‘Severe’ outlook says Caritas in Statement on the Oceania environment
Caritas has shifted the dial to ‘severe’ for four of its five environmental indicators, while climate finance for the poor has remained stubbornly at ‘woefully inadequate’ for seven years.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has monitored five environmental issues affecting people of the Pacific since 2015 through its State of the Environment for Oceania reports. In conjunction with other Caritas Oceania members and community-based partners throughout the Pacific, they have told the story of how extreme weather, rising seas and coastal erosion, access to safe local food and water, offshore mining and drilling, and inadequate climate finance supporting the poor are affecting the peoples of Oceania.
Last week, almost 80 people gathered for Caritas Oceania’s online talanoa “Towards our Future Home: Imagining the Future we Need” to consider the enviromental challanges and solutions facing the region, through the experience of the poor.
The inter-related nature of the changes was illustrated by Caritas Tonga Director Suliana Falemaka: “Climate change is impacting our lands, coasts, water supplies and weather patterns. In Tonga, we have longer and more frequent droughts … People in low-lying coastal areas are seeing stronger storm, surge and flood events; while saltwater is contaminating groundwater and affecting drinking supplies.”
Kositatino Tikomaibolatagane of Caritas Fiji said, "Coastal erosion has been affecting many communities in the Pacific, especially here in Fiji. More than three communities have been relocated elsewhere and 40 more communities are in the pipeline for the government plan to relocate them due to the problem of coastal erosion which resulted from sea level rise. A road which was accessible to vehicles up till last year is not accessible anymore because erosion has destroyed it."
The talanoa also highlighted the need to fully involve youth and Indigenous perspectives, and prioritising basic human rights to healthy food and safe drinking water. Technology needs to be used appropriately for the common good. Youth and Indigenous perspective need to be fully incorporated into problem solving.
“If we look after our land, it will look after us,” said Mina Pomare-Peita, principal of Te Kura Taumata O Panguru. “As Indigenous, we need to take back and understand what time looks like for us. How do we observe the seasons, how do we observe our land, our ocean, our sky, and from there, how do we create solutions.”
In November, thousands of people will gather in Glasgow for the COP26 meeting on climate change. Strong urgent action is needed on many fronts to turn things around for Oceania people directly impacted by sea level rise, coastal erosion and extreme weather events.
“The urgent transition away from fossil fuels can’t be used to justify other forms of exploitation of people and nature,” said Julianne Hickey, Director of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand. "We continue our call for a ban on seabed mining in both national and international waters. The people of Oceania rely on the ocean for their livelihoods. Seabed mining puts all that at risk”.
“The latest IPCC report in August warned of huge climatic changes for us all. But it also signalled, big changes in behaviour by us now could start to start to make a difference in 20 years,” said Julianne Hickey. “That’s a long time politically, but it’s not a long time to make a real difference for our children’s children.”
Caritas releases its report annually on 4 October, the Feast of St Francis of Assisi. St Francis exemplified a love for creation. It is therefore appropriate that we call for each of us to consider what steps we can take to ensure future generations inherit a world that has been properly cared for.
Pope Francis has called upon all people to ensure that we care for creation so that our world is passed onto future generations in a way that serves the common good of all.
The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity. Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. - Pope Francis, Laudato Si', 159.
Further supporting material can be found on the Caritas website at https://caritas.org.nz/state-environment-oceania-2021
For information contact: Roger Ellis, Engagement Manager, email: email@example.com or 021 526 264 (mobile).
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ agency for justice, peace and development, and incorporates Catholic Volunteers Overseas. We are working for a world free of poverty and injustice through community development, advocacy, education, and emergency relief. Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.