From left: General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands, Fr Victor Roche, with Cardinal Sir John Ribat)