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Pope Francis's call to environmental action

4 min read

Pope Francis's call to environmental action
In his new book I Am Asking in the Name of God, Pope Francis reflects on ten vital issues of today
The moment to act is today, not tomorrow. The consequences are those of the present, not of a distant future. Perhaps it is one of the most urgent challenges humanity presently faces.
"The moment to act is today, not tomorrow"
We can make a decisive turn to move in the other direction. We can go from a culture of waste to a culture of care: to take care of our Common Home is to care for our whole human family. It is to care for our own selves. We are invited to a true conversion that would lead to a more harmonious lifestyle with our Earth and its species. This conversion requires from us small actions, which we each can take. The change must begin by us at home, as well as by those who occupy positions of great responsibility in the different spheres of society.

A need for leadership

We need governments to lead the way in one of the most critical missions humanity faces. We must ask for the earliest adoption of measures that would take bold actions to slow down the average global temperature increase and would reinforce international cooperation with it. Many processes must be put into effect immediately: promoting the transition to clean energy; adopting sustainable practices for the use of our land that preserve forests and biodiversity; favouring food systems that respect the environment and local cultures; continuing the fight against hunger and malnutrition; and supporting lifestyles of sustainable consumption and production. But we also need an enormous commitment to achieve this common goal.
The case of clean energy is a particular example. While the usage of clean energy is, in fact, growing, a meagre level of access persists at a global level. It is still necessary to develop suitable technologies that can be made available more equitably to all humanity. It would be advantageous if the most developed nations’ advances in this regard were accompanied by the transfer of knowledge, technology, and resources to the poorest countries for their implementation. 
The Amazon rainforest
The coronavirus pandemic made clear the interconnected nature of all peoples—an interconnectedness caught between a globalisation of indifference and greater global solidarity. This is why it is crucial that the effects of this transition away from a culture of limitless consumption, while both necessary and urgent, do not fall on the weakest, the least-developed nations, or the working class. This environmental conversion should not be an excuse for reducing work opportunities.
This transition should bring us toward a more just, sustainable, and mutual social contract. We need more circular processes that produce and do not waste the resources of our Earth. We must form more fair means for distributing goods and more responsible practices when we consume. We can all be the change we desire if we unite the human family to pursue more sustainable and holistic development. Three words can help us in the task before us: commitment, responsibility, and solidarity.
"Our responsibility to the youth is not a mere suggestion; it is required"
Our responsibility to the youth is not a mere suggestion; it is required. They have shown, in many cases, to be our teachers on the path to finding a solution to stop the damage to our planet. I see in young people a commitment, creativity, and resilience concerning the environmental issues that their grandparents, like my generation, or their parents did not have. We have sinned, and we repent. We do not merely ask to learn from our past errors; it is necessary to correct them.
For this reason, the youth are needed to mark the path ahead, leading the governments of the world and us. Criticise, then take to the streets, mobilise, but above all, change.
We need a virtuous harmony between the adults’ words and the youths’ actions. The enthusiasm and commitment of the youth serve as a constant reminder that hope is not a utopia and that peace is always a possible outcome. Among all the wounds we have made to our Common Home, biodiversity loss is one of the most visible and irreversible. The list of species in danger of extinction grows by the day. I am not merely speaking of animals but of whole ecosystems, which are the substratum of life and in many cases play a crucial role in maintaining environmental balance. The conversion we need must include in-depth environmental research and evaluation before putting into place extractive, energy, forestry, or any other industries that destroy and contaminate the most fragile ecosystems in the world. I think of the example of the Amazon, where in many cases, the complicity between state and business, motivated by the avarice of new economic projects, rolls over all life, including human life.

Introducing the sin against the environment

As part of the Catholic Church, we must take steps to introduce into the Catechism the sin against the environment, which are ecological sins against our Common Home. I am happy that this initiative has been supported by the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, who have, in particular, proposed to define ecological sin as an action and omission against God, our neighbour, our community, and the environment. 
It was my predecessors who, in the last half century, warned of the rapid deterioration of our Earth and of human inaction. Saint Paul VI, over fifty years ago, already had considered the environmental crisis of his time “a dramatic and unexpected consequence” of unbridled human activity, caused by the “ill-considered exploitation of nature,” which “risks destroying it” and causing humanity to become “in his turn the victim of this degradation.” 
"Ecocide is a crime against peace and humanity and must be recognised by the international community"
In this century, Saint John Paul II called for global environmental conversion, and Benedict XVI asked to “correct models of growth that seem incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment.” 
There is something clear: this is a sin against future generations. Those who harm our Earth in this unrestrained and careless manner cannot be considered good Christians. Ecocide is a crime against peace and humanity and must be recognised by the international community. 
I am asking in the name of God - Pope Francis
I Am Asking in the Name of God by Pope Francis (SPCK Publishing, £16.99) is available now
Cover image: Pacific Press Media Production Corp. Alamy Stock Photo.
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