World Earth Day will once again be celebrated on April 22 this year. The theme for 2023, “Invest in Our Planet,” is addressed to governments, businesses and citizens: an invitation to invest in the Earth and in future generations.
We need to change course when it comes to our lifestyles, the way we produce, our relationship with the land and the sea, in order to construct a greener, fairer future. We have no time to lose, and everyone in the world needs to play their part to make this happen. We must take immediate action to protect health, families, the environment and social justice, because everything is connected. And the best way to honor the planet on which we live is to adopt “integral ecology” as a basic tenet.
One of the first to expound on the concept of integral ecology was Pope Francis, who has based his revolutionary theories—expressed in his Laudato Si’ encyclical—on this paradigm. The real value that the pope identifies behind this concept is that it is no longer possible to think about and interact with the environment as though it was an entity distinct from us humans. We are the Earth.
Though I do not think this concept has yet been completely integrated by civil society (whether believers or not) and other political spheres, on this day of celebration I would still like to highlight some positive signs that have emerged in recent weeks.
I am thinking in particular of the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly to seek the opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of individual countries in regards to climate change. Or the unanimous vote of the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs for ecocide to be condemned under EU law. Also in Europe, for the first time the European Court of Human Rights was asked to decide the extent to which a country must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to protect human rights.
That the climate and environment have been irreversibly damaged is by now clear for all to see. And it might seem a little late to be thinking about countermoves—the first request for recognition of ecocide at an international level was made over 50 years ago. Nonetheless, the news in March this year does seem to point towards the direction indicated by the pope.
Even though so far restricted to the legal sphere, these signs could still represent a breath of fresh air (never has an expression been more appropriate). What is evident is the great responsibility we humans have in safeguarding the planet’s health. We should never have got to the point of having to discipline the actions of individuals or countries through obligations and sanctions to avoid them harming the health of ecosystems and negatively impacting the lives of all living beings, but unfortunately it has become necessary.
So perhaps we are finally emerging from a state of total inaction. The most reassuring thing is that these measures create an absolute precedent, including at a political level—something that, incredibly, has been lacking so far. My greatest hope is that this represents the real start of an ecologically wiser era. We really cannot allow any more false starts.
The Earth carries us and feeds us. We are an integral part of the planet. Mother Earth can reward all of our labors through the biodiversity of foods she is able to give us. But we must begin to show that we know how to care for and respect every single form of life with whom we share her. Only by feeling part of a wider ecological community can we fix a relationship with nature that has by now become seriously compromised. And only by effectively and continuously glorifying the ecosystems in which we live can we return to enjoying the true taste of life.