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Not even halfway over, 2015 has already been a year of remarkable ambition. This week, I am encouraged by the words of Pope Francis in his encyclical, “Laudato Si.” 

In it, Pope Francis calls for all inhabitants of the Earth to take stock of the current, endangered, status of our planet and to take the necessary actions to change course. 

Pope Francis said, “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.”

And 

“It is essential to seek comprehensive solutions which consider the interactions within natural systems themselves and with social systems. We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”

Through my work at Heifer International, I have witnessed this to be true.

At Heifer, we are committed to climate justice, which recognizes that a disproportionate amount of the damage caused by climate change is and will continued to be carried by the very poor with whom we work. Our commitment to climate justice is informed by ethics, and I am encouraged by Pope Francis’s focus on this.

Every one of our projects includes environmental conservation in one way or another, not limited to:

  • Planting trees and managing grazing to improve soil water retention and control soil erosion
  • Using zero-grazing pens for livestock, when appropriate 
  • Improving manure management, including composting
  • Adoption of biogas technology
  • Using agroecological and agroforestry practices 

Many of our projects are oriented toward helping farmers adapt to their regions’ particular climate changes crises. I’ve been on-site for a Farmer Field School in Kenya, for example, where farmers learned how to implement terracing, to best capture precious water and prevent topsoil erosion, as part of a series of climate change adaptation techniques.

Our farmers in Bolivia’s “Oriente” are trained not only to implement eco-friendly farming systems to increase their production and improve their environment, but also to advocate for the creation and implementation of public policies addressing adaptation to climate change.

Our upcoming work in the Sahel region will be quite focused on helping farmers adapt to climate change and go from barely surviving to thriving and improving the land. 

I’m heartened to see Pope Francis engaging on this issue. Beyond the science of climate change, I am glad climate justice is entering the discussion. It is not only the responsibility of the wealthy to reduce our behaviors contributing to climate change, but also to help those hardest hit to find climate justice.

Author

Pierre Ferrari

Pierre Ferrari is president and CEO of Heifer International. Pierre is very passionate about empowering the families and communities with whom Heifer works: “It took me decades, but I have come to know that the only way to happiness and joy is to be of service to others.” Pierre’s other joys are his wife, Kim, his two sons and two stepdaughters. In his free time he enjoys golf, squash, reading and travel.

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