Fr Leonard Chiti SJ is the Provincial of the Jesuit Province of Southern Africa. He is attending COP28, where he will relay the negative impact of climate change on his home region.
On the eve of my trip to Dubai for the latest climate change conference I experienced two setbacks.
The first, was that I missed my scheduled flight erroneously thinking I was travelling on the 29th of November, only to discover that I was originally booked for a flight the day before.
I was terribly disappointed by the turn of events because rebooking a ticket to Dubai would in the end cost me double what the original ticket cost.
The second setback was when I learnt that the Pope, Francis, would not be travelling to COP28 on account of ill health.
The two events left me in a desolate mood. However, it didn’t take me long to compose myself and begin making alternative plans to travel to the UAE. When it was confirmed that I could travel a day later than planned, I relaxed.
Thinking about these two setbacks brought to mind the plight of the many millions of people that the Society of Jesus in Southern Africa, which I happen to serve as major superior go through on a daily basis.
The majority are classified as poor. Many subsist on peasant farming and fishing to eke out a living. Others survive on the mercy of ‘Good Samaritans.’
In the last several years or so I have been involved in advocacy around climate change.
It began when I was part of a task team that developed some reflections on the matter. I have done a few academic works on the matter and lately contributed some theological reflections. I have been to the last two COPs and will attend my third.
In all these activities and events what is paramount in my mind is how my commitment to tackling the veritable signs of the times benefit those who suffer the most.
Going back to my personal anecdote at the beginning of this piece, I was able to quickly find an alternative to travel to Dubai and I had the means courtesy of the Society of Jesus to pay for penalties entailed in missing a flight. The message of Pope Francis will be proclaimed loud and clear at COP even in his absence.
What about those who have no alternative to their current livelihoods, fishing and agricultural communities and those that rely on biomass and to some extent on fossil fuel for energy?
What alternatives do they have to survive climate change? Rising sea levels, floods and droughts and rising energy bills leave the majority even more vulnerable. Where will hope come from?
It might come from the outcome of COP28 if people rise above ‘vested interests’ and seek to promote the global common good as Pope Francis exhorted us all in Laudate Deum.
Hope will come from a transition to renewable energies and keeping the rise in global temperatures within sustainable limits.
It will require people who place the interests of the poor before their own. There are not many who are inspired in this way.
This then brings us to you and me. What can you do to rekindle the fast fading hope as we draw closer to a climate change catastrophe?
Perhaps this Christmas you might spare a thought about that poor old widow who has no one to help her mitigate the negative effects of climate change let alone adapt. She is already suffering from poor harvests and uncertain rainfall seasons.
This Christmas, do your best to make the world a better place for all.
Click here to see how you can get involved in campaigning for climate justice for all!
Image: Unsplash/Inge Maria