As the summer was drawing to a close, we heard of the death of Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, which lifted millions of people, mostly in Asia, out of hunger through the production of high-yield varieties of wheat.
Despite Dr. Borlaug’s achievements, we commemorate this year’s World Food Day on October 16 facing the fact that more than a billion people around the world suffer each day without enough to eat. The fight against global hunger continues.
And to add to the complexity of our task, we are facing some new challenges in increasing agricultural production and preventing famine. For example, over the last several weeks, we’ve received some confounding news about disasters in Africa.
In East Africa, the nearly complete failure of seasonal rains has resulted in drought that is causing suffering and hardship for almost 4 million people in Kenya. At the same time, a storm last month in Burkina Faso poured more than 10 inches of rain on the capital city of Ouagadougou in a 12-hour period, breaking a record that had stood since 1919 and causing floods that drove more than 100,000 people from their homes.
There is no conclusive link among these two weather aberrations and global climate change. But the fact is we are witnessing shifts in climatic conditions around the world.
Our overseas staff and partners report that climate change is accelerating disasters and altering rainfall patterns and traditional agriculture. And those shifts are causing those who contributed the least to global climate change, the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, to suffer the most from its effects.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, under Vatican leadership, have accepted the overwhelming scientific consensus that global climate change is real and is caused by human activity, and that it is disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. The United States bears a special responsibility in our stewardship of God’s creation to shape responses that serve the entire human family. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his message about last month’s U.N. summit on climate change: “The economic and social costs of using up shared resources must be recognized with transparency and borne by those who incur them, and not by other peoples or future generations. The protection of the environment, and the safeguarding of resources and of the climate, oblige all international leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world.”
And let me add Pope Benedict’s words from his most recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, in addressing the topic of development, the rights of peoples and the environment: “The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole.”
Catholic Relief Services’ overseas programs have already developed more than $60 million in adaptation-related projects. And in partnership with the U.S. bishops, CRS is contributing our experience and observations to the U.S. administration and congress as they develop our nation’s response to climate change. A new initiative of leading national Catholic organizations, including CRS, is calling on Catholics throughout the United States to reflect and act on our obligations to care for creation and for “the least of these” as a distinctive Catholic contribution to the climate change debate.
As we mark this year’s World Food Day, let us reaffirm our commitment and redouble our efforts to do all we can to end global hunger.
Thank you for your continued support and your prayers.