WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Editorial: Pakistan floods call for a sea change

Australian disappointment in the two main parties’ inability or unwillingness to face the climate change issue with sustainable policy was manifest in the federal elections last month when no party won the right to govern outright.

The number of votes which went to the Greens however, must surely show that Australians are looking for leadership in policy concerning changes to the global climate. Obvious changes in weather patterns and an increase in extreme weather events around the globe in the past few years have shown that climate change is not going away no matter how firmly the political party’s head is planted in the sand.

The latest disaster to capture world attention, monsoon floods in grindingly poor Pakistan, gives a warning that infrastructure mismanagement by Pakistani officials can be only partly responsible, that the world has failed to support with appropriate resources. Some 20 million are dead, injured or with their livelihoods swept away and an agricultural economy that is losing huge tracts of land, billions of dollars worth of crops and some 100,000 animals.

The question needs to be asked, how much does maltreatment of the earth’s resources deplete the land’s ability to withstand such flooding. Des Lyons of Wellington reflected in the online commentary, Pray the News last month that many victims of disaster live in poor countries where there is inadequate infrastructure or the resources to recover. Victims don’t have insurance or welfare and are at the mercy of governments that, like Pakistan, prioritise military spending over human needs.

‘At the international level, the response has been slow but the western world is now responding to UN urgings. That is in spite of much disquiet about the government of Pakistan and the fact that there is little generosity from the Islam world or Asian countries.’

Des Lyons suggests that such tragedies as the floods in Pakistan and Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005 and became the costliest storm in United States history at more than $US 80 billion are calling us to ‘Open our minds to wider concepts of God and our world’.

As co-creators with God, we need to play our role of guardians of the planet and prioritise sustainability. We need a new approach ‘that reverses our pursuits of warring, military might, national self-interest, resource exploitation, national borders, global warming and denials of social justice,’ says Des. ‘The answer of "impossible" will come quickly, but the hard questions will surely endure!’

‘So again, how can we powerless people make a difference? As a start, could we, too, discover a new way of thinking about God in the universe? Might we spiritually rise above the often divisive nature of biblical interpretation to see our place in the world as spiritual beings in God’s image and ‘Truly respect our planet in total?’ Scripture calls us to stewardship of the earth. The parables are often to do with the care of the earth, seasonal planting and nurture.

‘Might we dare,’ says Des, ‘to live our common "golden rule" and truly treat all others as we wish to be treated? In short, might we act to witness credibly to a model of the world we aspire to? Then governments (like Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand) might listen.’