NZ Bishops warn of Pacific ecological crisis

New Zealand's bishops have called upon the Catholic community to make the lifestyle choices and sacrifices necessary to protect the planet, warning that climate change is already among the most urgent threats facing the people of the Pacific.

In a newly released statement, the bishops said that "our world is facing an ecological crisis, which could equally be called an economic crisis, or a poverty crisis".

They say that climate change is already among the most urgent threats facing Pacific nations, warning that life on these islands will soon become "untenable".

"Rising temperatures and sea levels, and the greater intensity of storms and natural disasters, are already affecting the food and water supply for people on low-lying islands in different parts of the Pacific," the bishops said.

"It is predicted that in the Pacific alone, there may be a million environmental refugees before the end of this century."

Describing the crisis as primarily "a spiritual or moral crisis", the bishops added that "its public face is the suffering of the poor and the degradation of our environment, at a time when accumulation of wealth and material goods has never occupied our attention more".

While science and technology have brought many blessings to human existence, including a greater capacity to meet human needs "the benefits of these advances have been spread unjustly, often with an adverse effect upon the world's most vulnerable populations", the statement said.

The bishops said the existence of extreme poverty and environmental problems are the result of human behaviour - not acts of God - driven by "values, priorities and decisions which do not see human life as a paramount concern."

The statement says that the Catholic faith have much to offer to this debate, including the importance of simplicity and personal sacrifice, "so others may have what they need".

"Our understanding that we are stewards of God's creation, our solidarity with the poor, and our respect for the common good make the issue of environmental justice the responsibility of every person," say the bishops.

"Both individual and collective acts of selflessness are needed," they said, "that - of self sacrifice for the greater good, of self denial in the midst of convenient choices, of choosing simpler lifestyles in the midst of a consumer society".

The bishops deny that this approach means abandoning scientific and technological advances but rather it is a call to use them in a thoughtful manner.

"Ultimately, this is a global problem requiring real global solutions," they said.

"But individual Catholics, parishes, Catholic schools, religious communities and church organisations can play a big part by making different choices, such as using less energy or buying locally made goods which require less transportation", the bishops conclude.

Photo: Greenpeace/Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

Statement on Environmental Issues from the New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference

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Catholic Church in New Zealand

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11 Sep 2006