"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Floods and Climate Change

Images on our TV screens showing the extent of the Queensland floods are almost unbelievable. Images of the Brazilian mud slides and the dreadful suffering and loss of human life there just add to the dismay we feel for the plight of all these people.

But we are struck by the greater potential for survival in Australia. It is a wealthier country of course, and the people are more able to build quality housing, that can better resist all that nature can throw at them. In Brazil, the dwellings are often of cheap construction, perched on the hills, often without planning permission, certainly much more vulnerable to natural disaster.

“We saw the distress that extreme weather can inflict in the 2005 devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Even those who cannot quite believe or accept the evidence for the part humankind may be playing in climate change cannot deny the extent of human suffering now seen on a global scale. This then becomes more than a debate on climate change. It becomes a matter of human compassion and justice. These injustices brew a potentially dangerous potion of civil unrest and worse. There is a social and moral imperative for us all to share everything, to watch out for each other, to work for global healing. I believe we can no longer ignore our global responsibilities.

It is also a great injustice that those countries with materially comfortable lifestyles are often least affected by the climate change that we now know is ‘very likely’ to have been brought about by our own profligate squandering of natural resources. The developed world has the resources to adapt most easily to any of the resultant climate change. It is the dispossessed and vulnerable in the poorer parts of the world who suffer disproportionately with hunger and disease and homelessness in the face of droughts, floods, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. The habitats of the poor are fragile, and they cannot afford to build defenses or replace their homes and livelihoods without our help. Does it matter whose fault, if any, it is?

Yes it does. There is actually enough productive capacity in the world to provide every living man woman and child with a decent basic way of life. It is important that we help communities become self sufficient for a better future. It is also imperative that we curb our own excesses, that we stop violating the natural world around us, that we acknowledge the integrity of our finely balanced ecosystems. Every time we drive one more animal or plant to extinction, not only are we poorer for that, but also the effect on the fragile balance of planetary life may be profound. That is why it is so important, and ever more urgent, that we do not compromise our future by today’s actions, or indeed through our inactions.

Huge disasters such as we are seeing now simply remind us of this.

The photo is from the cover of Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living by Nick Spencer and Robert White (Paperback - 1 Aug 2007)

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