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Erika, sign of today’s times


When we watched the deep muddy torrents rushing through the streets and homes in Dominica, with coastal areas inundated after the storm Erika had passed, we realized that something new had come to the Eastern Caribbean. This was our Christmas flash floods dangerously multiplied by at least five.

Could a wreckage like Erika’s, but four times more severe happen again in this decade? Could 20 or more inches of rain drench our island chain within a period of 20 hours?{{more}} And what if hurricane force winds ripped through the drumming rains during a part of the weather onslaught!

No, I am not scripting a horror movie or a ‘these last days’ scenario, I am looking at the realistic development of Climate Change. The picture that is before us today in Dominica is a sample of the kind of weather that comes from wearing away of the parasol – like ozone protection around the earth, and the warming of the earth and oceans. This Global Warming leads to changes in the movement of winds and currents, increased melting of the ice cover in the north and the raising of the sea level around our small islands. One of the results of this Climate Change is to make our weather patterns uncertain and extreme. We can therefore expect to experience many more of these instances of human tragedy, property loss, territorial devastation and infrastructure destruction. That is today’s condition, not tomorrow’s.

God and the Climate

I feel funny/guilty whenever I join in prayer to ask God to save us in St Vincent and the Grenadines from an approaching storm. Why? Two things disturb me and make me feel worthless. For one, when a storm is approaching the area and I ask God to let off SVG, am I not proposing that God send the storm to strike a neighbouring sister country instead? Do I not care as much for Dominica or Martinique or Haiti and its people as I care for SVG and Vincentians? It is as if I am asking God to help me break the commandment to love my neighbour as much as I love myself. ‘Support me/us Lord to love our neighbours less than we love ourselves. Save us, Father, please, from the hurricane weather, (we don’t mind whom you have to hit instead)’. It seems to me, that this is a shameful, sinful prayer. And then, we say thanks to God for our deliverance, and pray that those who were devastated get strength and help to bounce back. Something feels wrong within me. The other bother that I feel about praying to turn away a storm is because I don’t think the storm is the fundamental problem; the problem is the changing climate.

We are Responsible for Climate Change

The temperature of the earth, its atmosphere and oceans has been rising continually because of irresponsible human activity, especially in the more developed and industrial regions of the world. At the same time, it is in the poorer regions of the world that climate change causes most degeneration. That is why many agencies call for Climate Justice, meaning that those who are most responsible must do the most to undo climate change and lift the burdens from the vulnerable regions. Since the model of society that we are following, burning and releasing ‘greenhouse’ gases that dent the ozone protection and heat up the earth, an alternative of social and economic life is the way to undercut the present climate change process. And we, the seven billion humans on earth, have to manage this revolution in lifestyles and justice. That is where we must exert our spiritual resources of prayer, fasting, renewing of mindset and advocacy.

On 25th September, political leaders of the world will meet in conference to pledge themselves to action on climate change. Many business circles will want them not to take effective action, but we must be warriors in prayer and declaration and fasting to hold their hands uplifted and determined. The Roman Catholic leader, Pope Francis, is calling for prayer and fast today, 1st September, and the World Council of Churches is continuing its campaign of worldwide ‘fast for the climate’. At the same time, its member churches and individuals have pulled out moneys invested in oil companies which contribute massively to Global Warming.

Erika is today’s sign of the time. Time to save our planet earth, our atmosphere, our islands and oceans, the material creation handed to us to manage. As we stand alongside Dominica, let us not miss the picture behind the picture. END. Oscar.