Earth Day after Easter
The April 22, 2019 Earth Day followed this year’s Easter Sunday, raising hopes that people are going to continue working for the common good by caring for our only home—a resurrection after a crucifixion, with people following the example of Jesus Christ.
Started in 1970 as an international effort to raise environmental awareness, Earth Day was followed by the Unesco Declaration on the Role of Religion in the Promotion on the Culture of Peace (1994).
This document recognized every human being’s “inescapable responsibility for the well-being of the entire world … [where] we face a crisis which could bring about the suicide of the human species or bring us a new awakening and a new hope.”
Indeed, all great religions embrace a common Golden Rule.
Much later in this new millennium, the Holy Father Pope Francis issued “Laudato Si,” an encyclical letter of 246 paragraphs to begin dialogues with all people, “On Care for Our Common Home.”
“Laudato Si” translates as “Praise to you,” the first line of a canticle by St. Francis praising God with all of his creation.
It deals with the destruction that humans render to the environment and fellow men; it probes deep into the philosophical, theological and cultural roots of this phenomenon, summarizing the collective ideas of wisdom keepers of the human species.
Signs of the times
Glaciers melting faster than anticipated. Wildfires simultaneously occurring with winter storms in another end of a continent. Droughts and record rainfall in another. Disappearing species just as new ones are found even in a country as environmentally challenged as the Philippines.
Homo sapiens producing ever sophisticated tools to manage their everyday life, more than domesticating fire for them to cook and digest food beyond their natural form—which “inadvertently opened the way to the jumbo brains of Neanderthals and Sapiens … and gained control of an obedient and potentially limitless force … choose when and where to ignite a flame.” (Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind p. 13)
Where is the common good today as the 4th Industrial Revolution surges forward when many Filipinos still are unaware of its many implications?
Former President Corazon Aquino, in a Smithsonian Institution speech (Washington, D.C. November 1989) on the occasion of an environment exhibit of the Philippines, focusing on its marine resources and the coconut as the tree of life, noted: “The destruction of the Earth has gone so far that we have started to notice changes in what man believed were eternal verities: the limitless hospitality of the Earth for human life and the permanence of its scenic grandeur…”
She rightly pointed to the two major solutions to the problems: “the rapid reduction of the emissions of greenhouse gases in the industrialized North, and the reversal of alarming trends of deforestation among the poor countries of the South.”
Beyond usual indicators
Today, the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 have embraced an understanding of the roots of environmental destruction noted in “Laudato Si.”
Corporations have set up systems of integrated global responsibility reporting that include environment and people concerns for efficiency, equity and sustainability across generations—but such adoption is the exception more than the rule.
Some states within federal systems opt out of the national view of purported global leaders that climate change is a hoax, and continue implementing Paris Accord agreements to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Economists of old stripes have come to grips with nonmarket forces shaping the well-being of people; more Nobel laureates are given to those exploring neurosciences and psychology, biology and its interphase with digital and physical engineering for artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc.
Yet some people believe that they can be saved through planning at their limited levels—without a perspective higher than mere material targets. Bhutan has long reminded mankind that gross national happiness makes us more fulfilled than traditional counting of beans harvested and consumed.
People relations with each other and nature do matter.
The richest eight people in the planet have amassed wealth equivalent to that of 3.6 billion poorest people, five of them in technology businesses. In a winner-takes-all world, be it in business or politics, traditional corporate social responsibility cannot substitute for discussions of universal basic income, the human rights to information, the dignity of civilized discourse and the genuine care for our common home.
Lighting a new fire
The fire that collapsed the spire and burned the roof of Notre Dame, the finest Gothic church architectural showcase in Paris, reminds us of the fragility of all human structures as climate change rages all over the planet.
Asian Institute of Management president Jikyeong Kang at last week’s Earth Day celebration in Makati quoted Aquino most memorably:
“A blue pearl is a rare find in the earth’s ocean. So is a planet like ours in the universe. The chance of finding another Earth in all its vast reaches is less than one in a billion trillion trillion … That blue pearl in the void, so soothing to the eye, is flanked by two glaring red planets, whose soaring temperatures and raging, lifeless surfaces hint at the future of the planet.”
President Kang urged the participants to light a new fire: FIR3—the fourth industrial revolution in three Es to save the planet through its applications in Environment, Enterprise development and Education.
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