CARITAS Zambia says there is urgent need for prudent and sustainable management of the earth’s resources to reduce poverty among the people for the benefit of all and future generations.
Livelihoods and climate change programme specialist Musamba Mubanga says the destabilisation of national economies, threats to food systems, escalation of climate change, and likelihood of global pandemics such as COVID-19 were all increasingly linked to the loss of the planet’s variety of life.
“Zambia has abundant natural resources but faces increasing threats from deforestation, unsustainable developmental practices, wildlife trafficking, and the effects of climate change,” he said in a message to mark the World Environment Day which falls June 5 and is being held under the theme ‘Ecosystem Restoration’.
Mubanga said, aware of the difficulties and challenges that most of the poor face as a result of social economic development driven by large-scale investments leading to ecosystem damage, Caritas stands in solidarity with poor communities by sharing information and education to empower them.
He said inspired by the just ended celebration of the special year of the Laudato Si’ on May 24, which took stock of the positive changes brought about by the actions to achieve the vision of integral human development, with integral ecology at its heart; Catholics worldwide had made significant progress in their ‘ecological conversion’ journey.
Mubanga appreciated the national efforts of actualising the spiritual and social message contained in Laudato Si in which Pope Francis challenged all stakeholders to acknowledge the damage inflicted to the environment and the urgent need to dialogue and find lasting solutions to challenges being posed on the earth.
He said Caritas was concerned about the environmental impact of different developmental projects that had potential to contribute to the ecological crisis such as soil degradation caused by damage to the land’s productive capacity because of poor agricultural practices such as the excessive use of pesticides, fertilisers, soil compaction from heavy equipment and erosion of topsoil resulting in reduced ability to produce.
Mubanga said deforestation had led to the destruction of vast areas of forest due to unsustainable forestry practices, agricultural and large land clearing, and the over exploitation of wood products for use as fuel, without planting new growth and loss of endangered species that have been threatened with extinction either by direct hunting or habitat destruction.
He said Caritas was concerned about biodiversity loss and biological diversity which contributes to reduced ability of the ecosystem to recover from natural or man-induced disruption.
Mubanga said Caritas Zambia, in reflecting on the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 on “Prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide”, would like to appreciate the importance of infrastructure development, timber, mining, agriculture, among others.
He said these were cardinal in creating jobs and meeting daily needs, but there was urgent need for prudent and sustainable management of the earth’s resources to reduce poverty among the people for the benefit of all and future generations.
“Caritas Zambia today reminds every person that ecosystem justice compels us to understand the challenges faced by those people and communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Often the people on the front lines of climate change have contributed least to the causes of the climate crisis,” he said.
He said in order to restore the ecosystem, Caritas appeals to the Zambian people to start caring for the ecosystem which was people’s common home.
Mubanga said care goes further than “stewardship”.
He said good stewards take responsibility and fulfil their obligations to manage and to render an account.
“But one can be a good steward without feeling connected. If one cares, however, one is connected. To care is to allow oneself to be affected by another, so much so that one’s path and priorities change,” he said.
Mubanga called for political momentum for action, as demonstrated by the growing urgent call to restore the ecosystem.
“And it was not happening in a vacuum and there has never been a more urgent need to restore damaged ecosystems than now. In practice, there is need for ecological restoration of policy to take place in the context of different distributions of power between the various public and private actors involved,” he said.
He said ecological restoration was best seen not only as a technical task but as a social responsibility.
Mubanga called on decision makers to take on the element that restoration of ecosystem was fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, mainly those on climate change, poverty eradication, food security, water and biodiversity conservation.
“To enhance restoration in the genetic diversity, we recommend that the domain for seed and specie collections would depend on the restoration goals, with reintroductions of rare species coming from local resources, and reintroductions of more common species into more disturbed sites coming from areas of similar environmental conditions within the country,” he said. “Restoring damaged ecosystems is an efficient and cost-effective way people can do by working with nature to address the most pressing challenges humanity is facing today, i.e. the Coronavirus disease 2019, global pandemic, especially in the context of the Build Back Better approach.”
Caritas Zambia called for ecological conversion – a complete change in relation to how people interact with the environment and other living organisms.
Mubanga said the call was that the categories of ethical and moral reflection relevant to justice should be expanded to encompass nature itself and its constituent parts.
He said human beings had an obligation to take the inherent value of other living things into consideration whenever “these living things are affected by human actions”.
Mubanga said there was need to link the vulnerability of the poor and the fragility of the environment through conversion.
“The science is clear: the next ten years are paramount in the fight to avert climate change and the loss of nature and biodiversity. As the global world, commenced the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration this year, it is vital that we all grasp and acknowledge that restoration is a human mission – an enormous task that is too big for any one organisation or single policy maker to undertake,” said Mubanga. “The call for ecosystem restoration should embrace the environmental awareness growing world-wide, along with concern for the damage that is being done. And in spite of the enormous offences committed by the privileged, there’s need to keep a hopeful outlook on the possibility of reversing the trend: ‘Humanity still has the ability to work together in restoring the ecosystem. Men and women are still capable of intervening positively… All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start’.”