Some sixty governors and mayors from around the world held a brainstorming summit in the Vatican on Tuesday and yesterday to work out ways to combat climate change and its effects on society’s most vulnerable people.
The theme of the summit was Pope Francis’ recent historic encyclical tittled Laudato Si in which he said caring for Mother Earth was an urgent moral imperative and that fossil fuel-based global warming was putting hundreds of millions of poor people most at risk.
Hailing from cities in North and South America, Europe and from developing nations like India and Gabon, many of the governors or mayors are committed to environmentally friendly policies aimed at bringing down the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
“Global warming is one of the causes of poverty and forced migrations, and it favours human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution and organ trafficking,” Vatican’s Academies of Social Sciences said in statement before the summit.
Addressing the summit Pope Francis said he had great hopes that a fundamental agreement to tackle climate change would be reached at the world summit to be held in Paris later this year and he believed the United Nations needed to play a central role in the fight against global warming, the Guardian newspaper reported.
“The UN needs to take a strong position on this issue, particularly the trafficking of human beings, a problem that has been created by climate change,” the Pope said.
The conference began by hearing harrowing testimony from two Mexican women who were victims of modern-day slavery. “It’s not possible that it still exists, that we remain blind” to the issue of modern slavery, said Ana Laura Pérez Jaimes, who spent five years chained up and forced to work 20 hours a day in Mexico. She showed photographs of some of the 600 scars she suffered as an indentured servant, forced to iron for hours a day without food or water. She said she had to urinate in a plastic bag.
A fellow Mexican, Karla Jacinto, described how she was physically and sexually abused by her family and forced into prostitution between the ages of 12 and 17. She was forced to have sex with more than 42,000 clients before she was rescued.
“I didn’t think I was worth anything. I thought I was just an object that was used and thrown away,” she told the hushed and shocked conference hall. The 22-year-old mother of two now campaigns on behalf of trafficking victims the guardian added.
“We cannot separate people from everything else. There is a relationship which has a huge impact, both on the person in the way they treat the environment and the rebound effect against people when the environment is mistreated,” the Pope said pressing that his recent widely acclaimed letter to the world was not a green encyclical but a social encyclical.
He spoke of the uncurtailed growth of cities, a global phenomenon that was giving rise to shanty towns and slums on the periphery of big cities because there was not enough economic opportunity to sustain poor people in rural areas. He criticised the rise in youth unemployment – which in countries such as Italy has reached rates of more than 40% – and lamented that the plight of the young and poor was leading to meaningless lives.
In the United States which is known to be the biggest polluter in the world but has so far refused to sign the treaty restricting carbon emission, the attitude appears to be changing.
After ostensibly trying to separate global warming from national security concerns, The US Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley this week joined those who were claiming global warming created the conditions necessary for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to grow.
In May, US President Barak Obama told graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to prepare for the fight against global warming. The White House has been trying to shift the focus of global warming away from temperature and more towards public health and national security.
In Sri Lanka the President and leaders of all major alliances and parties need to give serious thought to this global trend where Sri Lanka also may end up with the total pollution of our air, soil, water and food while the rising sea levels may take away part of our coastline. Going beyond party politics we need to act now to save our Motherland.
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