News Americas, ROME, Italy, Weds. July 22, 2015: Only a single Caribbean mayor is present at the Vatican’s two-day conference on climate change, human trafficking and sustainable development, which wraps up today in Vatican City, Rome.
Kingston, Jamaica Mayor Angela Brown-Burke is the lone Caribbean attendee among 60 mayors from around the world and was among the dozens set to meet with Pope Francis Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking to the Catholic News Service, Brown-Burke said communities will need to provide the alternatives if any of the environmental awareness campaigns are going to work.
“People aren’t stubborn. They are trying to make a living,” she said. “They say, ‘If I need fuel, don’t tell me not to cut down my trees because that’s the only way I am going to be able to cook my food.'”
On the topic of trafficking, Brown-Burke said that “as an individual who is from enslaved people, it is extremely important for us to understand the legacy that we have and to ensure that no one else has to go through that again.”
Today’s slavery is much worse, she said, because today’s “chains are invisible, they’re in your mind in a sense and they are just as real if not worse.”
The July 21-22 conference is aimed at keeping up pressure on world leaders ahead of U.N. climate negotiations in Paris later this year.
The conferences are organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences under the event Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of the Cities. In June, Pope Francis put out a 184-page papal letter (called an encyclical) that calls climate change a global problem that is causing the earth to “look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” He also called on developing nations to limit pollution output while helping poorer nations
The mayors signed a declaration Tuesday that states that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity.”
The climax of Tuesday’s inaugural session was an afternoon audience with Pope Francis, who has become a hero to the environmental movement and has used his moral authority and enormous popularity to focus world attention on climate change and its effects on the poor.