World Environment Day
5 June 2012
Dear Faith Leader,
We are all called to live in harmony and peace with one another – within our communities, between nations and countries of the world – and with all of life on this planet, our only home.
Critical for our peaceful wellbeing is the health of our life support systems, so that we have fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, fertile soil in which to grow crops, abundant marine resources from our oceans, and forests which not only provide for our fuel and building needs, but which act as “lungs” for our planet, absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) and releasing life giving oxygen.
Our life support system is being threatened by the demands of humanity on the resources we extract from nature. These demands emanate both from our consumerist lifestyle, as well as from growing numbers of people relying on nature to provide for our needs.
One of the most devastating causes of environmental destruction is the burning of fossil fuels – that is oil, coal, natural gas – which is dramatically increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is now at a higher level than it has been for the past 800 000 years. Science has clearly shown that as CO2 levels rise, so atmospheric temperatures rise. The average global temperature is 0.8oC higher than it was before the industrial revolution and our escalating dependence on fossil fuels.
The problem is that we are now burning fossil fuels at such a fast rate that we are set for average global temperature rises of between to 2 – 3.5oC. For Africa, this will result in a temperature increase twice the global average, that is, a rise of between 4 and even 6 degrees. Our temperature rise of 0.8oC has already resulted in extreme weather events, more intense and prolonged droughts, floods, hurricanes, storms and unpredictable weather patterns.
Scientists are doubtful that we can keep temperature rise below an average 2 degree increase. Urgent changes in our lifestyle are needed if we are to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change impacts, particularly in Africa.
In South Africa our largest single CO2 emitters are our energy suppliers, Eskom and Sasol, accounting for 80% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Our energy policy is therefore critically important for our future wellbeing.
Fortunately, God has given us the answer – renewable energy – which uses current energy resources rather than resources laid down millions of years ago in the form of coal and oil.
South Africa is blessed with having some of the best sun and wind resources in the world, as well as powerful and reliable ocean currents.
Not only would renewable energy improve the health of the planet, but it would produce millions of more jobs. Germany’s present economic growth is based on a huge development of renewable energy, with over 350,000 new jobs being created by last year. South Africa could become a leader in Africa in this field. More important is the development of decentralised energy generation, so that no longer would we be dependent on Eskom’s monopoly. Every community and household in rural areas and in cities and towns would be able to contribute to decentralised energy generation which puts affordable electricity in the hands of local communities. It is financially impossible for our centralised grid to reach 4 million rural households. The government’s present energy generation plans seem to be for the benefit of high capital, high energy, centralised industry, whereas we must move to a low carbon, labour intensive economy which will employ and empower millions more people.
Neither is nuclear energy the answer. The costs for construction and a centralised grid will absorb our development finance, leaving little for the real needs of people and communities for education, training and communication, health, local access roads, clean water and sanitation and rural infrastructure. Equip our gifted people with training and they will care for themselves and for their land.
South Africa is at a cross roads with its energy policy. We ask that you pray that South Africa follows the clean, renewable energy route, which can be financed by private enterprise, will create more jobs and help heal the planet – rather than the centralised nuclear energy programme which will have to be financed by tax payers.
Your prayers are also asked for Rio+20 to be held from 20 – 22 June, that the three conventions started by the UN: Climate Change, Biodiversity and Desertification, are able to fulfil their role. At present, none are meeting their goals. Environmental destruction is accelerating. Rio+20 will seek to strengthen sustainable development and the green economy. It is clear that a green economy must work within the ecological limits of the planet.
The three pillars of Sustainable Development are Society, Environment and Economics. This has also been described as People, Planet and Profit. Economics has dominated and directed the Sustainable Development path over the past twenty years.
A call is now being made that Spirituality and Ethics should be added as a fourth pillar to provide a moral compass for our global community and give direction as we seek to steer our world to a more just and sustainable future. The Earth Charter provides excellent guidelines for this and can be affirmed by all faiths. Imagine the transformation if world leaders started to apply the principles of justice, equity, compassion and love! Pray that this might be realised.
I send my warm greetings and prayers for our faith communities so we seek to overcome poverty and establish greater justice for all,
Bishop Geoff Davies
25th May 2012
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) is a multi-faith NGO working with a coalition of African and world-wide faith and justice organizations.
Comments are closed.
05/04/2012 • IN MARCH WE POSTED AN ARTICLE with thoughts on the economics of a sustainable future, in which Bishop Geoff Davies commented on the three pillars of sustainable development. Sustainable development has been promoted since Rio in... more
11/16/2013 • In a country that is over 90% Roman Catholic the interfaith service in Warsaw was a rich testimony to the unity of humanity in the challenge to protect our Earth from human driven climate change -... more
09/18/2013 • By Lydia Mogano, Regional Coordinator for SAFCEI COP19, here we come! We Have Faith (WHF) Campaign members were chanting slogans for climate justice action now! Spirits were high on 7th & 8th September, when we met in Maputo, Mozambique on our... more