Since the publication of Pope Francis’ ” Laudato Si’ ” many have given their views on the Pope’s Encyclical letter on the care of the ‘common house’. Some call it the most “astonishing and perhaps the most ambitious papal document of the past 100 years, since it is addressed not just to Catholics, or Christians, but to everyone on earth.” others praise it as a sign of “Inspired Leadership“, in all senses the Pope’s Environment Encyclical has become a Big Deal.
A big deal, because the time is running out, Earth, “Our ‘house’ is being ruined, and that hurts everyone, especially the poorest among us 1”. Words don’t count anymore, interpretations become obsolete, doctrines and religions are transcended by the reality of today: we need to change, we ought to reestablish the relation and balance between nature and humans.
(34) The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production. The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses. Different species contain genes which could be key resources in years ahead for meeting human needs and regulating environmental problems.
(36) Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. But the cost of the damage caused by such selfish lack of concern is much greater than the economic benefits to be obtained. Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values involved are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration.
(37) Some countries have made significant progress in establishing sanctuaries on land and in the oceans where any human intervention is prohibited which might modify their features or alter their original structures. 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.
Certain places need greater protection because of their immense importance for the global ecosystem, or because they represent important water reserves and thus safeguard other forms of life.
(38) Let us mention, for example, those richly biodiverse lungs of our planet which are the Amazon and the Congo basins, or the great aquifers and glaciers. We know how important these are for the entire earth and for the future of humanity. The ecosystems of tropical forests possess an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when these forests are burned down or levelled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands. A delicate balance has to be maintained when speaking about these places, for we cannot overlook the huge global economic interests which, under the guise of protecting them, can undermine the sovereignty of individual nations. In fact, there are “proposals to internationalize the Amazon, which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations”. We cannot fail to praise the commitment of international agencies and civil society organizations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests.
It is time to act and save these last remaining places in the world with outstanding universal values for humanity and of immense importance for the global ecosystem. Protecting Virunga for future generations is taking notice and action today, it represents building a better and more sustainable future for the most excluded.
Local communities in DR-Congo have the right to choose another development pathway, one that respects their needs and takes into account their relationship with healthy ecosystems that they depend on for their livelihoods: “Today, we have to realize that a true ecological [conservation] approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”