By Dr Anthony Horton
We celebrated the third anniversary of Laudate Si in May. Following a time of reflection that Easter affords, it is increasingly apparent to me as a scientist who works in the field of climate change, that if we as Catholics are going to accept and address Pope Francis’ call to stop it, we need to focus on two aspects: self-education and action.
Pope Francis is quite correct in his assertion that by far the greatest impacts of climate change tend to be felt by those that are least responsible for it- refugees and the poor.
This tends to also be the case for other important environmental issues such as air and water pollution.
As part of my work – which I am very fortunate to say is really a passion in reality – I actively engage with social media. I acknowledge that there are positives and negatives of social media just as there are with other forms of media.
I also acknowledge that as a result of my education and experience, I am fortunate to know where to source climate change information that is balanced and credible, which is not always easy.
My point is two-fold. First, we need to have courage and engage with all forms of media and the information that is available on the plethora of platforms we have available to us. Secondly, in engaging with this information, as Catholics we need to take responsibility for educating ourselves in the many aspects of climate change.
All of us are blessed to have a variety of gifts and talents, and while some Catholics may question whether they can understand and interpret the science of climate change, as humans we are also blessed to have a community to whom we can reach out, for example: our parish community, our family, our friends and others.
In reaching out to this community, we can often find a richness of information, knowledge and understanding. I believe that social media platforms can also assist with this – including for the aspects of climate change that would perhaps not be front of mind for many of us.
One such aspect is refugees.
The possibility of significant numbers of climate change refugees in coming decades has been gaining traction on Twitter for many months.
While I can’t say with certainty that this traction is related or in response to the statement by Pope Francis that refugees tend to be more impacted by climate change, the traction that the subject is gaining on social media is in my opinion, an ideal illustration of the opportunity for self-education that these platforms provide.
As part of our Catholic faith, the call to act with respect to the poor and refugees is clear. The call with respect to using our gifts, talents and in particular our resources is also clear. When I worked in Academia, I witnessed first-hand the transformative power of self-education, and I am sure many of us can recall examples within our own networks.
It seems logical to me that climate change is a good example of an issue – one of the most important of our time – that as Catholics we can influence greatly if we take courage and accept to responsibility to educate ourselves.
Climate change is a complex issue, however, if we take responsibility to educate ourselves, the next logical step is action, which is in many ways simply the practical application of the knowledge we gain.
Rapid advances in technology afford us a range of actions we can take with respect to addressing climate change, including decisions regarding the type and source of energy that powers our homes and vehicles, our use of public transport, our choice of products we purchase from supermarkets and decisions involving financial investments.
I can recall many conversations in the very recent past in which I told people what about my work and the first thing many people would say is “but I’m only one person, what can I possibly do about climate change?”.
I would pause for a few seconds and then respond “you are one person but you can lead by example and do something within your means that inspires many other one persons”.
“Many social movements have started in a similar way so why should climate change be any different?”.
The more discussions I have with people from all walks of life, the more I hear about, and am encouraged by individuals and businesses who were the “one persons” who decided to do something within their means and create a climate change.
Dr Anthony Horton dubbed the “climate change guy” is an accredited Lead Auditor for the internationally recognised ISO14001 Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and has more than 15 years of experience in research, consultancy and delivery of customised solutions for academia, the mining industry, government bodies, health organisations and other forums across Australasia. Born, raised, and educated in Perth WA, he currently divides his time between offices in Australia and China. His speciality is in air quality monitoring and management, and he has a thorough knowledge of and expertise in a wide range of environmental issues also encompassing water, soil and land.
From pages 18 and 19 of Issue 13: ‘God, Science, Church’ of The Record Magazine