South Sudan is a precarious place to live. For Deborah and her seven children, it has become a dangerous one because of climate change. To feed her family, she grows groundnuts, kale and pumpkins. While sunshine is a reliable commodity in this part of sub-Saharan Africa, rain is less predictable.
The rains which should have fallen in late April did not arrive. When they did, they were so torrential that they washed away the topsoil along with the newly planted seedlings. This has left Deborah and her family without food. The children go to sleep hungry, their immune systems so weakened that several have succumbed to malaria.
It is for people like Deborah that UAP IV exists. It is why climate change is an existential threat for millions around the world. And it is why COP 26 in Glasgow last November was such a disappointment. Quite simply, our politicians failed us. We know what the problem is; we know the devastation it causes. We know it will get worse.
We also know what we need to do. Yet the political will to do so was lacking.
Some will say that after 26 COPs, why will COP 27 be any different? In truth, it may not.
But COP 26 was not a failure if only because of the thousands of people from around the world putting pressure on political leaders to go further. The Jesuit presence in person and online was small but impressive. Together we incarnated hope and made it something real and active.
Speaking after COP 26, Fr General said: “Without losing hope, let us continue to walk with the vulnerable and work more vigorously, in advocacy with decision-makers for policy reform in favour of climate justice. Without waiting for political leaders to act, let us do what we must.”[i]
COP 26’s legacy is a renewed focus on solidarity because the most effective way to secure the changes needed to end climate change is a “firm and persevering determination to commit ourselves to the common good; the good of all and of each individual because we are all really responsible for all.”[ii] Deborah and the millions of people around the world who are the innocent victims of climate change, demand this of us.
Edge Hill, London
[i] Father General Arturo Sosa SJ, 6th December 2021
[ii] Para 38.4, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, St John Paul II, 1987