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St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is Mother Earth.

And Mother
Earth now cries to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use
and abuse of the blessings of the God. We have forgotten that we are dependent on Mother
Earth for sustenance. We have come to see ourselves as her masters instead of her stewards.
The violence in our hearts brought about sickness evident in soil, water, in the air and in all
forms of life.
More than fifty years ago, Pope Saint John already recognized global environmental
deterioration in his Encyclical entitled Pacem in Terris. Eight years after, Blessed Pope Paul
referred to the ecological concern as a "tragic consequence of unchecked human activity. He
urged a radical change in the conduct of humanity. Saint John Paul II also called for a global
ecological conversion in order to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human
ecology. Pope Benedict XVI asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been
gravely damaged by our irresponsible behavior. The statements of these Popes echo the
reflections of different groups around the world.
The Patriarch Bartholomew has urged us to acknowledge our contribution, smaller or
greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation. The solution, according to
Bartholomew, is not only in technology but also in a change of humanity.
St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of
ecology. He urges us to see that integral ecology calls us look into the heart of what it is to be
human. We must look at the environment with openness to awe and wonder so that we will
no longer see ourselves as masters, ruthless exploiters, unable to set the limits on our
immediate needs.
Pope Francis challenges us to protect our common home by bringing the whole
human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development in order to effect
change. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. We
need a new dialogue, inclusive of everyone because environmental challenge is a common
concern and affects us all. Unfortunately, efforts to seek concrete solutions to the
environmental crisis have proved to be ineffective because of powerful opposition and
general lack of interest. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation,
each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.
The Encyclical Letter will begin by briefly reviewing the present ecological crisis.
The principles drawn from Judeo-Christian tradition will also be considered. Pope Francis
will also discuss the deepest causes of the ecological crisis to provide a more effective
approach to address the same. There will also be proposals, which would involve individuals
as well as international policy. And finally, there will be guidelines for human development
founded on Christian spiritual experience.

CHAPTER ONE
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COMMON HOME
The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled
today with a more intensified pace of life and work, which might be called rapidification.
Unfortunately, the goals of this rapidfication are not necessarily geared to the common
good or to integral or sustainable development. Change is something desirable but it becomes
a threat when it causes harm to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity.
I. POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Some forms of pollution are part of peoples daily experience. There is pollution that
affects everyone such as those caused by transport, industrial fumes and substances, which
contribute to the acidification of soil and water. Technology is presented as the only way of
solving these problems. Technology, however, proves incapable of seeing the mysterious
network of relations between things, which create the problems. The pollution by wastes
produced shall also be considered. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are
generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and
businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial
sources. These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture. For instance, our
industrial system has failed to develop the capacity to absorb and reuse its waste and byproducts. We have not yet adopted a circular model for production, capable of preserving
resources for present and future generations, while limiting the use of non-renewable
resources.
Climate change is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. Science already
indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system and
such is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases released by human activity.
Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and
consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes, which produce or
aggravate it.
Warming also creates a vicious cycle, which affects the availability of essential
resources such as drinking water, energy, agricultural production and leading to extinction of
part of the planets biodiversity. It also causes the melting in the polar icecaps, which can
lead to the dangerous release of methane. Another is carbon dioxide pollution that increases
the acidification of oceans and compromises the marine food chain.
Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social,
economic, political and for the distribution of goods. Its worst impact will probably be felt by
developing countries in coming decades. They have limited resources to adapt to climate
change. Further, there has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from
the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. There is a lack of response to the
suffering of our brothers and sisters, which point to the loss of that sense of responsibility for
our fellowmen. Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power
seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms,
simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change.

II. ISSUE OF WATER


Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance since it is indispensable for
human life and also necessary for agriculture and industry. Water supplies used to be
relatively constant, currently however, demand exceeds the sustainable supply. One
particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Everyday, unsafe
water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused
by microorganisms and chemical substances.
Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there
is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a
commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic
and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition
for the exercise of other human rights. The problem of water is partly an educational and
cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behavior within a
context of great inequality.
III. LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY
Each year there are disappearances of thousands of plant and animal species as a
result of human activity. Species should not only be seen as potential resources to be
exploited, while overlooking the value in them. Different species contain genes, which could
be key resources in years ahead for meeting human needs and regulating environmental
problems. An increase in human intervention, which gives rise to a vicious cycle wherein the
human intervention to resolve a problem, further aggravates the situation.
In assessing the environmental impact of any project, concern is usually shown for its
effects on soil, water and air, yet few careful studies are made of its impact on biodiversity.
Industrialization crowd out natural habitats and as a result, some species face extinction.
In the protection of biodiversity, specialists insist on the need for particular attention
to be shown to areas richer both in the number of species and in endemic, rare or less
protected species. There must be a delicate balance between the development of these places
and protection for the same. There has been effort made by international agencies, civil
society organization, which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation
to ensure that the agents are responsible in preserving its countrys environment.
Marine life in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, which feeds a great part of the worlds
population, is affected by uncontrolled fishing, leading to a drastic depletion of certain
species. This phenomenon is due largely to pollution, which reaches the sea as the result of
deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods,
especially those using cyanide and dynamite. All of this helps us to see that every
intervention in nature can have consequences, which are not immediately evident, and that
certain ways of exploiting resources prove costly in terms of degradation, which ultimately
reaches the ocean bed itself.
Greater investment needs to be made in research aimed at understanding more fully
the functioning of ecosystems and adequately analyzing the different variables associated
with any significant modification of the environment. Each area must be responsible for the
care of this family.

IV. DECLINE IN THE QUALITY OF HUMAN LIFE AND THE BREAKDOWN OF


SOCIETY
Human beings are creatures of this world who enjoy a right to life and happiness and
are endowed with unique dignity. This is the reason why the effects of environmental
deterioration on peoples lives should be considered.
Nowadays, the disproportionate and exponential growth of cities, which are unhealthy
to live in due to pollution, urban chaos, and poor transportation, among others, has become a
trend. Another is the advancement of technological innovations and its consequences on
employment, social exclusion, inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other
services, social breakdown, increased violence and social aggression, drug trafficking and
use, and loss of identity. These mean that the past two centuries has not always led to integral
development and an improvement in the quality of life. Rather, the aforementioned instances
show social decline, and the rupture of the bonds of integration and social cohesion.
Media and the digital world have also influenced people in a way that stopped them
from learning how to live wisely, think deeply, and love generously. It should be noted that
true wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue, and generous encounter between
persons, is not acquired by mere accumulation of data, which eventually leads to overload
and confusion. In this day and age, real relationships with others now tend to be replaced by
internet communication which enables the choosing or elimination of relationships at whim,
thus giving rise to contrived emotion which as more to do with devices and displaces that
with other people and with nature. It is because of this that we should be concerned that
despite the possibilities offered by technology, harmful effects on interpersonal relations and
a sense of isolation can also arise.
V. GLOBAL INEQUALITY
The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together so
environmental degradation cannot be combatted without attending to causes related to human
and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the
most vulnerable people, namely, the poorest, who are the majority of the planets population.
They are mentioned in international political and economic discussions but often only as an
afterthought. For this reason, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile when all is said
and done. It is in this light that it must be recognized that a true ecological approach always
becomes a social approach in a way that questions of justice in debates on the environment
have to be integrated therein.
Inequity affects not only individuals but entire countries, which is why the ethics of
international relations should be considered. It should be acknowledged that a true ecological
debt exists, particularly between first world and third world nations, in connection with
commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of
natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time. Developed countries ought to
help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and
assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.
This is based on the fact that the poorest are less capable of adopting new models for
reducing environmental impact because they lack the wherewithal to develop the necessary
processes and cover their costs. At the end of the day, greater attention must be given to the

needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in a debate often dominated by more
powerful interests. The conviction that there is only one human family should be
strengthened. There should be no political or social barriers and still less is there room for the
globalization of indifference.
VI. WEAK RESPONSES
The problem is that there is no culture in place to confront the crisis. There is a lack of
leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with
concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations. To make things worse,
international political responses have been remarkably weak. The failure of global summits
on the environment suggests that politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too
many special interests and economic interests end up trumping the common good. In essence,
the combination of economy and technology defers anything unrelated to its immediate
interests. People may have a growing ecological sensitivity but this has not succeeded in
changing their harmful habits of consumption which appear to be growing all the more.
In some countries, there are positive examples of environmental improvement: rivers
have been cleaned up; woodlands have been restored; landscapes have been beautified;
advances have been made in the production of non-polluting energy and in the improvement
of public transportation; and so on. Although these do not solve global problems, they show
that people are still capable of intervening positively. At the same time however, the rise of a
false or superficial ecology has become apparent; thus bolstering complacency and cheerful
recklessness. For example, other than obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, present
circumstances do not appear that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time.
It is such perspective which serves as a license for people and countries to carry on with their
present lifestyles and models of production and consumption.
VII. A VARIETY OF OPINIONS
Different approaches and lines of thought have emerged regarding the present
problem and its possible solutions. On one hand, there are those who believe that ecological
problems will solve themselves through new technology without any need for ethical
considerations or deep change. On the other hand, there are those who view human beings as
threats that jeopardize the global ecosystem thus their presence on the planet should be
reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited.
Regardless of the number and divergence of views, there is no one path to a solution.
This makes a variety of proposals possible and everyone capable of entering into dialogue
with a view to developing comprehensive solutions. Ultimately, all human beings should
nonetheless acknowledge that our common home is falling into serious despair.