By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Friday denounced a voracious economic model that is profit-oriented, shortsighted, and based on the misconception of unlimited economic growth, saying its impacts are disastrous on the natural world and in the lives of people.
“We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity,” he told some 60 participants in a Vatican meeting on the theme, “Mining for the Common Good”, promoted by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
Citing amply from his environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si”, the Pope regretted that “economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment.”
Mining and indigenous communities
Pope Francis urged that mining, like all economic activities, should be at the service of the entire human community, and should involve local communities in every phase of mining projects. In this regard, he urged special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions, saying they are a vulnerable minority who should be the principal dialogue partners, especially in large projects affecting their land.
However, the Pope noted that in various parts of the world, they are being pressured into abandoning their homelands to make room for mining projects which are undertaken “without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.” “I urge everyone to respect the fundamental human rights and voice of the persons in these beautiful yet fragile communities.”
Centrality of the human person
The Argentine Pope also urged that mining be at the service of the human person and his or her inalienable fundamental human rights, and not vice versa. “We need to ensure that mining activities lead to the integral human development of each and every person and of the entire community.”
The Pope encouraged what he called a “circular economy” in mining activities against the unbridled tendency of “extractivism” which tries to extract the greatest amount of materials in the shortest possible time and convert them into products and services that turn out polluting waste for nature.
Indicating that our industrial system has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products, the Pope said, “We need to denounce and move away from this throwaway culture.” The promotion of a circular economy and the “reduce, reuse, recycle” approach, he said, are very much in consonance with the 12th Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations.
Moderation, he said, is vital to save our common home and pointed out that religious traditions have always presented temperance as a key component of responsible and ethical lifestyle.
The Pope hoped that the meeting be able to discern what appropriate or inappropriate extractive activities are and then help propose and plan policies and strategies for the purpose of achieving the common good and genuine human development that is integral and sustainable.