We Have a Choice: Either Improve or Destroy the Environment

December 2, 2015 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Says It Will Be ‘Catastrophic’ If Individual Interests Prevail Over the Common Good in Paris Meeting, and Information Is Manipulated to Protect ‘Plans and Projects’

Pope Francis concluded his first full day in Kenya with an address at the UN headquarters in Africa, in which he emphasized the importance of caring for God’s gift of creation, saying that it would be “catastrophic” if individual interests were to prevail over the common good, leading to a manipulation of information so as to protect “their own plans and projects.”

The Pope was welcomed to the UNON with exuberance, as the audience was invited three times to shout and applaud at his arrival.

After brief welcome addresses from three UN officials, the Holy Father delivered in Spanish his discourse, which focused mainly on the themes of Laudato Si’, with mentions of specific issues such as diamond mining and elephant poaching.

The Pontiff explained that before entering the hall, he was asked to symbolically plant a tree: “first and foremost an invitation to continue the battle against phenomena like deforestation and desertification” as well as a reminder of the “importance of safeguarding and responsibly administering those ‘richly biodiverse lungs of our planet.’”

The Pope referred to the upcoming Paris Climate Conference, set to begin Nov. 30 and conclude Dec. 11

Also known as COP21, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference will, for the first time in more than 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

A choice

The Pope has mentioned this meeting on several occasions and he released his encyclical, Laudato Si’, before the event, with the hopes that it would contribute to the discussions.

Today, he said about the conference that, “It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects.”

“In this international context, we are confronted with a choice which cannot be ignored: either to improve or to destroy the environment,” he declared.

“COP21 represents an important stage in the process of developing a new energy system which depends on a minimal use of fossil fuels, aims at energy efficiency and makes use of energy sources with little or no carbon content,” Francis added. “We are faced with a great political and economic obligation to rethink and correct the dysfunctions and distortions of the current model of development.”

3 goals

The Pope said that he hopes the agreement from Paris will be based on “principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation” and that it will target three goals: “lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty and ensuring respect for human dignity.”

The Pope said “sincere and open dialogue” is needed to bring this about, “with responsible cooperation on the part of all: political authorities, the scientific community, the business world and civil society.”

Human beings are “capable of the worst,” he acknowledged, but they are also “capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start.”

Thus, the 21st century can be remembered for having “generously shouldered its grave responsibilities” in contrast to the post-industrial period, which “may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history.”

Not a utopia

Pope Francis said that for this to come about, economy and politics “need to be placed at the service of peoples.”

This will result in human beings in harmony with nature, structuring “the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life.”

This isn’t an “idealistic utopia,” the Pope claimed. It’s a “realistic prospect which makes the human person and human dignity the point of departure and the goal of everything.”

To make it happen, he said, there needs to be a commitment to education: “an educational process which fosters in boys and girls, women and men, young people and adults, the adoption of a culture of care – care for oneself, care for others, care for the environment – in place of a culture of waste, a ‘throw-away culture’ where people use and discard themselves, others and the environment.”

“We still have time,” he promised.

Globalization of indifference

Pope Francis noted that this “culture of deterioration and waste” has sacrificed the lives of multitudes before the idols of “profits and consumption.”

And, he warned, “We need to be alert to one sad sign of the ‘globalization of indifference: the fact that we are gradually growing accustomed to the suffering of others, as if it were something normal, or even worse, becoming resigned to such extreme and scandalous kinds of ‘using and discarding’ and social exclusion as new forms of slavery, human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution and trafficking in organs.”

He mentioned specifically those migrants who “flee from the growing poverty aggravated by environmental degradation,” but who are not recognized as refugees.

“Many lives, many stories, many dreams have been shipwrecked in our day,” he said. “We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this. We have no right.”

Beyond commercial interests

The Pope also spoke of the problem of unruly urbanization, and encouraged those working on ensuring that urbanization is a means to development to be mindful of those in outlying neighborhoods.

He further mentioned the issue of commercial relationships between states, referring to Paul VI’s reflection that these relationships could “prove a fundamental element for the development of peoples or, on the other hand, a cause of extreme poverty and exclusion.”

“While recognizing that much has been done in this area, it seems that we have yet to attain an international system of commerce which is equitable and completely at the service of the battle against poverty and exclusion,” he said.

In this context, he spoke of the problem of development and health care, specifically agreements on intellectual property and access to medicines and essential health care.

“Regional free trade treaties dealing with the protection of intellectual property, particularly in the areas of pharmaceutics and biotechnology, should not only maintain intact the powers already granted to States by multilateral agreements, but should also be a means for ensuring a minimum of health care and access to basic treatment for all,” he said.

Certain health issues, the Pope added, such as malaria and tuberculosis, among others, “require urgent political attention, above and beyond all other commercial or political interests.”

A cry from the earth

Turning specifically to the situation of the environment in Africa, Pope Francis lamented that the natural richness of the continent “is constantly exposed to the risk of destruction caused by human selfishness of every type and by the abuse of situations of poverty and exclusion.”

He decried illegal trafficking, which arises “in situations of poverty and in turn lead to greater poverty and exclusion.”

“Illegal trade in diamonds and precious stones, rare metals or those of great strategic value, wood, biological material and animal products, such as ivory trafficking and the relative killing of elephants, fuels political instability, organized crime and terrorism,” he said. “This situation too is a cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself, one which needs to be heard by the international community.”

The Pope concluded by promising the support of the Church and his own efforts in working for the common good.

—-

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/full-text-pope-s-address-at-un-headquarters-in-africa

 

Retrieved from http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-at-un-in-africa-we-have-a-choice-either-improve-or-destroy-the-environment?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_content=%5BZE151126%5D%20The%20world%20seen%20from%20Rome&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch&utm_term=Image

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Entry filed under: Catechesis.

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