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Climate Change - Second only to Nuclear War Devastation
"We do not inherit the earth from our parents. We borrow it from our children."
By Edwin C. Mercurio
“Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequence could be second only to a global nuclear war. The Earth’s atmosphere is being changed at an unprecedented rate by pollutants resulting from human activities, inefficient and wasteful fossil fuel use and the effects of rapid population growth in many regions. These changes represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe.” (Conference Statement – The World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere.)
A year after I migrated to Canada straight from my lay missionary work with six indigenous peoples in the mountains and hinterlands of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines, I was fortunate to attend the global conference on climate change as an accredited media practitioner. Canada then was at the centre stage of the world leaders' effort to combat “acid rain and global warming”. As politicians and political parties came and went, so did the country’s policies. The Climate Change issue has been relegated to the backburner. Times have changed. After the recent onslaught of global disasters, hurricanes, flash floods, heat waves and severe snowstorms descended upon us all, we started examining our lifestyles and our disregard for our environment. Meanwhile, many 'rich' countries spent trillions of dollars for wars of aggression and interference in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere. Politicians continue to ignore the serious implications of global climate change.
At the “World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere; Implications for Global Security”, held in Toronto June 27-30 1988, more than 300 scientists and policy makers, from 46 countries, United Nations Organizations, International bodies and non-governmental bodies participated in drafting a conference statement of utmost significance to all of us.
Scientists and UN representatives went on to say that far-reaching impacts will be caused by global warming and sea-level rise as a result of continued growth in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. “Other major impacts are occurring from ozone-layer depletion resulting in increased damage from ultra-violet radiation. The best predictions available indicate potentially severe economic and social dislocation for present and future generations, which will worsen international tensions and increase risk of conflicts among and within nations. It is imperative to act now.”
The conference statement went on to say that the continuing alteration on the global atmosphere threatens global security, the world economy and the natural environment.through:"climate warming, depletion of the ozone layer, long range transport of toxic chemicals and acidifying substances."
The global climate change according to the statement will imperil human health and well being. Increases in soil erosion mainly caused by forest denudation and greater shifts and uncertainties in agricultural production, mainly in many vulnerable regions, will result in global food insecurity. It will jeopardize prospects for sustainable development and the reduction of poverty. It will affect the distribution and seasonal availability of water resources. It will also affect and accelerate the extinction of animal and plant species. The yield, productivity and biological diversity of natural and managed ecosystems, particularly forests will be altered. These changes, the statement says will increase political instability and the potential for international conflict.
"These problems will become progressively more serious, more difficult to reverse, and more costly to address, if rapid action is not taken immediately," the conference statement adds.
Many years have passed after the global conference on Climate Change.
As I read my notes on the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, I can still hear the voice of the Conference speaker calling “upon governments, the United Nations and its specialized agencies, industry, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations and individuals to take specific actions to reduce the impending crisis caused by pollution of the atmosphere. No country can tackle this problem in isolation. International cooperation in the management and monitoring of, and research on, this shared resource is essential.”
Today, the Earth speaks to us in many ways...Global warming, extinction of many species, abrupt change in weather patterns, extreme heat and cold snaps, forest and brush fires, flash floods and the melting of polar ice caps. Are many of us heeding the natural world's warnings? Are politicians and world leaders listening?
A great native elder once reminded his people to take care of Mother Earth with these words of wisdom: "We do not inherit the Earth from our parents. We borrow it from our children."
(Photos by E.C.M.-Copyright)