Pope Francis reminds us: Protect our home

Pope Francis

Pope Francis during a 2014 visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. (© European Union 2014 – European Parliament)

Anyone who takes a breath, drinks a drop of water or eats a bite of food, and wonders where all this nourishment comes from, understands that every single one of us depends upon nature for our lives.

Unfortunately, since the Industrial Revolution, the awareness of this direct connection has become fainter and often ignored outright. Our market-based system glorifies economic activity or GDP, where cost-benefit analyses too often override the core values that shape our moral behavior. This is especially true regarding our relationship with nature. We have lost sight of her value to all of us.  There has been a breach of faith.

For years I have believed that we need an 11th Commandment: Thou shalt cherish the Earth. And we have needed a respected, unifying voice to carry this message to all people.

Today, Pope Francis is this voice, and this is the message he has sent the world.

And when the leader who guides 1.1 billion people in their faith makes such a clear call to protect our planet, I can’t help but wonder: Could this mark a turning point in how we care for our common home?

Faith can be a powerful force for environmental change, as one recent example shows.

In the high mountains just outside Mexico City are pine forests and bunchgrass meadows, part of a watershed that provides water for the 23 million people living in this massive metropolitan area. These pines and meadows make up an area called the “Bosque de Agua,” or Water Forest.

In Cuernavaca, a city in the Bosque de Agua’s watershed, a stream running through the town became polluted by people throwing trash down the sides of its steep ravine. The town’s mayor tried an innovative strategy to end it: Local artists created sculptures of the Virgin of Guadalupe and installed them throughout the ravine. Almost overnight, people stopped dumping garbage. Blessed by association with the community’s faith, a waste-strewn ravine turned into an urban oasis.

Pope Francis’ encyclical, published this week, is a reminder to all Catholics, and to all people, that we cannot care for each other without caring for our common home, the Earth. Nature provides our most fundamental needs — fresh water, nourishing food, clean air. There is a saying that nature is the treasury of the poor. The truth is that nature is the treasury of us all.

For the past several years, a group of like-minded people have focused on persuading governments and businesses to consider the economic value of nature in national accounts and corporate balance sheets. This is an important argument, and it helps to create an understanding of why we need to manage and invest in protecting nature.

But, the simple and powerful truth is that nature’s value goes way beyond GDP. Life begins with her. And, as the Pope has so powerfully communicated, it will end without her.

Peter Seligmann is the chairman and CEO of Conservation International. 

Comments

  1. David Fiske says

    A great Pope but he should encourage population reduction. We can’t go on reproducing the way we do throwing everything out of balance and removing all wilderness.Animals and all the little insects count too.

  2. LINDA BADHAM says

    RESPECT THE EARTH YES WE SHOULD AND ALSO RESPECT THOSE WHO DWELL ON IT. THE HUMAN DESTROYS EVERYTHING AND IS GREEDY AND CRUEL. THE WAY ANIMALS ARE TREATED IS A DISGRACE TO HUMANITY AND TO GOD .MAN HAS MUCH TO LEARN AND TO RESPECT ALL LIFE WHAT EVER PHYSICAL BODY ITS INHABITING IS A GOOD START .

  3. Andrew Cooper says

    A simple message from Pope Francis but has big impact to all the people. Respect other lives and our mother nature for sustainable environment. People are the one who destroy and people are the one who suffered from it, the sad thing is the innocent people are the victims from any disaster. Great reminder from the great heart.

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  4. TMokbel says

    Pope Francis is definitely an inspiration. I wish he would’ve never left America, but he has a whole world to inspire. He is right. We much respect the Earth and everyone in it. Time to begin working together to fix global warming, before it is too late.

  5. Kristine Lizardo says

    “Protect our home”, a simple statement but it has a deeper meaning. The earth was given to us by God along time ago for us to take care of it and for our survival but not for us to abuse it. At first, people took care of it but as time passed nature was replaced by buildings, infrastructures, etc. In other words, we forgot the true importance of nature because we were blinded by modernization. Isn’t it ironic? We destroy forests to build billboards promoting nature conservation, we destroy animals’ homes and then promote taking care of wild animals. A long time ago people were blessed with all of the natural resources but now they are slowly disappearing. Nature is life. Oceans, seas, forests, etc are our life. Without them we would literally die. We should stop abusing them and not wait until there’s no more nature to take care of. We should conserve and know the importance of nature in our lives. And the most of all, we should show God that we appreciate everything given to us by Him.

  6. Pingback: Pope’s message to Trump: Protect our planet | Human Nature - Conservation International Blog

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