By Philippe Lafortune, animator for Central and Southern Quebec
(with files from international programs officers)
At the COP15, which started this week in Montreal, thousands of delegates from all over the world are gathered to discuss biodiversity. It is an opportunity to remind people and our leaders of the urgency of acting to protect the environment, including all living beings, and of immediately instituting the essential changes that people everywhere, in the Global North and the Global South, are demanding.
Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada is echoing these demands as a signatory to:
- The COP!5 Collective’s demands
- The manifesto for biodiversity and social and ecological justice
- The Multi-Faith Response to the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework
A house in peril
Since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, urbanization has doubled, often in chaotic and haphazard ways that entail encroachments on the traditional territories of local communities and native flora and fauna. In the past 50 years, half a billion hectares of forest―thrice the area of the Province of Quebec―have been razed!
Biodiversity is the sum of all the living things. We are part it and depend on it for our survival. Biodiversity is you, us and our children. It is our arts and languages; our creations and cultures; and our natural and human heritage. It is the whole food chain of which we are a link.
It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever.Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 33
In solidarity with the Earth
At the heart of biodiversity
It is well-established that Indigenous peoples and local communities are stewards of resources and more capable of ensuring their sustainability than any foreign company that sees resources from a purely profit-and-loss perspective. That is why Development and Peace has been supporting partners who are working to defend the right to land and life for 55 years.
For example, in Colombia and Honduras, where conflict, corruption and mega-projects have dispossessed small local communities of their rights to land and life, our Voices Without Borders in Defence of Lives and Lands project supports partners in informing and engaging communities using audiovisual tools and techniques.
In Honduras, our partners, the Fundación Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación and Radio Progreso, are training 430 young leaders. They are also creating a network of community correspondents who will reach 500,000 people in remote areas with information on environmental issues that concern them. Several of their documentaries portray communities’ struggles against hydroelectric dams (video in Spanish with French subtitles) and tourism projects (video in Spanish with English subtitles) that threaten their territories, their traditions and their very survival.
Now is the time to get informed about, inspired by and involved in creating a world that truly cares for people, the environment and all living things.
People and Planet First starts with you
Development and Peace members and supporters have been mobilizing for the past year to demand the adoption of a Canadian corporate due diligence law. Already, over 25,000 signatures have been collected and presented to Members of Parliament. The campaign is seeking to ensure that Canadian companies respect the fundamental human and environmental rights the world over.
COP15: Be there on 16th
Because biodiversity is also artistic and cultural, Development and Peace, the CoP15 Collective and the Association québécoise de solidarité internationale (AQOCI, the Quebec Association for International Solidarity), invite you to a special cultural event. The Local Communities at the Heart of Biodiversity Defence event will be held on Friday, December 16, at the Espace Génération Vivante in the Coeur des Sciences pavilion (site plan in French) of the Université du Québec à Montréal.
From noon onwards, meet the faces of biodiversity, visit the kiosks and takin the “artivist” performances at the Biodiversity Bazaar. After this creative and immersive introduction, proceed at 1 p.m. to discover local perspectives―Indigenous, peasant and feminine―on biodiversity through a panel discussion featuring partners from right here in Abitibi, Que., and as far afield as Benin, Senegal, Honduras and Bolivia. Round it off with some networking to the accompaniment of a nomadic string quartet at the Solidarity Cocktail at 4 p.m.
On the march!
Biodiversity, much like Development and Peace, is a forward movement. It would therefore be fitting to join us on the March for Biodiversity and Human Rights at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 10. We will assemble near the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Monument (see map).
In the morning, before the march, you can make your own placards for a living planet (webpage in French) at the Espace Génération Vivante. There will also be a celebration at the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral.
Do join us. Because protecting nature and human rights is really not optional.
Reinventing the future
Beyond scientific, economic and political considerations, COP15 is, above all, an opportunity to raise individual and collective consciousness. It is an occasion, firstly, to better recognise the wealth of biodiversity and the threats it faces. Secondly, it is a chance to reflect on our lifestyles and our patterns of consumption and production. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is a time to revisit and reinvent our relationship with all living beings, with nature, with creation and with Pachamama, Gaia or Mother Earth, or whatever name we choose for our common home.
Appreciating creation in all its diversity, generosity and fragility means applying ourselves better to protecting it, so that we can leave it to our children in a better state than our parents left it for us.