“Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity. So we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development and the throwaway culture.” This is how Pope Francis introduces his reflection on “Decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society,” in his revolutionary Encyclical Laudato Sì, dedicated to care for our common home. His is a careful analysis of the state of health of the planet and the seas which devotes specific attention to global warming, the loss of diversity and the social degradation of some populations. More specifically, the Pope points out how, “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.”
The Encyclical stresses firmly how climate change represents a global problem caused by human activity with serious environmental, social, economic and political implications. Not to be underestimated either is the fact that, over the decades to come, the impacts will be heaviest on the populations of developing countries, often more hit than others by extraordinary climatic events such as hurricanes and drought.
“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation,” says Pope Francis. “They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever.”
Pope Francis introduces for the first time the concept of an integral ecology encompassing the human and social dimensions. “When we speak of the “environment”,” writes Francis, “what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society that lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live.” We are thus faced with a global crisis and strategies for a solution, “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”
The Encyclical is all the more relevant in view of the upcoming COP21 Paris Climate Conference, the last opportunity to change our planet’s destiny. Yet the holders of economic and political power often seem unconcerned by all the issues on the table, seeking only to reduce the impacts of climate change. The reality is that if we persevere with present systems of production and consumption, their effects will be even worse. Which is precisely why, reiterates the Encyclical, it is urgent for the political class to pledge to implement concrete policies to limit carbon dioxide emissions and develop sources of renewable energy. That of Pope Francis is the perfect appeal to the governments from all over the world who are about to meet at COP21 in Paris.
Sign Slow Food’s appeal to the representatives of the nations and international organizations gathering in Paris, asking for agriculture is placed at the center of the debate.