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Students are witnesses to the urgency of climate change

Thursday 14 March 2019

Protesting students are non-violent witnesses to the urgency of climate change

The Wellington Catholic Archdiocesan Commission for Ecology, Justice and Peace is calling on school authorities to refrain from penalising students who take part in the Students’ Strike for Climate on Friday.

Commission spokesperson Mgsr Gerard Burns says the Commission supports the students’ action. “We support the right of young people to take non-violent action to protect their future.”

He says young people are taught the importance of personal and collective responsibility. This includes looking towards examples of non-violent change, such as the actions of the communities of Parihaka under the leadership of Tohu Kākaki and Te Whiti o Rongomai; and those of Mahatma Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. They have been told of campaigners for political justice, like Kate Sheppard, and selfless workers for others, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Suzanne Aubert in our own country.

“Now our young people are following these examples. Their strike on 15 March is a non-violent witness to the urgency of mitigating climate change while there is still time. It is, as the students point out, their generation which will inherit the consequences of the present. We must think of the world we will leave them.”

Mgsr Gerard says the scientific consensus is absolutely clear. “Our earth’s climate is changing fast because of human activity, especially the emission of greenhouse gases. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change signalled that the world has only 12 years left to prevent irreversible changes to our environment.”

However, although the effects of climate change are already evident and world leaders have committed, in the Paris Agreement 2016, to reduce emissions, the required urgency for action is lacking.

“In common with other faiths, as Christians we acknowledge the earth as our common home, created for all people and, indeed, for all species,” says Mgsr Gerard. “The solutions to our profound environmental problems must be global, but every nation, every community, and every person has a part to play.”

As long ago as 2006, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops noted that ‘Our understanding that we are stewards of God’s creation, our solidarity with the poor, and our respect for the common good make the issue of environmental justice the responsibility of every person’. Pope Francis has called for ‘a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all’.

“Many people in our country and overseas, however they might describe their religious or ethical beliefs, share this sense of spirituality, and this sense of responsibility for our common home. This is a time to listen to young people and to work collectively to find solutions that will protect generations to come.”


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