March 25, 2018

Harden Not Your Hearts: A Holy Week Eco-Reflection

By: Sister Elizabeth “Bing” Carraza of URGENT

Climate change has become a heavy cross for Mother Earth. It has long been discussed but we’re not getting any closer to solving it. Instead, the trajectory of change is nearing irreversible levels.

With a wind speed of 315 kph, typhoon Yolanda wiped out the Visayas when the global temperature rise was 8 Celsius. At 1.5 Celsius rise, the wind speed could be almost doubled. Say 600 kph. With such a speed, one could be in Manila from Legaspi, which is 600 km away, in just an hour! No structure would be left untoppled with such a strong typhoon.

During the Paris Agreement in 2015 countries agreed to pursue serious efforts to keep the temperature rise below 1.5 Celsius, strengthen climate action through national plans and mitigation measures and mobilize financial resources for the developing world to cope with the impacts. However, the response to this goal is all voluntary and no country is yet taking it seriously.

Thousands of scientists say that going beyond 1.5 Celsius is catastrophic and would mean “game over” for Earth if it continues to be “business as usual.” The Climate Action Tracker Consortium, which tracks 32 countries covering around 80% of global emissions, with the Carbon Tracker in London, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, warned the world in April 2017 that “if carbon emissions would continue to rise beyond 2020, or even remain level, the Paris goals would be almost unattainable.” They call year 2020 “the climate turning point.”

The urgency of the issue is manifested around the world through greater intensity of typhoons, extreme changes in precipitation patterns, warmer average temperature, accelerated sea level rise and intense dry spells; all causing continued environmental devastation, collapse of critical ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and increasing number of people and communities whose lives are gravely affected with their loved ones, homes and livelihoods lost. Those gravely affected didn’t create the conditions they are in, yet are bearing the brunt of the damage, while fossil industries largely responsible remain unaccountable and continue to profit from the non-stop burning of fossil fuels at the expense of the planet and the people, especially the poor. To meaningfully address this crisis, those responsible must be held accountable by exacting climate justice.

The major key to combat climate change is through concerted efforts anchored on grassroots actions and systemic change. Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, strongly addresses the issue of climate change and urgently appeals to all people of good will good ill “for a new dialogue on how we are shaping the future of our planet ” (LS 4). He also calls everyone to ecological conversion and change in lifestyle and reiterates that “the urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development” (LS 3). He further stresses the need “to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (LS 49)

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. Yolanda has etched that in our consciousness. Many communities in our country continue to face its serious impacts due to the lack of progress to avert it. It is the right of every Filipino to have a healthy environment and a balanced ecology. We need to demand for this right.

In the Philippine local churches, despite Laudato Si’, the urgency of the climate issue is still not internalized. In some parishes, it is not even talked about. In schools, the potential is there to influence people but efforts are minimal. Among NGOs and POs, there are many initiatives and efforts but not unified. In the sphere of media, the potential to influence people is also great but also not maximized.

The window of time to act is now very narrow. We can’t simply sit waiting for what would happen in the next 2 or 3 years. We are dying together. We have to rise and work together, putting all our intentions and energies into concrete actions. Responding more radically and collectively to the call to care for and restore our Common Home is unequivocally URGENT. “If today you listen to his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Hebrew 3:15)


URGENT is a grantee of the Forest Foundation Philippines. Convened by Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Fr. Pete Montallana, and Yeb Saño in January 2018, it is an initiative meant to make people aware of the urgency of climate change/global warming and bring about ecological conversion and unified action among the Filipino people to care for creation.

URGENT is warmly inviting everyone to be one with its initiative. In the name of the common cause that connects us all, they hope that we can all collaborate together in this new initiative as we find strength in each one’s presence, hope in each one’s willpower and encouragement in each one’s support.

To join and support URGENT, please send an e-mail to Sister Carraza at


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Forest Foundation Philippines. Furthermore, the Foundation assumes no liability or responsibility for any inaccurate or incomplete information presented in this article.