Indian climate activist gets bail in sedition case over farm stir

Ravi's arrest stoked criticism of repression of dissent by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government [Disha Ravi/Twitter]
Ravi’s arrest stoked criticism of repression of dissent by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government [Disha Ravi/Twitter]

A court in the Indian capital has granted bail to a 22-year-old climate activist, saying there was “scanty and sketchy evidence” of sedition in her efforts to help farmers protest in a case that has drawn global attention.

Disha Ravi was arrested in the southern city of Bengaluru on February 13 and charged with sedition for her alleged role in the creation of an online toolkit that police said contained action plans used to foment violence during the farmers’ protest.

Tens of thousands have been camped out on the outskirts of New Delhi in the bitter cold since December to protest new agricultural laws they say will hurt them and benefit of large corporations. The government says the reforms will bring new investment in the vast and antiquated produce markets.

Judge Dharmender Rana on Tuesday said there was little to hold Ravi, a founder of the local chapter of Swedish climate crusader Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement, in custody any longer and criticised the authorities for detaining anyone who differed with government policy.

“Considering the scanty and sketchy evidence available on record, I do not find any palpable reasons to breach the general rule of ‘Bail’ against a 22-year-old young lady, with absolutely blemish free criminal antecedents and having firm roots in the society, and send her to jail,” Rana said in a written order.

Ravi’s arrest stoked criticism of repression of dissent by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government which has been trying for months to end the farmers’ protest.

Ravi’s lawyers had said there was nothing in the toolkit to attract the charge of sedition, which carries a life term.

“Perusal of the said ‘Toolkit’ reveals that any call for any kind of violence is conspicuously absent,” the judge said in a written order.

The protests present one of the biggest challenges to Modi’s rule. Several rounds of talks between the farmers and his government have failed, and Modi has faced criticism for using heavy handed tactics to curb the movement.

Police had alleged that the toolkit was authored by Ravi and two others and had the backing of supporters of a Canadian-based group called the Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF).

They also said Ravi had shared the toolkit with Thunberg, who is one of several international celebrities who have lent public support to the farmers’ cause.

The judge said he did not find Ravi’s link to the toolkit or PJF objectionable.

“We didn’t assemble the toolkit in question, although links to our materials were included in that document,” PJF founder Mo Dhaliwal told the Reuters news agency.

Dhaliwal also countered the police’s claim that the PJF was a group which held separatist views.

“We have only created space for open debate and dialogue,” he said, alleging it was under fire because Modi’s government was “fostering a culture of fear where dissent is equated with sedition”.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/24/indian-climate-activist-gets-bail-in-sedition-case-over-farm-stir

Eliminating violence against women begins in child upbringing

A mother and children in Nigeria: Through their privileged position in child upbringing, women have the power to contribute to eradicating victimization and injustice against themselves. (Caroline Mbonu)
A mother and children in Nigeria: Through their privileged position in child upbringing, women have the power to contribute to eradicating victimization and injustice against themselves. (Caroline Mbonu

I had the privilege of participating in this year’s annual World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO) Day celebration on Oct. 13 at the Corpus et Sanguis Christi Cathedral, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The president of the parish Catholic Women’s Organization asked me to share with the women of there the WUCWO celebration theme, “Let us eliminate discrimination and violence against women.”

Founded 110 years ago, in 1910, WUCWO now represents nearly 60 Catholic women’s organizations worldwide and is active in around 60 countries, representing around 8 million Catholic women. The size and diversity of membership provides enough space from which to discern and fight the various kinds of injustice against women.

Rather than bemoaning obvious problematic gender-based violence and discrimination, I took the long view in my presentation by exploring women’s vantage point at the grassroots, the household. What informs the long view approach is the privileged position of women in child upbringing.

Addressing violence against women from the cradle would go a long way to reset the chauvinist mindset acquired from a tender age. Because gender sensitivity may not be consciously promoted during the first few years of a child’s life, women in some way are implicated — inadvertently — in their own discrimination.

If we must work against structures and cultural texts that dehumanize women, we must rethink the various methods of child rearing, and include a gender-based child upbringing. In other words, women have the power to contribute to eradicating victimization and injustice against themselves.

Thinking about this, I employed the Gospel of Luke 11:27 as a guide: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breast that nursed you!”

The context of this passage is during one of Jesus’ public preaching episodes, where according to the evangelist, an unnamed woman in the crowd raised her voice, blessing Jesus’ mother; the expression “the womb that bore you and breast that nursed you” is another way of showering praise on his upbringing. Such warm expressions about mothers are not uncommon among African people.

Among the Nigerian Igbo, for example, a well-mannered child is said to have had an abundance of breast milk (o nujuru mmiri-ara afo). The idea is that blessing a mother validates the decency of the child and confirms a proper upbringing. This is a recognition of the “feminine genius,” which brought forth a sensitive individual, fully alive to his environment and the needs of the people around him.

The outburst of the unnamed woman — who could be anyone — draws attention to two significant points. First, the earthy quality of motherhood, and second, child upbringing. Of course, motherhood goes beyond having biological offspring. Every woman bears within her the seed of motherhood — a seed that sprouts, blossoms and fruits in different ways. Motherhood is a call to self-giving and sacrificial love.

We remember that the Blessed Mother was chosen as a model of Catholic motherhood, a woman of whom Dante Alighieri wrote: “Mercy, might, compassion / Grace thy womanhood.” To eliminate the prejudices against women, therefore, challenges us all to take a journey inward to rediscover the feminine genius within and work hard to reawaken it. From within is the domain of the womb and the source of breast milk that nourishes a child’s love.

We cannot deny that persons involved in the discrimination and violence against women are also products of women’s tendering and nurturing. And if it is true that women actually beget their own oppressors, they can surely redesign the grassroots of the system that produced such undesirable behavior in children.

Women can change those processes that tend to instill oppressive tendencies in a child, male or female. William Ross Wallace’s 1865 poem “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand That Rules the World” captures the unique power for change exclusive to women, the possessors of the cradle. Undoubtedly, Wallace points to the feminine genius as an instrument of construction of a more humane world, with child upbringing as the building block. Where that fails, the ills of unredeemed patriarchy would continue to hold sway.

Furthermore, other considerations of child upbringing demand attention for the benefit of humankind. Humankind continues to make positive advances in science and technology, as well as in other fields of human endeavor. Numerous developments enable us to create new ways to make certain tasks easier, and to correct errors in others.

It appears that not much is done to develop new patterns of child upbringing that take gender sensitivity into consideration. Ways of child upbringing that reinforce gender discrimination continue to be taught as the norm, even after the structures that such arrangements serve have changed.

Assignment of household chores, choice of careers, and even marriage can be degendered. Even apparently harmless acts like name designation in families that have mostly female children convey a profound sense of discrimination and violence.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/social-justice/column/eliminating-violence-against-women-begins-child-upbringing

‘There is no vaccine for climate change,’ U.N. environment chief says

A sign in Medford, Oregon, advertises new homes amid the wildfire destruction Sept. 20, 2020. (CNS photo/David Ryder, Reuters)
A sign in Medford, Oregon, advertises new homes amid the wildfire destruction Sept. 20, 2020. (CNS photo/David Ryder, Reuters)
  • The planet is set to warm by 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels just this century, but the world remains unprepared for climate change, a U.N. report says.
  • More than a quarter of countries still don’t have a single national-level adaptation plan, and financing for adaptation measures falls far short of what is needed.
  • By mid-century, adaptation costs could total up to $500 billion for developing countries, which will be disproportionately impacted by climate change despite contributing least to it.
  • Less than 5% of adaptation projects have yielded any real benefits in terms of boosting resilience to date, according to a survey of 1,700 projects cited in the report.

The world is not prepared for climate change, a new U.N. report warns, highlighting how far behind countries have fallen in implementing adaptation measures.

“The hard truth is that climate change is upon us,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), said at a press briefing Jan. 14. “Its impacts will intensify and hit vulnerable countries and communities the hardest — even if we meet the Paris Agreement goals of holding global warming this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Even the 2C (3.6F) goal enshrined in the global climate agreement may seem like wishful thinking at the moment. The planet is set to warm by 3C (5.4F) above pre-industrial levels just this century, with 2020 tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record.

Yet more than a quarter of the countries still don’t have a single national-level adaptation planning instrument.

There isn’t just a lack of adequate policies and planning, but also major financing shortfalls.

By mid-century, adaptation costs could total up to $500 billion for developing countries alone. Developed countries are responsible for a majority of the historical carbon emissions and should play a bigger role in mitigating the climate crisis, experts at the UNEP press briefing agreed.

Reports like UNEP’s “Adaptation Gap Report 2020” do more than raise alarm; they are also a call for action. The Paris climate treaty signed in 2015 is a voluntary agreement, which relies on global advocacy to pressure countries into honoring their commitments.

Adaptation financing is currently far short of what experts say is needed, at $30 billion per year, or only 5% of the total fund set aside to tackle climate change. The latter itself is deemed too little to ward off the risks posed by climate change.

COVID-19 has also pushed planning for climate change down the list of priorities for most countries. “There is no vaccine for climate change,” Andersen said.

Though some progress has been made, it has not translated into actual resilience against climate change impacts ranging from wildfires, droughts and floods to sea-level rise. Fewer than five out of 100 adaptation projects have yielded any benefits to date, a survey of 1,700 projects found.

While everyone agrees that climate change presents a global challenge, experts emphasize that adapting to these changes will have to happen at many levels. Adaptation measures include installing climate information and early-warning systems, safeguarding people in affected areas, and green investments.

At the same time, there is a growing emphasis on employing nature-based solutions that simultaneously improve the environment and human well-being.

Investing in adaptation initiatives could yield returns that are three times the cost, the Global Commission on Adaptation has estimated.

The new report complements UNEP’s “Emissions Gap Report 2020,” which tracks how countries are faring in keeping global temperature rise below 2C. “The more we mitigate, the less we have to adapt, and the costs of adaptation are going to be much, much lower,” said Henry Neufeldt, head of impact assessment and adaptation at UNEP.

However, unlike the emissions reduction targets that are part of the Paris Agreement, there are no comparable targets for adaptation.

“We don’t know exactly how much adaptation finance is needed because the goals are not clear, the targets are not clear, there is no agreed-upon goal on adaptation at national and global levels,” Neufeldt said.

Despite this, U.N. officials stressed there is a massive shortfall in funding and that there is a need to distribute the funds available to reflect the gravity of the threats.

“We need a global commitment to put half of all global climate finance towards adaptation in the next year,” Andersen said. “This will allow a huge step up in adaptation — in everything from early warning systems to resilient water resources to nature-based solutions.”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/there-no-vaccine-climate-change-un-environment-chief-says

Vatican Secretary of State calls for synergy in fight against poverty and climate change

Cardinal Pietro Parolin's video message to Climate Adaptation Summit Jan. 25, 2021. YouTube Screenshot.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s video message to Climate Adaptation Summit Jan. 25, 2021. YouTube Screenshot.

Vatican City, – The Vatican Secretary of State has called for a new model of development built on “the synergistic bond” between the fight against climate change and the struggle against poverty.

In a video message to the Climate Adaptation Summit taking place online Jan. 25-26, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that climate change is “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

“This is a moral and humanitarian imperative, especially since the greatest negative consequences of climate change often affect the most vulnerable: the poor and future generations,” the cardinal said.

“While the poor are the least responsible for global warming, they are the most likely to be affected, since they have the least adaptive capacity and often live in geographical areas which are particularly at risk.”

The Climate Adaptation Summit is a virtual international summit organized by the Netherlands aimed at outlining practical solutions for confronting climate change.

The summit’s list of speakers include French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and U.S. Special Climate Envoy John Kerry.

“On behalf of Pope Francis, I … wish to assure you of his closeness, support and encouragement in these days of intense effort for a fruitful outcome to this Climate Adaptation Summit,” Cardinal Parolin said in his video message.

The Vatican Secretary of State called for “stronger international cooperation committed to a low-carbon sustainable development” and an investment in “strengthening technologies and resilience and transferring them under fair conditions, particularly to the most vulnerable countries.”

“Complementarity mitigation and adaptation activities require coming up with a global and shared long-term strategy based on precise commitments, capable of defining and promoting a new model of development and built on the synergistic bond between the fight against climate change and  the struggle against poverty,” the cardinal said.

Parolin urged that there is “no alternative but to make every effort to implement a responsible, unprecedented collective response, intended to work together to build our common home.”

“May we make the response to climate change an opportunity for improving overall living conditions, health, transport, energy and security, and for creating new job opportunities,” he said.

“This task is difficult and complex, but we know that we have the freedom, intelligence and capacity to lead and direct technology and to put it at the service of another type of progress: one that is more human, social and integral.”

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-secretary-of-state-calls-for-synergy-in-fight-against-poverty-and-climate-change-55262

In Africa, sisters lead the way to replace orphanages with family care

Sr. Caroline Ngatia of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sisters of Eldoret shares breakfast with the street families in Nairobi, Kenya. (Doreen Ajiambo)
Sr. Caroline Ngatia of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sisters of Eldoret shares breakfast with the street families in Nairobi, Kenya. Her center, Kwetu Home of Peace, accommodates homeless boys ages 8 to 14 who are rescued from the streets and slums in Nairobi and inducted into a process of reintegration. (Doreen Ajiambo)

The goal is as simple as it is complicated to achieve: Shift the care of children from institutions like orphanages to a family or family-like environment.

Catholic sisters in three African nations — Uganda, Zambia and Kenya — are leading the way in creating new models for caring for children. Their efforts are the core of the recent launch of Catholic Care for Children International (CCCI) under the auspices of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) — one of many faith groups leading policy reform and family-based alternatives to institutional care.

In traditional African culture, children were raised by their clan and extended family relations who nurtured them into responsible adults, but various socio-economic factors contributed to a break-up of such family ties. That has led to the formation of large childcare institutions which generally lack the necessary environment for children to thrive and develop.

Decades of research has shown that children living in institutional care are extremely exposed to neglect, physical and sexual abuse. A lack of a stable relationships and interactions among children in institutions affect their foundations for brain development, resulting in poor mental health, academic failure, and increased chances of behavioral problems later in life, studies show.

Most African countries, including Uganda, Zambia and Kenya, have endorsed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which recognizes that children should be raised in a safe and loving family or within a community to realize their full potential.

That’s a key reason the international sisters’ group UISG is encouraging congregations to end the placement of children in large institutions and instead support community-based, family-like alternatives.

During the launch of this global initiative Oct. 2, which was streamed online, religious orders of women and men were urged to join the initiative. “We understand that the family is the best place for a child to grow holistically,” Sri Lankan Good Shepherd Sr. Niluka Perera, coordinator of Catholic Care for Children International, told participants. “Therefore, it is the responsibility of us who are committed to the care of vulnerable children to give the best place and environment for a child to grow.”

Loreto Sr. Patricia Murray, executive secretary of the UISG, noted that there are at least 9,000 Catholic residential institutions or orphanages worldwide serving almost 5.5 million children. She urged religious institutions to learn from what others are doing in different countries to provide the best possible care for the vulnerable children.

“Catholic Care for Children functions well in three countries — Zambia, Uganda and Kenya. It’s associated very closely with the conference of religious in each country, and we see that as a very good model,” said Murray in an interview with Global Sisters report. “We can move our focus to supporting family life because we know that 80% of children are not orphans but have a living parent or a family structure, and that family structure can be helped to keep the child at home.” UISG is carefully considering other countries where the model can be implemented, she said.

Poverty and family breakdown have contributed to the growth of institutional care, said Kathleen Mahoney, a program officer of GHR Foundation, which has “Children in Families” as one of its program areas. Through the respective religious associations, GHR has been providing funding in the three countries for the training of sisters in social work, case management and child care programs, and assisting in the transition from institutional to family care.

“GHR has a long history of working with Catholic sisters around the globe, and we really see them as tremendous spiritual and social asset for the world,” she said. The social and spiritual aspects came together in Zambia and Uganda and recently in Kenya where “we really see sisters at the helm,” she said. “Catholic Care for Children is a sister-led, charism-driven movement to improve care for children. We see real potential for this to grow.”

Global Sisters Report reported from Uganda, Zambia and Kenya on the program models and how UISG is aiming to play a role in expanding these models to elsewhere in the world and trying to de-emphasize institutional care.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/world/ministry/sisters-expand-program-places-children-families-instead-institutions

Climate Leaders Celebrate as European Investment Bank Chief Declares ‘Gas Is Over’

Climate Leaders Celebrate as European Investment Bank Chief Declares 'Gas Is Over'
President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer holds a press conference in Brussels, Belgium on Jan. 30, 2020. Dursun Aydemir / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Noted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among the first to celebrate word that the president of the European Investment Bank on Wednesday openly declared, “To put it mildly, gas is over” — an admission that squares with what climate experts and economists have been saying for years if not decades.

Dr. Werner Hoyer, president of the EIB — the investment bank publicly owned by the European Union’s member states — made the comments while presenting a review of the institution’s 2020 operations at a press conference in Luxembourg.

Calling a future break with fracked gas “a serious departure from the past,” Hoer added that “without the end to the use of unabated fossil fuels, we will not be able to reach the climate targets” to which the EU states — and therefore the bank — have committed.

McKibben and others responded to the comments as the most recent promising signal that the financial world is catching up with the climate science that demands a rapid and profound shift away from fossil fuels.

“President of the EIB, Werner Hoyer, clearly knows what’s up,” tweeted Oil Change International. “We agree. Time to #StopFundingFossils.”

Greenpeace EU also heralded the news and stated: “There’s nothing clean about gas — it’s not a ‘transition fuel’ or a ‘bridge fuel,’ it’s a dirty fossil fuel just like coal and oil. It’s time to stop bankrolling the #ClimateEmergency and stop public money back gas projects.”

Others emphasized what a historic shift the comment represents from even just a few years ago:

While many European climate groups and financial watchdogs have criticized the EU member states and the EIB itself for not moving forward fast enough with proposed reforms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Hoyer said Wednesday that the shift away from fossil fuels is paramount and that even the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the continent must not act as a roadblock.

“We have achieved unprecedented impact on climate, preparing the ground for much more,” Hoyer said in his remarks. “But the risk of a recovery that neglects climate and the environment remains.”

“The fight against climate change cannot wait until the pandemic is over,” he added. “The [Covid-19] crisis is not a reason to stop tackling the climate and environmental challenges facing humanity.”

https://www.ecowatch.com/european-investment-bank-fossil-fuels-2650067861.html?rebelltitem=5#rebelltitem5

Doing Good Isn’t Always Easy. But it’s Never Been More Important.

Pope Francis recently signed his latest encyclical, titled Fratelli Tutti, which focuses on spiritual unity through social friendship and the importance of caring for our neighbors. In it, he discusses how the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the “throw-away culture” which denies the dignity of those who are vulnerable within our global systems. Fratelli Tutti is a call to love one another as brothers and sisters; it is a call for fraternity beyond borders; to engage with each other in positive and meaningful ways, as we are all children of God. To quote Pope Francis directly, “The signs of the times clearly show that human fraternity and care of creation form the only path to integral development and peace. . .”

Fratelli Tutti has never been more relevant as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic threatens every person and system across the world. While we may not be able to easily cure the virus and restore a sense of normalcy, what we can do is take a minute to realize that our neighbors are suffering and do what we can to help.

First Off, What is an Encyclical?

For those unfamiliar with Catholic traditions, every so often the Pope issues an encyclical letter, which is an authoritative or official teaching document. An encyclical letter can be addressed to a local church, to the entire Church, or in some cases (such as in Fratelli Tutti), to “all people of good will” (no. 57). 

Fratelli Tutti vs. Tribalism

“Fratelli tutti is a call to love others as brothers and sisters, even when they are far from us; it is a call to open fraternity, to recognizing and loving every person with a love without borders.” (Introduction, An Overview of Fratelli Tutti)

Now more than ever it seems the world is experiencing the negative effects of hyper-localized tribalism. Despite unprecedented interconnectedness, modern globalized society makes us more like neighbors, but less like brothers and sisters; we know about each other, but we do not truly care for one another. In this way, we are more alone than ever. 

Tribalistic sentiments run so deeply in every facet of society — politics, religion, ethnicity, and within communities — that it’s easy to forget that other people, with whom we may disagree, are nonetheless created in God’s image and should be treated with dignity and respect. 

In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis stresses that respectful, open, and patient discourse is the only true way to resolve conflict. In order to find resolution we must prioritize the needs of victims of violence; work against fear; seek to eliminate inequality; and build relationships through dialogue (no. 262).

Throughout Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis refers to the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, a man is stripped, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. Several members of his own community pass him by; but the man who offers help is a Samaritan, a perceived adversary. Because the Samaritan, despite being labeled an enemy, is the only one to offer help, he is, therefore, the only true neighbor — willing to show compassion, tolerance, and brotherly love not to an opponent, but to a fellow man.

So, when was the last time you helped a down-but-not-out neighbor? Do you walk through life turning a blind eye to problems that do not affect you? Do you exemplify, through action, compassion for the suffering of your fellow neighbor? 

These are the types of questions we all need to ask ourselves. It’s easier to ignore problems than it is to solve them. It’s easier to turn away from conflict than it is to participate in productive discourse. But as children of God, we must strive to create a world in which all can thrive, even in the face of adversity, to be able to pick each other up when we’re down, and to expel the “I got mine” mindset. These tenets are particularly relevant than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The thing is, you do not have to dedicate your entire life to charity in order to participate in social unity. Every little bit counts; and you can make positive differences in the lives of others without even knowing it, whether it’s donating to food drives or calling for systemic reform in your community. Fratelli Tutti doesn’t just ask you to open your heart to borderless love, it also calls on us as children of God to facilitate a universal culture of encounter.

A Culture of Encounter

For 50 years, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has created a culture of encounter by confronting the root causes of economic injustice through on-the-ground work and promotion of policies that help to break the cycle of poverty. Pope Francis said it best — “A better kind of politics seeks the common and universal good; it is politics for and with the people. In other words, it is the people’s politics, practicing social charity and pursuing human dignity. It can be carried out by men and women who, with political love, integrate the economy into a popular social, cultural, and political project.”

Through our initiatives like PovertyUSA, CCHD recognizes the Pope’s call to rebuild a hurting world and to, “form a community of men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject a society of exclusion. . .lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good” (no. 67). There is a common vein running through modern society that tempts us to ignore the reality of others and flourishes on indifference to another’s pain. 

CCHD rejects this social exclusion and helps those who are marginalized by supporting their work for food equality, environmental justice, adequate housing, immigrant accompaniment, and more. In our Church and in society, we are seeing a rise in polarization and extremist groups that have emboldened perspectives that allow fear of the other to overshadow love. Our work to enact just systemic change and encourage love for our fellow neighbor counteracts misplaced fear, elevates the downtrodden, and tells the marginalized that they matter, too.

By reframing the politics surrounding a societal issue, we can get people to think differently about it and work together as one community to help those who need it. We aim to do away with the notion that life is a zero-sum game. In reality, others do not need to suffer for you to prosper, for all of God’s people are entitled to happy, dignified lives. Thinking otherwise is the byproduct of the individualism that has permeated our society. CCHD pursues dignity for all through community organizing, supporting local nonprofits, and committing to on-the-ground work that makes a positive impact in peoples’ lives.

COVID-19: Exacerbation of Social Divides

The old saying goes “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Throughout history, in times of desperation, we as Americans tend to make personal sacrifices and unite as one in order to overcome universal threats. Yet, American society has never been more divided and the distance between us seems to be expanding; even in the face of COVID-19: 

The current pandemic has not only killed over 1 million across the globe, more than 200,000 of those being Americans, it has exposed every flaw in both local and global systems. It has caused some to become even more entrenched in self-serving individualism at the expense of their fellow citizens. At the same time, the pandemic has only widened the disparities that have always existed. Now we need to focus on what matters most: creating supportive communities with inspiring leaders that help everybody live dignified lives. 

Pope Francis consistently refers to the parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate that there is no room for apathy or neutrality when it comes to acting in solidarity with struggling people.

It’s never easy to do the right thing, but doing nothing is the wrong thing.

http://www.povertyusa.org/stories/fratelli-tutti

Feast day of St Josephine Bakhita/ International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking

“Loosen the chains . . . they are so heavy” – Saint Josephine Bakhita, above.

The Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita on the 8th of February each year.  Her life was a journey from slavery to freedom and faith.  The patron saint of Sudan, her life story inspires hope in the face of modern day indifference and exploitation.  As Pope Francis states:

‘She is charged with showing to all the path to conversion, which enables us to change the way we see our neighbours, to recognize in every other person a brother or sister in our human family, and to acknowledge his or her intrinsic dignity in truth and freedom. This can be clearly seen from the story of Josephine Bakhita, the saint originally from the Darfur region in Sudan who was kidnapped by slave-traffickers and sold to brutal masters when she was nine years old. Subsequently – as a result of painful experiences – she became a “free daughter of God” thanks to her faith, lived in religious consecration and in service to others, especially the most lowly and helpless. This saint, who lived at the turn of the twentieth century, is even today an exemplary witness of hope for the many victims of slavery; she can support the efforts of all those committed to fighting against this “open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ”.‘ (Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2015)

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI considered St Bakhita as an ‘exemplary witness of hope’, in his encyclical, Spe Salvi:

To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God, and have grown accustomed to it, have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God. The example of a saint of our time can to some degree help us understand what it means to have a real encounter with this God for the first time. I am thinking of the African Josephine Bakhita, canonized by Pope John Paul II….She was born around 1869—she herself did not know the precise date—in Darfur in Sudan. At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders, beaten till she bled, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan. Eventually she found herself working as a slave for the mother and the wife of a general, and there she was flogged every day till she bled; as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life. Finally, in 1882, she was bought by an Italian merchant for the Italian consul Callisto Legnani, who returned to Italy as the Mahdists advanced. Here, after the terrifying “masters” who had owned her up to that point, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of “master”—in Venetian dialect, which she was now learning, she used the name “paron” for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. Now, however, she heard that there is a “paron” above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme “Paron”, before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her “at the Father’s right hand”. Now she had “hope” —no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” Through the knowledge of this hope she was “redeemed”, no longer a slave, but a free child of God.

The International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking is also held on 8 February each year in light of the example of St Josephine Bakhita, so that we might reflect on the circumstances of violence and injustice affecting millions of voiceless people.  We can do this by stopping for a few moments a saying a prayer to God.  We can also learn more about modern forms of slavery and trafficking and reflect on how our choices might be contributing to a system perpetuating this exploitation.  We can join together, pray and start conversations about this important issue.

Storm damage worsens in a warming world, hiking pressure to adapt

Residents of the Praia Nova neighbourhood seek shelter from Tropical Cyclone Eloise, in Beira, Mozambique, January 23, 2021. UNICEF/Franco/Handout via REUTER

BARCELONA, – More powerful storms are battering people and economies harder, with the poor suffering the worst losses, an annual climate risk index showed, as leaders were urged to ramp up their response to climate change impacts at a global adaptation summit on Monday.

The index for 2019, from research group Germanwatch, showed that Mozambique and Zimbabwe were the two countries hardest-hit by extreme weather. Both were struck by Idai, the deadliest and costliest cyclone recorded in the southwest Indian Ocean.

Just this weekend, central Mozambique was hammered again by another tropical storm, Eloise, which wrecked thousands of buildings, ruined crops and displaced almost 7,000 people.

Storms and their effects – strong winds, heavy rainfall, floods and landslides – were the major cause of extreme weather damage in 2019, Germanwatch said. Of the 10 most-affected countries, six were pounded by tropical cyclones.

The Caribbean island nation of the Bahamas was the third worst-hit, due to devastation from Hurricane Dorian.

The United States was not included in the 2019 index due to data problems.

Recent research suggests the severity and the number of strong tropical cyclones will increase with every tenth of a degree in global average temperature rise, Germanwatch said.

In 2020 – one of the three hottest years on record – the global average temperature was about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

David Eckstein, a Germanwatch policy advisor, said the climate risk index showed poor, vulnerable countries face particularly large challenges in dealing with the consequences of extreme weather events.

“They urgently need financial and technical assistance,” he said, noting they had yet to receive the full $100 billion a year in climate funding promised by wealthy countries.

Richer nations agreed to build up to providing that sum each year, starting in 2020, to help poorer countries adopt cleaner energy systems and adapt to the impacts of planetary warming.

Of the nearly $80 billion raised in 2018, the latest figures available, only about 20% was allocated for adaptation, despite repeated calls for that share to be raised to half.

The climate adaptation summit starting Monday “must address these problems”, Eckstein added.

Research out last week from international aid agency CARE suggested the actual amount of donor money going to adaptation could be even lower than reported.

Working with other organisations, CARE assessed 112 projects in Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Nepal and Vietnam, representing 13% of total global adaptation finance between 2013 and 2017.

It found 42% of the money was spent on activities that did little to help communities build resilience to climate change, including a “friendship bridge” and an expressway in Vietnam and a post-earthquake housing reconstruction project in Nepal.

Report author John Nordbo from CARE Denmark said rich nations had not only failed to deliver enough adaptation finance, but had also tried to give the impression they are providing more than they do.

“This injustice must be corrected, and a clear plan must be presented to show how they intend to live up to their commitments with real money – and no reporting tricks,” he added in a statement.

FORECAST-BASED ACTION

Ahead of Monday’s summit, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) announced plans to at least double the size of a fund which it uses to support communities before climate disasters hit, to reduce losses.

IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said expanding the fund was part of a broader effort by the Red Cross to respond to an increasing case-load of emergencies caused by climate change.

The IFRC aims to grow the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, now at 30 million Swiss francs ($34 million) a year, to 60 million a year in 2021 and 100 million by 2025.

In the past 30 years, Chapagain noted, the average number of climate and weather-related disasters per decade has increased nearly 35%. They accounted for 83% of all disasters in the past decade alone, killing 410,000 people and affecting 1.7 billion.

The IFRC’s new loss-prevention approach, now gaining ground among donors and aid agencies, is known as “forecast-based action” because it is triggered by weather predictions.

Under the approach, money is made available to people imminently at risk from a coming weather threat, to help them move their families, livestock and goods to safety or otherwise take measures to protect them, as well as recover afterwards.

The Red Cross used it six times in 2020 to protect at-risk communities in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Mongolia and Mozambique, through measures such as early evacuation or reinforcing homes.

“By doing this, we are definitely saving lives,” Chapagain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The Red Cross now aims to scale up forecast-based action in partnership with local governments, he added.

As climate threats accelerate, the Red Cross head urged vulnerable countries to implement laws that improve how they manage disasters, and put in place systems to provide early warning, evacuate people and reduce losses from extreme weather.

Chapagain urged leaders at the summit, hosted by the Netherlands, to acknowledge the need to take urgent steps to help communities cope with global warming impacts, while ramping up efforts to cut planet-heating emissions at the same time.

https://news.trust.org/item/20210125040002-dabkp/

Fossil fuels fade, but pipeline protests persist

Pipeline projects spark protest not only at rural construction sites, but also among urban activists like this demonstrator in Los Angeles in 2017. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)
Pipeline projects spark protest not only at rural construction sites, but also among urban activists like this demonstrator in Los Angeles in 2017. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

Although more and more countries have committed to sharp cuts in carbon emissions in an effort to stem the rise in global temperatures, and even some oil companies admit that fossil fuels are in decline, the construction of oil pipelines continues to spark protests around the world.

Often, those pipelines follow routes that take them across or near Indigenous territories. Just a week ago, on Jan. 9, eight people were arrested when about 300 water protectors and Anishinaabe jingle dress dancers gathered at a pipeline construction site in Minnesota, according to the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The Indigenous demonstrators are protesting the expansion of Enbridge’s 1,097-mile Line 3, which pipes oil from Edmonton, Canada, across North Dakota and Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

Ojibwe writer and activist Winona LaDuke is among the protesters. She writes about their reasons for opposing the construction in a commentary originally published in The Nation, which we published today on EarthBeat as part of the Covering Climate Now consortium. Not only will the pipeline carry some of the world’s dirtiest crude oil, from Canada’s tar sands, she notes, but the worker camps also pose a particular health hazard during the coronavirus pandemic.

In November, Alleen Brown at The Intercept warned that the construction “has the potential to draw together thousands of temporary workers from across the U.S. and trigger a mass protest movement in a state that currently has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the nation.”

And in The New York Times, Chippewa novelist and poet Louise Erdrich writes that in the November general election, the “Native vote became a force that helped carry several key areas of the country and our state. On the heels of those victories, the granting of final permits to construct Enbridge’s Line 3, which will cross Anishinaabe treaty lands, was a breathtaking betrayal.”

Enbridge made more news this week, when it notified Michigan’s governor on Jan. 12 that it would defy a state order to stop pumping oil and natural gas liquids through a pipeline that crosses Lake Michigan. In November, the state rescinded an easement and ordered operations to stop by May. The company has taken the case to federal court, arguing that the state overstepped its authority.

This is the latest in a series of pipeline projects championed by the outgoing Trump administration, including the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, both of which have been targets of protests and court challenges. The issues they raise are not only political and environmental, but also cultural and spiritual.

The Trump administration eased pipeline regulations, but industry executives and environmentalists expect the incoming Biden administration to reinstate environmental controls.

Opposition to pipelines, especially those crossing territories of Indigenous peoples and other traditional communities, extends far beyond U.S. borders. In Canada, protests that began in British Colombia, in the territory of the Wet’suwet’en nation, spread across the country a year ago, shutting down rail transport in parts of the country.

And in East Africa, critics warn that a 900-mile pipeline from Lake Albert in Uganda to the Tanzanian coast — another new project ramping up even as analysts predict the decline of fossil fuels — will displace thousands of small farmers and threaten ecologically sensitive areas.

Here in Peru, where I live, I have covered a series of spills from an aging and poorly maintained pipeline operated by the state-run oil company, Petroperu, which carries oil from the country’s largest Amazonian oil fields across the Andes Mountains to the Pacific coast.

I’ve seen how even a small spill can have a devastating impact on Amazonian Indigenous communities that have no safe water supply and depend on rivers and streams for water for drinking, bathing, cooking and washing. Contaminated surface water is a constant health hazard, and oil spills also poison fish, robbing people of a key source of protein and an important part of their livelihood.

Occasionally there are bright spots — Peru’s Constitutional Court recently ruled that Petroperu must compensate four communities affected by a spill in 2014. It’s a landmark decision that could set an important precedent for other communities that have suffered spills.

But court cases take time, and people get tired of fighting. I’m reminded of a Kichwa woman I met at a three-month-long protest over oil spills in Peru’s Marañón River Valley in 2016. A marathon negotiating session with the government had ended at midnight with a 30-point agreement, which the participants were celebrating.

She didn’t stay for the party. Over the past couple of decades, she told me, she had seen many such pacts become empty promises. “How many months have we waited for these agreements to be signed?” she asked. “When I see things change, that’s when I’ll celebrate.”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/earthbeat-weekly-fossil-fuels-fade-pipeline-protests-persist