Climate change, wars fuel natural disasters

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle

May 2, 2016
FRANCOIS GLOUTNAY
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Climate change and emergency situations are linked, but global emergencies also can be caused by people, said two leaders of Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organization for Catholic charitable organizations.

Emergencies are on the rise in the world, said Michel Roy, general secretary of Caritas Internationalis. He visited Montreal for a three-day meeting of American members of Caritas, including Canada's Development and Peace.

"In the Philippines, there's an average of 20 typhoons each year," Roy said. "Floods and droughts increase. This will be the source of important migrations in years to come."

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manilla, Philippines, president of Caritas Internationalis, confirmed that natural disasters are now more brutal and deadly in his country.

"When I was growing up, I do not recall floods. But now, even a rain that is not heavy can pose a threat of flood. When I was growing up, the typhoon signals reached only level 3. Now it is up to level 5."

DOWNPOURS

"The winds are getting stronger. But the days are getting drier. You have now long periods without rain. But when it rains, the whole day of rain can give the amount of water equivalent of one month of rain," he said.

These phenomena are caused in part by human activity, the cardinal added.

"In Asia, we see a distorted idea of development progress. It could be one of the causes land is disappearing.

"There is no more soil to absorb water."

Tagle said land is becoming like concrete and rivers are becoming narrower and given new routes.

"We understand that a country must develop. But we must ask: What type of development do we need?" he asked.

"The environment is being forced to follow what human beings dictate. But in the end, nature is not developed. The poor are the first victims of ecological disasters."

ONGOING MIGRATION

The migrant crisis is mobilizing Caritas members in Europe and in the Middle East, but this is not something new, as millions of people had to flee during both World Wars, Tagle added.

However, he pointed to a greater array of causes, including ethnic conflicts and climate change.

In February, Tagle visited refugee camps in Lebanon.

He was shocked to find that traffickers have turned the migration crisis into a business. Refugees who are running away from war find that they must pay off traffickers in order to reach their destinations.

For Roy, how people welcome strangers "is a test for our humanity. We mustn't erect walls, but rather build bridges," he said. However, he added, welcoming refugees is not enough.

"War in Syria and Iraq has to stop. We Westerners have fueled it enough."