When we talk about climate change, there is often an emphasis on the rising temperatures in the oceans, melting Arctic ice and other visible results of our changing climate.
As Vincentians we must also look at the effect on our fellow residents of this planet who are amongst those living in poverty. There is research that validates the fact that low income populations have less access to information, resources and institutes to assist them to prepare for and avoid the health risks of climate change. Heart and lung disease and bacterial infections are some major health related issues associated with climate change. The lack of enough health insurance may also increase the risk of illness caused by climate change.
In addition, low income populations often live in an urban area near sources of greenhouse gas emissions. This includes living near pollution sites. Many low-income housing developments are without sufficient insulation or air conditioning.
Globally, there are several countries which suffer through flooding and drought which can lead to national emergencies and even starvation.
So, what can we do to have a positive influence on climate change? We can adopt various changes to our lifestyles that assist in combatting climate change. If everyone took on a stronger sense of responsibility, we can achieve some very good results.
Our Vincentian family is a worldwide organization and therefore we do possess the resources to have a very loud voice which can advocate for change. If we put the safety and health of our friends and neighbours in need as our priority, we should be able to clearly understand that climate change is a very important topic in relation to poverty. We can act as strong advocates to our governments at all levels to take concrete steps that can help to turn the tide and make some real change regarding our environment. We can be the voice of those living in poverty who are likely to suffer from climate change is a more personal way than we will ever experience.
It is time to act and let our leaders know we need to act quickly.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is past president of the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.
Opinions expressed are the author’s own views and do not officially represent those of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.