Environment

Environment - Pope Francis         

05.06.13  General Audience  St Peter's Square  World Environment Day        Genesis 2: 15



Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today I would like to reflect on the issue of the
environment, as I have already had an opportunity to do on various occasions. I was also prompted to think about this because of today’s World Environment Day, sponsored by the United Nations, which is launching a pressing appeal for the need to eliminate waste and the destruction of food.

When we talk about the environment, about
creation, my thoughts go to the first pages of the Bible, to the Book of Genesis, where it says that God puts men and women on the earth to till it and keep it (cf. 2:15). And these questions occur to me: What does cultivating and preserving the earth mean? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it? The verb “cultivate” reminds me of the care a farmer takes to ensure that his land will be productive and that his produce will be shared.

What great attention, enthusiasm and dedication! Cultivating and caring for creation is an instruction of God which he gave not only at the beginning of history, but has also given to each one of us; it is part of his plan; it means making the world increase with responsibility, transforming it so that it may be a garden, an inhabitable place for us all. Moreover on various occasions
Benedict XVI has recalled that this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the pace and the logic of creation. Instead we are often guided by the pride of dominating, possessing, manipulating and exploiting; we do not “preserve” the earth, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a freely-given gift to look after.

We are losing our attitude of wonder, of contemplation, of listening to creation and thus we no longer manage to interpret in it what
Benedict XVI calls “the rhythm of the love-story between God and man”. Why does this happen? Why do we think and live horizontally, we have drifted away from God, we no longer read his signs.

However “cultivating and caring” do not only entail the relationship between us and the environment, between man and creation. They also concern human relations. The popes have spoken of a human ecology, closely connected with environmental ecology. We are living in a time of crisis; we see it in the environment, but above all we see it in men and women. The human person is in danger: this much is certain — the human person is in danger today, hence the urgent need for human ecology! And the peril is grave, because the cause of the problem is not superficial but deeply rooted. It is not merely a question of
economics but of ethics and anthropology. The Church has frequently stressed this; and many are saying: yes, it is right, it is true... but the system continues unchanged since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money, money, cash commands. And God our Father gave us the task of protecting the earth — not for money, but for ourselves: for men and women. We have this task! Nevertheless men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the “culture of waste”. If a computer breaks it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs and dramas of so many people end up being considered normal. If on a winter's night, here on the Via Ottaviano — for example — someone dies, that is not news. If there are children in so many parts of the world who have nothing to eat, that is not news, it seems normal. It cannot be so! And yet these things enter into normality: that some homeless people should freeze to death on the street — this doesn’t make news. On the contrary, when the stock market drops 10 points in some cities, it constitutes a tragedy. Someone who dies is not news, but lowering income by 10 points is a tragedy! In this way people are thrown aside as if they were trash.

This “culture of waste” tends to become a common mentality that infects everyone. Human life, the person, are no longer seen as a primary value to be respected and safeguarded, especially if they are poor or
disabled, if they are not yet useful — like the unborn child — or are no longer of any use — like the elderly person. This culture of waste has also made us insensitive to wasting and throwing out excess foodstuffs, which is especially condemnable when, in every part of the world, unfortunately, many people and families suffer hunger and malnutrition. There was a time when our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any left over food. Consumerism has induced us to be accustomed to excess and to the daily waste of food, whose value, which goes far beyond mere financial parameters, we are no longer able to judge correctly.

Let us remember well, however, that whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor, from the hungry! I ask everyone to reflect on the problem of the loss and waste of food, to identify ways and approaches which, by seriously dealing with this problem, convey solidarity and sharing with the underprivileged.

A few days ago, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, we read the account of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish. And the end of this passage is important: “and all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces (Lk 9:17). Jesus asked the disciples to ensure that nothing was wasted: nothing thrown out! And there is this fact of 12 baskets: why 12? What does it mean? Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel, it represents symbolically the whole people. And this tells us that when the food was shared fairly, with solidarity, no one was deprived of what he needed, every community could meet the needs of its poorest members. Human and environmental ecology go hand in hand.

I would therefore like us all to make the serious commitment to respect and care for creation, to pay attention to every person, to combat the culture of waste and of throwing out so as to foster a culture of solidarity and encounter. Thank you.




Pope Francis        04.06.21  Message for the launching of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, World Environment Day

Pope Francis message for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration delivered by Cardinal Pietro Parolin 04.06.2021
delivered by Cardinal Pietro Parolin

To Her Excellency Mrs. Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director
and to His Excellency Mr. Qu Dongyu, FAO Director-General


Tomorrow we will celebrate World Environment Day. This annual commemoration encourages us to remember that everything is interconnected. A true «concern for the environment […] needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society».[1]

Tomorrow’s celebration, however, will have a special significance, as it will take place in the year in which the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration begins. This decade invites us to make ten-year commitments aimed at caring for our common home by «supporting and scaling up efforts to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide and raise awareness of the importance of successful ecosystem restoration».[2]

In the Bible we read that: «The heavens declare the glory of God; / the skies proclaim the work of his hands. / Day after day they pour forth speech; / night after night they reveal knowledge. / They have no speech, they use no words; / no sound is heard from them».[3]

We are all part of this gift of creation. We are a part of nature, not separated from it. This is what the Bible tells us.

The current environmental situation calls us to act now with urgency to become ever more responsible stewards of creation and to restore the nature that we have been damaging and exploiting for too long. Otherwise, we risk destroying the very basis on which we depend. We risk floods, and hunger and severe consequences for ourselves and for future generations. This is what many scientists tell us.

We need to take care of each other, and of the weakest among us. Continuing down this path of exploitation and destruction – of humans, and of nature – is unjust and unwise. This is what a responsible conscience would tell us.

We have a responsibility to leave a habitable common home for our children and for future generations.

However, when we look around ourselves, what do we see? We see crisis leading to crisis. We see the destruction of nature, as well as a global pandemic leading to the death of millions of people. We see the unjust consequences of some aspects of our current economic systems and numerous catastrophic climate crises that produce grave effects on human societies and even mass extinction of species.

And yet there is hope. «We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral».[4]

We are witnessing new engagement and commitment by several States and non-Governmental actors: local authorities, the private sector, civil society, youth … efforts aimed at promoting what we can call “integral ecology”, which is a complex and multidimensional concept: it calls for long-term vision; it highlights the inseparability of «concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace»;[5] it is aimed at restoring «the various levels of ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God».[6] It makes each of us aware of our responsibility as human beings, towards ourselves, towards our neighbour, towards creation and towards the Creator.

However, we are warned that we have little time left – scientists say the next ten years, the span of this UN Decade – to restore the ecosystem, which will mean the integral restoration of our relation with nature.

The many “warnings” we are experiencing, among which we can see Covid-19 and global warming, are pushing us to take urgent action. I hope that the COP26 on climate change, to be held in Glasgow next November, will help to give us the right answers to restore ecosystems both through a strengthened climate action and a spread of awareness and consciousness.

We are also impelled to rethink our economies. We require a «further and deeper reflection on the meaning of the economy and its goals, as well as a profound and far-sighted revision of the current model of development, so as to correct its dysfunctions and deviations».[7] Ecosystem degradation is a clear outcome of economic dysfunction.

Restoring the nature we have damaged means, in the first place, restoring ourselves. As we welcome this United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, let us be compassionate, creative and courageous. May we take our proper place as a “Restoration Generation”.


From the Vatican, 27 May 2021

FRANCISCUS

[1] Encyclical Letter Laudato si’ (24 May 2015), 91.
[2] UNGA Resolution 73/284 adopted on 1 March 2019: “United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), op. 1.
[3] Psalm 19:1-3.
[4] Encyclical Letter Laudato si’ (24 May 2015), 112.
[5] Ibid., 10.
[6] Ibid., 210.
[7] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, Caritas in veritate (29 June 2009), 32.