Here, tradition bids us to consider the "Urbi et Orbi" message of no less than our Holy Father.
"If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation" is the Pope's exhortation for 2010. Simply put, it's the environment that we must give primordial attention in our work for peace, justice and development.
Pope Benedict XVI explains that "integral human development is closely linked to the obligations which flow from man's relationship with the natural environment. The environment must be seen as God's gift to all people, and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations."
He also stresses the appeal made 20 years ago by his predecessor Pope John Paul II for a new solidarity in the face of an "ecological crisis" thus -
"Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of 'environmental refugees', people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it - and often their possessions as well - in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development."
For us, this ecological crisis is nowhere more grimly seen than in the great flood of Metro Manila in September 2009 brought about by typhoon "Ondoy." Verily, one singular lesson that came out of this tragedy is that when you tinker with nature, it will get back to you in catastrophic proportions. Pasig City, for example, remained flooded for over two weeks because of irresponsible development where the natural flow of water was impeded by the closing of small rivers and streams to give more land to business establishments.
The New Year gives us an opportunity to take stock of the way we live and pursue development.
2010 is also election year. Thus, we must likewise seize this critical exercise to ensure responsible governance by voting on May 10, for "environmental leaders." And when the campaign starts in February for national positions and March for local offices, let us examine each candidate on his or her capability and plans for the environment.
Remember, Earth's our only home.