Caritas Singapore kickstarts care for creation

Zooming in on stewardship of the earth. Photo: Caritas Singapore

Themed “Heal Our Home”, Caritas Singapore’s Roundtable VI was held on Friday, Aug 14, 2020 to advocate stewardship of the Earth. This virtual roundtable saw more than 60 participants and veteran speakers in their respective fields discussing the current climate crisis, and ways to collectively address it on both an individual and organisational level.

Earth at the tipping point

In his opening remarks, the Chairman of Caritas Singapore Prof Tan Cheng Han shared that “many scientists warn that we are severely damaging our environment; we are fast reaching the point of no return as some effects are irreversible.”

Referring to Pope Francis’ landmark 2015 encyclical Laudato si’ (On Care for our Common Home), Prof Tan said that “the Church’s teaching is even more important today than ever.” He warned that “without keeping their Creator in mind, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality. We must remember that God’s divine spark is in all of His creation; in other words, God is reflected in all that exists.”

Speaking on the urgency to combat climate change, Ms Geraldine Clare Westwood from the Commission for Creation Justice of the Diocese of Penang said, “We are at the tipping point! At 1 to 1.1°C of global warming, we are already in crisis; if we don’t believe it’s real, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we may hit up to 4.8°C by the end of the century.”

According to the Global Climate Risk Index of 2020, half a million people have died worldwide already because of 12,000 extreme weather events. 5°C to 6°C of warming would see mass extinctions (70% of land animals and 90% of sea animals would disappear), loss of rainforests, reconfigurations of coastlines, and collapse of civilisations.

Singapore’s steps towards stewardship

Mr Joseph Teo, Singapore’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, addressed the local environmental concerns of higher daily temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, and rising sea levels (up to one metre by the end of the century).

Mr Teo emphasised that “Singapore’s commitment is unwavering towards supporting sustainable development; it has been a cornerstone. We acknowledge that pursuing both economic development and sustainability is not contradictory, but can be complementary.”

He shared that in 2013, the Centre for Climate Research Singapore was set up to advance the scientific understanding and prediction of weather and climate, focussing on Singapore and South-east Asia. The nation is working towards 100% green waterworks, planting one million trees in Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates, and installing solar panels on 70% of HDB blocks. Having closed the water loop with NEWater, it is looking at how to turn incinerated bottom ash from trash into NEWSand to make roads, and how to produce NEWOil from plastic waste.

Sharing on the effects of energy consumption on the environment, Dr Tuti Mariana Lim from the Nanyang Technological University’s  School of Civil and Environmental Engineering said, “The use of fossil fuels entails environmental degradation such as pollution, ozone depletion in the stratosphere and global warming; the corresponding climate change caused poses a serious risk to human health and the ecosystem.” Although fossil fuels are projected to continue to dominate the market over the next 20 years due to increase in economic activities, Dr Tuti noted that there were alternative renewable energy sources that could be used to generate electricity i.e. biomass, solar, geothermal, wind and water. She said, “wind and solar are now most competitive due to technology breakthroughs and favourable government  policy.”

Roundtable round-up

Participants enjoyed the Roundtable very much. One participant shared that the breakout sessions in particular “allowed me to see how I could play a part in being greener on a personal level. The facts and figures presented were good but being able to ‘force’ myself to think how I could contribute, and to learn from others on how to start, was very useful.” Another participant observed, “The need to address the causes of global warming and severe climate events destructive to our environment and lives is urgent and immediate. We clearly need to act decisively and quickly at our personal level, and “at the community, country and global level.”

Caritas Singapore’s Executive Director, Ms Christine Wong, shared, “We have learnt a lot and hope to engage more people on climate  change  in  the  future.”

Our care for creation journey continues. Caritas Singapore hopes to build a community to lead Catholics in action on climate change through raising awareness, works of hands, and roadshows. Find out more about Caritas’ Heal Our Home journey: Email: [email protected]

Contributed by Caritas Singapore