Clockwise from top left: Mr Wilson Ang, Fr Derrick Yap, Mr Mark Tang and Mr Joseph Teo. Photos: ArchComms

Michelle Tan

It was no small talk about climate change that took place on Saturday, Oct 3. The 90 minutes of solid and insightful input from the three guest speakers (all Catholic), doubtless left a big impact on attendees of this Let’s Talk About Our Imminent Future organised by Caritas Singapore and livestreamed on the Archdiocesan YouTube channel with a simulcast on CatholicSG.Radio.

Held to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Laudato si, Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical calling on every human person to care for our common home, Friar Derrick Yap OFM, Custos for the Custody of St Anthony (Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei), Mr Joseph Teo, Singapore’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, Mr Mark Tang, Caritas Board member and Chairperson of the Caritas Young Adults Committee, and host Mr Wilson Ang, the founding President of the Environmental Challenge Organisation (Singapore) expressed their passionate and heartfelt concern for the environment and its preservation.

What is happening

Mr Teo sketched a bleak picture of the future state of Singapore if climate change remained unchecked: higher temperatures would make our already hot and humid conditions unbearable; increased rainfall would cause more flooding and an increase in vector-borne diseases; higher sea levels would inundate our low-lying areas; extreme weather patterns would result in loss of biodiversity and impact food production and availability of potable water.

Singapore is thus taking its international obligations to combat climate change seriously by moving away from a linear economy model – buy, use, throw – to a circular economy model – reduce, reuse, recycle. Mr Teo gave examples of how trash is now being turned into treasure by converting the ash of incinerated waste into construction materials that can be used to lay roads, extracting gold and other metals from discarded electronics, and producing energy is produced from food waste.

Why we should care

Fr Derrick pointed out that, in Laudato si, Pope Francis referred to the earth as our common home – not house – indicating that we should see our relationship with the environment as familial. The Pope described this as “integral ecology” or the inter- connectedness between members of the human family, the environment, and each other.

He outlined three ways of seeing our relationship with creation: (i) we are lords over creation, treating it as we please (the Dominion Model); (ii) we are stewards of creation, managing it for God but nevertheless apart from creation (the Stewardship Model); and (iii) we are a part of creation, with a common Fatherhood in God and a universal brotherhood with all creatures, living not just for our own selfish, individualistic good, but for the common good of all created things (the Kinship Model).

Moving from the Dominion to the Kinship Model requires a paradigm shift in mindset and a conversion of heart.

How we can help

At one point, Mr Teo showed everyone the chain his parents gave him on his 21st birthday, and the watch gifted by his wife on their wedding day to demonstrate that, in the same way we all cherish and treasure the gifts of our loved ones, we too should cherish the earth given to us by God if we truly love Him.

He entreated viewers to dispel any misconception that combating climate change was too big an undertaking for them. Giving a few examples of how small actions can make a big difference (see infographic), he said, “Your choices do matter – you can be agents of change!”

Mr Tang suggested reframing conversations, especially on social media, in the language of relationship to inspire young people especially to take “generational responsibility” for the creation given them by God, and to seize the corresponding “generational opportunity” to start caring for creation with a heart of love.

And Fr Derrick underscored the importance of praying which helps us see the heart of God who is Beauty itself. Only then can we see Beauty in creation, he said, and learn to cherish the value of every created thing. He recounted the story of St Francis of Assisi who could embrace a leper after his conversion experience, because only then could he see the beauty of God within and beneath the leper’s repulsive exterior.

Catalysing care of creation

Ms Jane Foo, a viewer, said in wonderment, “I was always taught that we are stewards of creation, so hearing about the Kinship Model for the first time was a real and beautiful eye-opener for me.”

Ms Gail Ng of Caritas was similarly edified. “Together with the government, we as individuals can do whatever is in our capacity to respect and care for our environment – our collective efforts can make a difference!”

As Ms Christine Wong, Caritas’ Executive Director, observed, “It is heartwarming and inspiring to see the conversation on the care for creation continuing. We hope to see more discussions, sharing, and concrete actions in our Catholic community.”

So let us stop small talk and start small actions for the care of our common home. As the old adage goes, if we take care of the pennies of our little lifestyle changes, the pounds of climate change will take care of themselves. Let’s not short-change creation any longer!

If you missed this amazingly insightful talk show, catch it at leisure on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgXh9OF8RAQ&t

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