Monday, September 14, 2009

BIS #1548 THE ETHICS AND POLITICS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Bosco Carvalho sdb and Rudolf D’Souza sdb
NASHIK, SEPTEMBER 14, 2009:
The Salesians of Divyadaan led the confreres and the neighboring communities of Nashik to a wider awareness of the varying climatic conditions: its causes and aftermaths, through a highly informative and educative seminar on “THE ETHICS AND POLITICS OF CLIMATE CHANGE” on September11- 12, 2009. The objective of the Seminar was to understand, reflect and respond to the ever increasing problem of Climate Change. The resource persons from the seminar were Mr. Walter Mendoza and Mr. Dominic D’Souza from the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change, Vishakhapatnam. There were nearly 100 participants comprising of the Salesian Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, teachers of neighbouring schools and also people from the neighbouring institutions. His Lordship Archbishop Felix Machado, the Bishop of the Nashik diocese was also present for the seminar.
The seminar began with a short prayer service which included the lighting of the lamp by the various dignitaries and a Bhajan to the Holy Spirit. After informing the participants of the methodology of the seminar and the time table for the rest of the seminar, Mr. Dominic D’Souza let Mr. Walter Mendoza enjoy the dais for the first day.
Mr. Walter Mendoza began the first session with a presentation of Former American Vice-President Al Gore’s award winning documentary on climate change named ‘The Inconvenient Truth’. The 90 minute documentary put the whole assembly into the proper perspective to understand the critical state we have reached in damaging our climate. It was a lucid and palatable presentation on the politics of climate change. With scientific proofs in hand, Mr. Walter elaborated that the main source of climate change is the extractive character of development and the historical emissions during the era of industrial revolution i.e. from 1850’s up to 1990. The present model of development has been generating a tremendous amount of green house gases viz. carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, etc. and other fugitive emissions. Transportation, electricity, industrial emissions, land use change, agriculture, animal husbandry and human wastes were found to be the major sources of the increasing amount of carbon and its harmful compounds. The earth can no longer take in this superfluous carbon production and therefore gives way. Adverse effects on food, water, health of humans as well as livestock and marine animals were a result of Climate Change. As a result, natural calamities were observed more often than usual.
Mr. Walter concluded his presentation by making clear the lines of action for human kind - ‘Development is living in the present without compromising the ability of future generations. The earth is for all. We humans are intelligent and capable of doing away with this alarming issue on Climate Change. Saving our mother Earth is our shared responsibility. The climate crisis can be best addressed by combined efforts between the developed and developing nations’.
The second day unfolded another aspect of climate change viz. the ethics behind it. The seminar began with a song to the Holy Spirit and a recap of the topics dealt with the previous day. Mr. Dominic D’Souza then took over and informed the participants that the issue of climate change, from any perspective, is an issue of global justice. His first presentation was ‘The Impact of Climate Change in India and Global Justice’. Through the presentation he focused on the people centered approach to Climate Change which should be the ideal approach to climate change. He stressed on the need to understand the needs of the vulnerable people in every type of ecological system: forest, coastal, mountainous, arid, and urban. The solutions must also come from these people, since this economically vulnerable majority are the most affected by Climate Change; majority, because nearly half of the world, i.e. 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day. In India alone, 60% of the people live on or below the poverty line and 70%of the total population depend on climate sensitive sectors and natural resources for their subsistence and livelihood.
The next presentation included schematic diagrams and statistics showing how technology used in the industrial processes to serve the demands of the lifestyles of the rich and elite, cause depletion of the recourses, increasing poverty and green house gas emissions and thus, accelerating the whole process of global climate change. The statistics also brought to light that India’s energy consumption is also increasing rapidly i.e. a 208% rise between the years 1980 and 2001. India is now the fifth largest among the GHG emitting countries. This in some way explained the increase in the natural disasters and catastrophes causing physical displacement of the most vulnerable and increasing Pandemics like swine flu.
Mr. Dominic then showed a couple of video clips. The first focused on the problem of human displacement because of the construction of the Polavaran Dam in Andhra Pradesh where an estimated 2000,000 people, mostly tribal, could be displaced. The second shed light on a clean energy project in another village of the same state. Mr. Dominic then discussed about the mitigation and adaptation of Climate Change measures and stressed on the role of faith based groups and civil society, in solidarity with the victims of Climate Change. Faith based groups connected to the church could not only undertake micro projects to reduce energy usage in cities but also promote insurance opportunities for the poor. Faith based groups could highlight ethics and justice issues and lead actions based on ethical considerations.
Several questions regarding the ethics and the implication of measures were put forth before the audience and the audience organized themselves into groups to discuss and answer each question. The groups came up with interesting and convincing answers which were appreciated by both the speakers.
After the lunch break, the audience was presented with an Energy Audit Plan which gave practical ways to reduce green house gas emissions locally. In the concluding panel discussion several measures were suggested both by the panel and the audience for individuals and institutions. Some individual measures suggested were creating awareness among young people in schools and oratories, using cotton instead of polyester (which is fossil based product) and faithfully practicing the energy audit directives. Some of the suggested institutional measures were water harvesting, boycotting products of MNCs and buying only local, garbage
segregation, and starting a pro-eco movement in Nashik under the leadership of the church.
The seminar not only projected the urgency of the problem of climate change but also gave the participants an opportunity to personalize the global issue and come up with tangible means to deal with it. The speakers also obliged to provide their expertise in the future for any initiatives that would be undertaken by the participants.

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