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September 29, 2016

Responding To: Climate Change and the Oceans: Challenges Ahead

Our Ocean, One Future, Our Common Home

François Pazisnewende Kaboré

It is difficult to hear Secretary Kerry’s remarks and not connect them with another powerful message that was released a year ago on May 24, 2015, Laudato Si (praise be to you), Pope Francis’s second encyclical. Both sets of remarks discuss respecting and protecting nature and the power of human beings to make a positive impact on the nature around them.

First of all, the connection of human beings to the ocean is not just romantic and emotional; it is existential. A good deal of life (human life, animal life, and vegetal life) depends on the ocean. Although this still requires additional research, there is evidence that illegal overfishing increasingly endangers those living in the coasts of West Africa. Furthermore, climate change and the degradation of coastal environments have resulted in flooding and other severe natural disasters, impacting poor communities. According to many scientists, there is a consensus that most threats to the ocean are man-made. A solution to these threats therefore requires a radical change in human behavior.

Secretary Kerry and Pope Francis have emphasized the significant necessity of human willpower in reversing the course of climate change and threats to the ocean. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of fighting global indifference, including, ignoring the plight of the weak, the poor, nature, and the ocean. He emphasized how these behaviors are often the result of human complacency. Secretary Kerry also shed light on this issue when he suggested that mitigating threats to the ocean and nature is largely about willpower.

But, are people ready to live differently, in a way where they respect and protect the earth? COP21 gathered a significant number of the world’s leaders in Paris to tackle climate change; a step forward and great news for climate conscious folks. However, in order for the recommendations from COP 21 to come to fruition, everyone must be a part of the greater movement: all people must be aware that the ocean and more generally, this earth, is our common home.

François Pazisnewende Kaboré, S.J. is a Jesuit priest from Burkina Faso and is the director of the Jesuit University Institute in Abidjan Côte d'Ivoire.

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