THE threat to the world's peoples posed by environmental destruction is greater than any result of the arms' race, a top ecologist warned this week. "I am more afraid of getting skin cancer as the ozone layer thins out than I am of being killed by a missile" Lloyd Timberlake told a London audience gathered to launch CAFOD's 1989 education campaign.
An editorial advisor to the World Commission on Environment and Development which produced the landmark Brundtland Report on ecological mismanagement, Mr Timberlake said that global pollution was forcing governments and people in the west to redefine their notions of "security". "Who cannot help but feel that the droughts, floods, and fiercer and more frequent hurricanes associated with global warming threaten them more than foreign armies", he asked.
The effect of environmental damage on developing nations was to make them politically less stable and economically weak, Mr Timberlake pointed out. "The destruction of the planet is the real security threat of the 1990s. Once we realise this, then we may find ways of dealing with it by spending on environmental security a
fraction of the almost US $1,000 billion which the world spends annually on military activities."
Mr Timberlake was amongst the speakers at the launch of Cafod's education campaign, Renewing the Earth, at Westminster Cathedral Conference Centre. The campaign, which CAFOD director Julian Filochowski described as a central feature of the agency's work for several years to come, concentrates on the links between world poverty and the damage done to the environment. (It was previewed in the Catholic Herald by Ellen Teague on January 27).
Barbara Wood, daughter and biographer of "small is beautiful" environmental pioneer EF Schumacher, and another of the speakers at the launch, examined the duty of Christians to protect the earth, their gift from God. Faith, she said, must not be regarded as simply a private matter, but rather "something that unites us with the whole of creation and its creator". She upheld the idea of Franciscan spiritually and its care for the earth as an example to all.