By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis has sent a message for the Launching of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration which kicks off on June 5 - the annual celebration of World Environment Day.
“This annual commemoration encourages us to remember that everything is interconnected,” said the Pope about World Environment Day. “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.”
The Pope’s words, addressed to UNEP Executive Director, Mrs. Inger Andersen and FAO Director-General Mr. Qu Dongyu, were delivered in a video message by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Friday,
Committing to caring for our common home
Highlighting the importance of the UN Decade, Pope Francis noted that it invites us to make ten-year commitments to care 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.”
Moreover, the Bible tells us that “we are all part of this gift of creation. We are a part of nature, not separated from it,” the Pope said, drawing inspiration from Psalm 19: 1 – 3.
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a call for the protection and revival of ecosystems across the world for the benefit of humans and nature. The Decade runs from 2021 to 2030, which is the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have said is the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change.The call to act now
Drawing attention to the environmental situation, Pope Francis lamented the “crisis leading to crisis” that we see.
“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.”
At the same time, “we risk floods, and hunger and severe consequences for ourselves and for future generations,” the Pope said, adding that “this is what many scientists tell us.”
To respond to this, Pope Francis stressed that “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.”
“We need to take care of each other, and of the weakest among us,” he urged, warning that continuing down this path of exploitation and destruction of humans and of nature is “unjust and unwise” and 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,” he insisted.
Underlining the presence of hope in spite of the challenges entailed by the environmental situation, Pope Francis pointed at the needed freedom we have to “limit and direct technology” and put it at the service of another type of progress – one that is “healthier, more human, more social and more integral.”
He also went on to acknowledge the new engagement and commitment by several states and non-governmental actors in efforts aimed at promoting integral ecology.
However, he stressed that integral ecology calls for a long-term vision that highlights the inseparability of “concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace” aimed at restoring ecological equilibrium, as well as harmony within ourselves, others, nature and God.
Not much time left
Further impressing upon all the urgency of collective action, the Pope reiterated the warnings from scientists that we have the span of this decade to restore the ecosystem.
He added that the “warnings” that we are experiencing, including the Covid-19 pandemic and global warming, push us to take urgent action and expressed hope that the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) on climate change, scheduled for Glasgow in November, will “help to give us the right answers to restore ecosystems.”
Stressing that “ecosystem degradation is a clear outcome of economic dysfunction”, the Pope underlined the need for “a 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.”
“Restoring the nature we have damaged means, in the first place, restoring ourselves,” Pope Francis said.
Concluding, the Holy Father encouraged everyone to be “compassionate, creative and courageous” as we welcome the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and enjoined all to “take our proper place as a ‘Restoration Generation’.”