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The Eighth Work of Mercy And Caring for Our Common Home to Prevent a Refugee Crisis

by L. V. Diaz

In his Message for the 2016 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation entitled Show Mercy to our Common Home, Pope Francis unexpectedly announced an addition of two works of mercy to the original 14 – one corporal and one spiritual – compiled into a single phrase: “care for our common home.” We remember, with the help of Francis, that God first demonstrated boundless mercy to us, which empowers us to engage in mercy ourselves. Given the vastness and beauty of Creation’s interlacing parts (e.g., including the hungry and the sick and not excluding the seas and the atmosphere), Francis emphasizes that we should cooperate with God’s mercy for us by offering mercy toward His Creation, too. On pilgrimage to our heavenly home, we are here, and this home requires our “grateful contemplation” and “simple daily gestures,” as Francis describes. As we ponder the roles that we will play in exercising this new channel of mercy, we present the following exposition on one of our primary concerns for our common home.

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. A number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, and others) released mainly as a result of human activity,” wrote Pope Francis in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si.

As one of the consequences of climate change, Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston just last year, causing an economic damage of $87 billion in property loss and $10 billion in lost economic output, according to the Greater Houston Partnership. FEMA reported that 586,862 individuals or households in Houston registered for assistance and $125 billion was needed for damages. The Harvey flood exceeded any flood event in the continental U.S. of the past 1,000 years. To make matters more dire, the sky-high, record-breaking amount of rain dumped in Texas (51.88 inches) is becoming more common.

More severe hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, droughts, and severe weather conditions around the world are the effects of climate change. These disasters are threatening communities in many parts of the globe and their impact will worsen in the future, contributing to growing human migration as vulnerable populations seek safer, more stable living conditions.

In 2007, Syria, along with Turkey, northern Iraq, and western Iran, entered the most distressing 3-year drought in the recorded history of the region. Syria suffered severe water scarcity, livestock deaths, and crop failures that drove 1.5 million people from rural areas to the cities. Food prices skyrocketed, leading to economic and social tensions and leaving Syrians dangerously vulnerable to the subsequent war and the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

The United States government’s response to the threat of climate change is of two minds. The current administration refused to recognize climate change as a growing threat to national security, revoked the participation of the U.S. in the Paris Climate Agreement, virtually eliminated the Obama-era $2 billion commitment to the Green Climate Fund, and most recently, revealed its proposals to loosen car pollution and fuel-efficiency standards, weaken regulations on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants, and render it significantly easier for energy companies to emit methane from their oil and gas wells.

Conversely, some members of Congress have urged the Department of Defense, for example, to be diligent in monitoring how climate change will affect major military installations at sea. Additionally, although its victories up to this point have been modest, the Climate Solutions Caucus is gaining momentum and members.

While the U.S. response to the peril of climate change remains ambiguous, people continue moving to new places in search of safety and better opportunities. Climate change is expected to trigger larger and more complex waves of human migration. Disruption of livelihoods will remain a leading driver of long-term migration over the next decades and climate change is likely to exacerbate this migration. Global warming is considered a “threat multiplier” by experts in the security community, and climate-induced mass migration heightens tensions in the world. Impaired access to food, water, and severe weather are challenges that historically have prompted higher tension. When millions of individuals and families are displaced or compelled to migrate in the face of these challenges, political, ethnic, and religious conflicts arise.

by L. V. Díaz

The most catastrophic impacts of climate change will be experienced most severely by developing countries in the coming decades. Most of the poor people in the world will be affected by phenomena related to climate change, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent upon natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing, and forestry. The poor have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to fend off extreme natural disasters or adapt to climate change, and their access to social services is very limited. For example, changes to a region’s climate, to which local livestock cannot adapt effectively, cause dramatic numbers of livestock deaths. This, in turn, affects the livelihoods of the poor, who are forced to leave their homes and flee, often to large cities, with great uncertainty as to their wellbeing and the futures of their children. Current trends indicate that the world is seeing a tragic rise in the number of migrants fleeing from the grinding poverty intensified by environmental degradation – more than 24 million since 2008. At this point, “climate refugees” are still not recognized as such, with neither definition nor protection, by any international convention. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to this suffering taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these horrors involving our sisters and brothers points to the loss of that sense of responsibility to our fellow humankind upon which all civil society is founded.1

While our government has not yet outlined an appropriate course of action in response to our environmental crisis, we can make up our minds and care for our common home, to prevent it from deteriorating further. Many people in wealthy countries, like the United States and the rest of the western world, are fortunate and have a greater ability to ameliorate the pain that so many others are enduring. The most recent example on this soil of Hurricane Florence, breaking North Carolina’s record for rainfall, leaving millions with no power, and killing more than a dozen, should only serve as yet another impetus to act – especially since leading climate scientists agree that rising sea levels are augmenting both the frequency and severity of storms. We can support the mitigation of the worst aspects of climate change, by taking small steps to limit our consumption of resources, conserve energy, and reduce pollution.


Actionable Steps:


  1. Limit consumption:
  2. No new clothes for a year. The average American tosses 81 pounds of clothing every year leading to 26 billion pounds of textiles and clothes ending up in landfills.No New Clothes for a Year” has been a campaign of Casa Juan Diego over the years.
  3. Clean your refrigerator every week. Eat all the food you buy. Most Americans waste 25% of the food they buy.
  4. Use less water. Take showers instead of baths. Limit shower time. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth.
  5. Limit your consumption of meat. Emissions made from agribusiness present an even larger issue than fossil fuels.
  6. Conserve energy
  7. Tune up your car. Regular maintenance allows cars to function properly and emit less CO2. Make sure your car’s tires are inflated to reduce fuel consumption. Drive less by choosing to walk, bike, or ride the bus.
  8. Turn off the lights if you are not using them.
  9. Open the windows and use a fan before turning the AC colder. Wear a sweater or use a blanket before turning up the heat.
  10. Eat local, in-season produce whenever possible, to reduce the energy needed for shipping foods all over the country or the world.
  11. Reduce pollution
  12. Say no to plastic bags. Instead use reusable cloth bags.
  13. Use a refillable water bottle instead of plastic water bottles.





4: https://pai.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/climatemigration.pdf