By Robin Gomes
“Acknowledging that every living being has intrinsic value and purpose and, as such, must be cherished, is a shared responsibility involving everyone’s talents.” Hence, “restoring a harmonious relationship with nature is a crucial challenge that calls us to act with urgency,” said Vatican Secretary for Relations with States.
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher made the call in a video message he sent to a virtual summit on biodiversity organized by the United Nations in New York on Wednesday.
Healthy in a sick world?
Commenting on the theme of the summit, “Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development,” he recalled the warning of Pope Francis: “We cannot pretend to be healthy in a world that is sick,” because the wounds inflicted on the planet “are wounds that also bleed in us.” For this reason, he said, the Pope underlined, “we cannot remain silent before … the very high costs of the destruction and exploitation of the ecosystem.”
Archbishop Gallagher pointed out some of the causes of biodiversity loss, such as “agricultural and industrial expansion, pollution, including marine plastic pollution, nuclear tests and untreated waste”.
“The rise in the temperature of oceans,” he said, “has a devastating impact on many of the world’s coral reefs.” “Fossil fuel consumption and excessive deforestation are fundamental drivers of climate change leading to species extinction, which in turn reduces nature’s resilience.”
Ecological imbalance harms people, the planet
The consequences of the disappearance of thousands of species, which maintain the ecological equilibrium of many ecosystems and help address environmental challenges, the Vatican official said, threaten the wellbeing of the entire planet. In this regard, he called for the protection of richly biodiverse regions of the world, such as the Amazon and the Congo Basin.
The impoverishment of nature due to a decrease in biodiversity, Archbishop Gallagher pointed out, leads to great human suffering, especially in the poorest regions of the world. Hence the effort to reverse biodiversity loss calls for an approach that “combines care for our common home with care for our brothers and sisters”.
This integrates immediate measures with long-term strategies, which is what Pope Francis has called “integral ecology.”
Rethinking development models
When biodiversity is merely considered a deposit of resources available for exploitation, the Archbishop warned, it leads to the irresponsible treatment of nature and human beings. Integral development, instead, promotes the common good with respect for human dignity.
This can be achieved when development policies are at the service of the human person and incorporate a holistic understanding of the environmental, economic, social and human implications of using our shared natural resources.
Archbishop Gallagher thus urged all to commit themselves to “work together towards making our planet a healthy place to live and preserving the gift of creation for future generations.”
Archbishop Gallagher's intervention came as Christian churches and ecclesial communities around the world are nearing the end of the Season of Creation, an annual celebration of prayer and action to protect God’s creation, our common home.
The Season of Creation started on September 1, with the World Day of Prayer for Creation, and will conclude on October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology.