“From Barack Obama and Xi Jinping to the heads of tiny Pacific island states, they took to the stage in Paris today to tell the world they would act. The rhetoric was lofty, planetary, grave.”
So says the emailed report re COP21 in my email box today, December 1, 2015 — information given to readers of an environmental news publication that I subscribed to.
But for me the rhetoric whatever the tone is real. No need for me to look further. All I have to do is take a little walk along the sea shores of my hometown (photos).
All I have to do is listen to this fisherman’s unwavering faith in the sea. “ My catch is more than enough for me and my family. We sell those we can’t consume for our other needs. I have no problems with the days not good for fishing…these days happen only in less than a month for the duration of one year.” How about during storms? Pause. “Ah.. the waters can reach up to there” (pointing to the shore less than five meters from where we were sitting). His hut is open to the elements. And one can imagine where this hut would end up if ever a category 5 typhoon will hit the area. God forbid!
For now, this thought I kept only to myself as I listen to the young fisherman sharing enthusiastically stories about the variety of his bountiful catch, enumerating the several names of local fish species abundant in our shores : turos, bungdo, angol, mamsa, marara etc. The local seabirds he named easily ( I was not able to catch the vernacular name) completely agreed with their noise dominating the ocean sound while they feast on their catch. Vicente’s modest hut has this uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean standing at around 10 meters from the shore line.
I chimed in with the optimism but deep in me the conversation running in my mind were streaming in a different light. Anxiety. Fear. Prayers of protection. May the Great Spirit of the Seas preserve and protect his family and the rest of the families living in the long stretch of the coast of my hometown, Bulusan.
As I leave, I noticed and captured the look of the young fisherman wistfully looking far off to the sea. The look was a mixture of gratitude and hint of uncertainty.
Moments like these my mind reflects on Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change, the Laudato si’.
For me, Laudato si’ is a prayer. A prayer to action. A sacred call.
Laudato si’ is a call to protect the vulnerable that includes the fishermen living in places where their livelihood depends on.
For the ‘parapadagat’, the sea is their life.
May we be enlightened by these words lifted from the text of Laudato si’:
- Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellowmen and women upon which all civil society is founded.
More about Laudato si’:
Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines