URGENT! Make a gift that will be doubled. We have $11,916 left to match by December 1st.
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: Chapter Ten

by Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Featured eBook

    Document Information

  • Descriptive Title:
    Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
    Description:
    "Safeguarding the Environment" is Chapter 10 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. This chapter covers the following topics: Biblical Apects; Man and the Universe of Created Things; The Crisis in the Relationship Between Man and the Environment; A Common Responsibility.
  • Larger Work:
    Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
  • Publisher & Date:
    Vatican, 2004

CHAPTER TEN

SAFEGUARDING THE ENVIRONMENT

I. BIBLICAL ASPECTS

451. The living experience of the divine presence in history is the foundation of the faith of the people of God: "We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand" (Deut 6:21). A look at history permits one to have an overview of the past and discover God at work from the very beginning: "A wandering Aramean was my father" (Deut 26:5); of his people God can say: "I took your father Abraham from beyond the river" (Josh 24:3). This reflection permits us to look to the future with hope, sustained by the promise and the covenant that God continually renews.

The faith of Israel is lived out in the space and time of this world, perceived not as a hostile environment, nor as an evil from which one must be freed, but rather as the gift itself of God, as the place and plan that he entrusts to the responsible management and activity of man. Nature, the work of God's creative action, is not a dangerous adversary. It is God who made all things, and with regard to each created reality "God saw that it was good" (cf. Gen 1:4,10,12,18,21,25). At the summit of this creation, which "was very good" (Gen 1:31), God placed man. Only man and woman, among all creatures, were made by God "in his own image" (Gen 1,27). The Lord entrusted all of creation to their responsibility, charging them to care for its harmony and development (cf. Gen 1:26-30). This special bond with God explains the privileged position of the first human couple in the order of creation.

452. The relationship of man with the world is a constitutive part of his human identity. This relationship is in turn the result of another still deeper relationship between man and God. The Lord has made the human person to be a partner with him in dialogue. Only in dialogue with God does the human being find his truth, from which he draws inspiration and norms to make plans for the future of the world, which is the garden that God has given him to keep and till (cf. Gen 2: 15). Not even sin could remove this duty, although it weighed down this exalted work with pain and suffering (cf. Gen 3:17-19).

Creation is always an object of praise in Israel's prayer: "O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all" (Ps 104:24). Salvation is perceived as a new creation that re-establishes that harmony and potential for growth that sin had compromised: "I create new heavens and a new earth" (Is 65:17) - says the Lord - in which "the wilderness becomes a fruitful field ... and righteousness [will] abide in the fruitful field ... My people will abide in a peaceful habitation" (Is 32:1518).

453. The definitive salvation that God offers to all humanity through his own Son does not come about outside of this world. While wounded by sin, the world is destined to undergo a radical purification (cf. 2 Pet 3:10) that will make it a renewed world (cf. Is 65:17, 66:22; Rev 21:1), finally becoming the place where "righteousness dwells" (2 Pet 3:13).

In his public ministry, Jesus makes use of natural elements. Not only is he a knowledgeable interpreter of nature, speaking of it in images and parables, but he also dominates it (cf. the episode of the calming of the storm in Mt 14:22-33; Mk 6:45-52; Lc 8:22-25; Jn 6:16-21). The Lord puts nature at the service of his plan of redemption. He asks his disciples to look at things, at the seasons and at people with the trust of children who know that they will never be abandoned by a provident Father (cf. Lk 11:11-13). Far from being enslaved by things, the disciple of Jesus must know how to use them in order to bring about sharing and brotherhood (cf. Lk 16:9-13).

454. The entrance of Jesus Christ into the history of the world reaches its culmination in the Paschal Mystery, where nature itself takes part in the drama of the rejection of the Son of God and in the victory of his Resurrection (cf. Mt 27:45,51, 28:2). Crossing through death and grafting onto it the new splendour of the Resurrection, Jesus inaugurates a new world in which everything is subjected to him (cf. 1 Cor 15:20-28) and he creates anew those relationships of order and harmony that sin had destroyed. Knowledge of the imbalances existing between man and nature should be accompanied by an awareness that in Jesus the reconciliation of man and the world with God - such that every human being, aware of divine love, can find anew the peace that was lost - has been brought about. "Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (2 Cor 5:17). Nature, which was created in the  Word is, by the same Word made flesh, reconciled to God and given new peace (cf. Col 1:15-20).

455. Not only is the inner man made whole once more, but his entire nature as a corporeal being is touched by the redeeming power of Christ. The whole of creation participates in the renewal flowing from the Lord's Paschal Mystery, although it still awaits full liberation from corruption, groaning in travail (cf. Rom 8:19-23), in expectation of giving birth to "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev 21:1) that are the gift of the end of time, the fulfilment of salvation. In the meantime, nothing stands outside this salvation. Whatever his condition of life may be, the Christian is called to serve Christ, to live according to his Spirit, guided by love, the principle of a new life, that brings the world and man back to their original destiny: "whether ... the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Cor 3:22-23).

II. MAN AND THE UNIVERSE OF CREATED THINGS

456. The biblical vision inspires the behaviour of Christians in relation to their use of the earth, and also with regard to the advances of science and technology. The Second Vatican Council affirmed that man "judges rightly that by his intellect he surpasses the material universe, for he shares in the light of the divine mind"[946]. The Council Fathers recognized the progress made thanks to the tireless application of human genius down the centuries, whether in the empirical sciences, the technological disciplines or the liberal arts[947]. Today, "especially with the help of science and technology, man has extended his mastery over nearly the whole of nature and continues to do so"[948].

For man, "created in God's image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all that it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness, a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to him who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all. Thus, by the subjection of all things to man, the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth. [The Council teaches that] throughout the course of the centuries, men have laboured to better the circumstances of their lives through a monumental amount of individual and collective effort. To believers, this point is settled: considered in itself, this human activity accords with God's will"[949].

457. The results of science and technology are, in themselves, positive. "Far from thinking that works produced by man's own talent and energy are in opposition to God's power, and that the rational creature exists as a kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God's grace and the flowering of His own mysterious design"[950]. The Council Fathers also emphasize the fact that "the greater man's power becomes, the farther his individual and community responsibility extends"[951], and that every human activity is to correspond, according to the design and will of God, to humanity's true good[952]. In this regard, the Magisterium has repeatedly emphasized that the Catholic Church is in no way opposed to progress[953], rather she considers "science and technology are a wonderful product of a God-given human creativity, since they have provided us with wonderful possibilities, and we all gratefully benefit from them"[954]. For this reason, "as people who believe in God, who saw that nature which he had created was 'good', we rejoice in the technological and economic progress which people, using their intelligence, have managed to make"[955].

458. The Magisterium's considerations regarding science and technology in general can also be applied to the environment and agriculture. The Church appreciates "the advantages that result - and can still result - from the study and applications of molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics and its technological application in agriculture and industry".[956] In fact, technology "could be a priceless tool in solving many serious problems, in the first place those of hunger and disease, through the production of more advanced and vigorous strains of plants, and through the production of valuable medicines"[957]. It is important, however, to repeat the concept of "proper application", for "we know that this potential is not neutral: it can be used either for man's progress or for his degradation"[958]. For this reason, "it is necessary to maintain an attitude of prudence and attentively sift out the nature, end and means of the various forms of applied technology".[959] Scientists, therefore, must "truly use their research and technical skill in the service of humanity",[960] being able to subordinate them "to moral principles and values, which respect and realize in its fullness the dignity of man"[961].

459. A central point of reference for every scientific and technological application is respect for men and women, which must also be accompanied by a necessary attitude of respect for other living creatures. Even when thought is given to making some change in them, "one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system".[962] In this sense, the formidable possibilities of biological research raise grave concerns, in that "we are not yet in a position to assess the biological disturbance that could result from indiscriminate genetic manipulation and from the unscrupulous development of new forms of plant and animal life, to say nothing of unacceptable experimentation regarding the origins of human life itself".[963] In fact, "it is now clear that the application of these discoveries in the fields of industry and agriculture have produced harmful long-term effects. This has led to the painful realization that we cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well-being of future generations".[964]

460. Man, then, must never forget that "his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work ... is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are".[965] He must not "make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray".[966] When he acts in this way, "instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him".[967]

If man intervenes in nature without abusing it or damaging it, we can say that he "intervenes not in order to modify nature but to foster its development in its own life, that of the creation that God intended. While working in this obviously delicate area, the researcher adheres to the design of God. God willed that man be the king of creation".[968] In the end, it is God himself who offers to men and women the honour of cooperating with the full force of their intelligence in the work of creation.

III. THE CRISIS IN THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MAN AND THE ENVIRONMENT

461. The biblical message and the Church's Magisterium represent the essential reference points for evaluating the problems found in the relationship between man and the environment.[969] The underlying cause of these problems can be seen in man's pretension of exercising unconditional dominion over things, heedless of any moral considerations which, on the contrary, must distinguish all human activity.

The tendency towards an "ill-considered" [970] exploitation of the resources of creation is the result of a long historical and cultural process. "The modern era has witnessed man's growing capacity for transformative intervention. The aspect of the conquest and exploitation of resources has become predominant and invasive, and today it has even reached the point of threatening the environment's hospitable aspect: the environment as 'resource' risks threatening the environment as 'home'. Because of the powerful means of transformation offered by technological civilization, it sometimes seems that the balance between man and the environment has reached a critical point".[971]

462. Nature appears as an instrument in the hands of man, a reality that he must constantly manipulate, especially by means of technology. A reductionistic conception quickly spread, starting from the presupposition - which was seen to be erroneous - that an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed. This reductionistic conception views the natural world in mechanistic terms and sees development in terms of consumerism. Primacy is given to doing and having rather than to being, and this causes serious forms of human alienation.[972]

Such attitudes do not arise from scientific and technological research but from scientism and technocratic ideologies that tend to condition such research. The advances of science and technology do not eliminate the need for transcendence and are not of themselves the cause of the exasperated secularization that leads to nihilism. With the progress of science and technology, questions as to their meaning increase and give rise to an ever greater need to respect the transcendent dimension of the human person and creation itself.

463. A correct understanding of the environment prevents the utilitarian reduction of nature to a mere object to be manipulated and exploited. At the same time, it must not absolutize nature and place it above the dignity of the human person himself. In this latter case, one can go so far as to divinize nature or the earth, as can readily be seen in certain ecological movements that seek to gain an internationally guaranteed institutional status for their beliefs.[973]

The Magisterium finds the motivation for its opposition to a concept of the environment based on ecocentrism and on biocentrism in the fact that "it is being proposed that the ontological and axiological difference between men and other living beings be eliminated, since the biosphere is considered a biotic unity of undifferentiated value. Thus man's superior responsibility can be eliminated in favour of an egalitarian consideration of the 'dignity' of all living beings".[974]

464. A vision of man and things that is sundered from any reference to the transcendent has led to the rejection of the concept of creation and to the attribution of a completely independent existence to man and nature. The bonds that unite the world to God have thus been broken. This rupture has also resulted in separating man from the world and, more radically, has impoverished man's very identity. Human beings find themselves thinking that they are foreign to the environmental context in which they live. The consequences resulting from this are all too clear: "it is the relationship man has with God that determines his relationship with his fellow men and with his environment. This is why Christian culture has always recognized the creatures that surround man as also gifts of God to be nurtured and safeguarded with a sense of gratitude to the Creator. Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality in particular has witnessed to this sort of kinship of man with his creaturely environment, fostering in him an attitude of respect for every reality of the surrounding world".[975] There is a need to place ever greater emphasis on the intimate connection between environmental ecology and "human ecology".[976]

465. The Magisterium underscores human responsibility for the preservation of a sound and healthy environment for all.[977] "If humanity today succeeds in combining the new scientific capacities with a strong ethical dimension, it will certainly be able to promote the environment as a home and a resource for man and for all men, and will be able to eliminate the causes of pollution and to guarantee adequate conditions of hygiene and health for small groups as well as for vast human settlements. Technology that pollutes can also cleanse, production that amasses can also distribute justly, on condition that the ethic of respect for life and human dignity, for the rights of today's generations and those to come, prevails".[978]

IV. A COMMON RESPONSIBILITY

a. The environment, a collective good

466. Care for the environment represents a challenge for all of humanity. It is a matter of a common and universal duty, that of respecting a common good,[979] destined for all, by preventing anyone from using "with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate - animals, plants, the natural elements - simply as one wishes, according to one's own economic needs".[980] It is a responsibility that must mature on the basis of the global dimension of the present ecological crisis and the consequent necessity to meet it on a worldwide level, since all beings are interdependent in the universal order established by the Creator. "One must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system, which is precisely the 'cosmos' ".[981]

This perspective takes on a particular importance when one considers, in the context of the close relationships that bind the various parts of the ecosystem, the environmental value of biodiversity, which must be handled with a sense of responsibility and adequately protected, because it constitutes an extraordinary richness for all of humanity. In this regard, each person can easily recognize, for example, the importance of the Amazon, "one of the world's most precious natural regions because of its bio- diversity which makes it vital for the environmental balance of the entire planet".[982] Forests help maintain the essential natural balance necessary for life.[983] Their destruction also through the inconsiderate and malicious setting of fires, accelerates the processes of desertification with risky consequences for water reserves and compromises the lives of many indigenous peoples and the well-being of future generations. All individuals as well as institutional subjects must feel the commitment to protect the heritage of forests and, where necessary, promote adequate programs of reforestation.

467. Responsibility for the environment, the common heritage of mankind, extends not only to present needs but also to those of the future. "We have inherited from past generations, and we have benefited from the work of our contemporaries: for this reason we have obligations towards all, and we cannot refuse to interest ourselves in those who will come after us, to enlarge the human family".[984] This is a responsibility that present generations have towards those of the future,[985] a responsibility that also concerns individual States and the international community.

468. Responsibility for the environment should also find adequate expression on a juridical level. It is important that the international community draw up uniform rules that will allow States to exercise more effective control over the various activities that have negative effects on the environment and to protect ecosystems by preventing the risk of accidents. "The State should also actively endeavour within its own territory to prevent destruction of the atmosphere and biosphere, by carefully monitoring, among other things, the impact of new technological or scientific advances ... [and] ensuring that its citizens are not exposed to dangerous pollutants or toxic wastes".[986]

The juridical content of "the right to a safe and healthy natural environment" [987] is gradually taking form, stimulated by the concern shown by public opinion to disciplining the use of created goods according to the demands of the common good and a common desire to punish those who pollute. But juridical measures by themselves are not sufficient.[988] They must be accompanied by a growing sense of responsibility as well as an effective change of mentality and lifestyle.

469. The authorities called to make decisions concerning health and environmental risks sometimes find themselves facing a situation in which available scientific data are contradictory or quantitatively scarce. It may then be appropriate to base evaluations on the "precautionary principle", which does not mean applying rules but certain guidelines aimed at managing the situation of uncertainty. This shows the need for making temporary decisions that may be modified on the basis of new facts that eventually become known. Such decisions must be proportional with respect to provisions already taken for other risks. Prudent policies, based on the precautionary principle require that decisions be based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives, including the decision not to intervene. This precautionary approach is connected with the need to encourage every effort for acquiring more thorough knowledge, in the full awareness that science is not able to come to quick conclusions about the absence of risk. The circumstances of uncertainty and provisional solutions make it particularly important that the decision-making process be transparent.

470. Programs of economic development must carefully consider "the need to respect the integrity and the cycles of nature" [989] because natural resources are limited and some are not renewable. The present rhythm of exploitation is seriously compromising the availability of some natural resources for both the present and the future.[990] Solutions to the ecological problem require that economic activity respect the environment to a greater degree, reconciling the needs of economic development with those of environmental protection. Every economic activity making use of natural resources must also be concerned with safeguarding the environment and should foresee the costs involved, which are "an essential element of the actual cost of economic activity".[991] In this context, one considers relations between human activity and climate change which, given their extreme complexity, must be opportunely and constantly monitored at the scientific, political and juridical, national and international levels. The climate is a good that must be protected and reminds consumers and those engaged in industrial activity to develop a greater sense of responsibility for their behaviour.[992]

An economy respectful of the environment will not have the maximization of profits as its only objective, because environmental protection cannot be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits. The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces.[993] Every country, in particular developed countries, must be aware of the urgent obligation to reconsider the way that natural goods are being used. Seeking innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of production and consumption of goods should be effectively encouraged.

Particular attention will have to be reserved for the complex issues surrounding energy resources.[994] Non-renewable resources, which highly-industrialized and recently-industrialized countries draw from, must be put at the service of all humanity. From a moral perspective based on equity and intergenerational solidarity, it will also be necessary to continue, through the contribution of the scientific community, to identify new sources of energy, develop alternative sources and increase the security levels of nuclear energy.[995] The use of energy, in the context of its relationship to development and the environment, calls for the political responsibility of States, the international community and economic actors. Such responsibility must be illuminated and guided by continual reference to the universal common good.

471. The relationship of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources deserves particular attention, since it is a fundamental expression of their identity.[996] Due to powerful agro-industrial interests or the powerful processes of assimilation and urbanization, many of these peoples have already lost or risk losing the lands on which they live,[997] lands tied to the very meaning of their existence.[998] The rights of indigenous peoples must be appropriately protected.[999] These peoples offer an example of a life lived in harmony with the environment that they have come to know well  and to preserve.[1000] Their extraordinary experience, which is an irreplaceable resource for all humanity, runs the risk of being lost together with the environment from which they originate.

b. The use of biotechnology

472. In recent years pressing questions have been raised with regard to the use of new forms of biotechnology in the areas of agriculture, animal farming, medicine and environmental protection. The new possibilities offered by current biological and biogenetic techniques are a source of hope and enthusiasm on the one hand, and of alarm and hostility on the other. The application of various types of biotechnology, their acceptability from a moral point of view, their consequences for human health and their impact on the environment and the economy are the subject of thorough study and heated debate. These are controversial questions that involve scientists and researchers, politicians and legislators, economists and environmentalists, as well as producers and consumers. Christians are not indifferent to these problems, for they are aware of the importance of the values at stake.[1001]

473. The Christian vision of creation makes a positive judgment on the acceptability of human intervention in nature, which also includes other living beings, and at the same time makes a strong appeal for responsibility.[1002] In effect, nature is not a sacred or divine reality that man must leave alone. Rather, it is a gift offered by the Creator to the human community, entrusted to the intelligence and moral responsibility of men and women. For this reason the human person does not commit an illicit act when, out of respect for the order, beauty and usefulness of individual living beings and their function in the ecosystem, he intervenes by modifying some of their characteristics or properties. Human interventions that damage living beings or the natural environment deserve condemnation, while those that improve them are praiseworthy. The acceptability of the use of biological and biogenetic techniques is only one part of the ethical problem: as with every human behaviour, it is also necessary to evaluate accurately the real benefits as well as the possible consequences in terms of risks. In the realm of technological-scientific interventions that have forceful and widespread impact on living organisms, with the possibility of significant long-term repercussions, it is unacceptable to act lightly or irresponsibly.

474. Modern biotechnologies have powerful social, economic and political impact locally, nationally and internationally. They need to be evaluated according to the ethical criteria that must always guide human activities and relations in the social, economic and political spheres.[1003] Above all the criteria of justice and solidarity must be taken into account. Individuals and groups who engage in research and the commercialization of the field of biotechnology must especially abide by these criteria. In any event, one must avoid falling into the error of believing that only the spreading of the benefits connected with the new techniques of biotechnology can solve the urgent problems of poverty and underdevelopment that still afflict so many countries on the planet.

475. In a spirit of international solidarity, various measures can be taken in relation to the use of new biotechnologies. In the first place, equitable commercial exchange, without the burden of unjust stipulations, is to be facilitated. Promoting the development of the most disadvantaged peoples, however, will not be authentic or effective if it is reduced to the simple exchange of products. It is indispensable to foster the development of a necessary scientific and technological autonomy on the part of these same peoples, promoting the exchange of scientific and technological knowledge and the transfer of technologies to developing countries.

476. Solidarity also means appealing to the responsibility of developing countries, and in particular of their political leaders, for promoting trade policies that are favourable to their peoples and the exchange of technology that can improve the conditions of their food supply and health. In such countries, there must be an increase in research investment, with special attention to the particular characteristics and needs of their territory and population, above all by bearing in mind that some research in the area of biotechnology, which may be potentially beneficial, requires relatively modest investments. To this end it would be useful to establish national agencies responsible for protecting the common good by means of careful risk management.

477. Scientists and technicians involved in the field of biotechnology are called to work intelligently and with perseverance in seeking the best solutions to the serious and urgent problems of food supply and health care. They must not forget that their activity concerns material - both living and inanimate - that belongs to the patrimony of humanity and is destined also to future generations. For believers, it is a question of a gift received from the Creator and entrusted to human intelligence and freedom, which are themselves also gifts from heaven. It is hoped that scientists employ their energies and abilities in research characterized by enthusiasm and guided by a clear and honest conscience.[1004]

478. Entrepreneurs and directors of public agencies involved in the research, production and selling of products derived from new biotechnologies must take into account not only legitimate profit but also the common good. This principle, which holds true for every type of economic activity, becomes particularly important for activities that deal with the food supply, medicine, health care and the environment. By their decisions, entrepreneurs and public agency directors involved in this sector can guide developments in the area of biotechnologies towards very promising ends as far as concerns the fight against hunger, especially in poorer countries, the fight against disease and the fight to safeguard the ecosystem, the common patrimony of all.

479. Politicians, legislators and public administrators are responsible for evaluating the potentials benefits and possible risks connected with the use of biotechnologies. It is not desirable for their decisions, at the national or international level, to be dictated by pressure from special interest groups. Public authorities must also encourage a correctly informed public opinion and make decisions that are best-suited to the common good.

480. Leaders in the information sector also have an important task, which must be undertaken with prudence and objectivity. Society expects information that is complete and objective, which helps citizens to form a correct opinion concerning biotechnological products, above all because this is something that directly concerns them as possible consumers. The temptation to fall into superficial information, fuelled by over enthusiasm or unjustified alarmism, must be avoided.

c. The environment and the sharing of goods

481. As regards the ecological question, the social doctrine of the Church reminds us that the goods of the earth were created by God to be used wisely by all. They must be shared equitably, in accordance with justice and charity. This is essentially a question of preventing the injustice of hoarding resources: greediness, be it individual or collective, is contrary to the order of creation.[1005] Modern ecological problems are of a planetary dimension and can be effectively resolved only through international cooperation capable of guaranteeing greater coordination in the use of the earth's resources.

482. The environmental crisis and poverty are connected by a complex and dramatic set of causes that can be resolved by the principle of the universal destination of goods, which offers a fundamental moral and cultural orientation. The present environmental crisis affects those who are poorest in a particular way, whether they live in those lands subject to erosion and desertification, are involved in armed conflicts or subject to forced immigration, or because they do not have the economic and technological means to protect themselves from other calamities.

Countless numbers of these poor people live in polluted suburbs of large cities, in make-shift residences or in huge complexes of crumbling and unsafe houses (slums, bidonvilles, barrios, favelas). In cases where it is necessary to relocate them, in order not to heap suffering upon suffering, adequate information needs to be given beforehand, with choices of decent housing offered, and the people directly involved must be part of the process.

It is moreover necessary to keep in mind the situation of those countries that are penalized by unfair international trade regulations and countries with a scarcity of capital goods, often aggravated by the burden of the foreign debt. In such cases hunger and poverty make it virtually impossible to avoid an intense and excessive exploitation of the environment.

483. The close link that exists between the development of the poorest countries, demographic changes and a sustainable use of the environment must not become a pretext for political and economic choices that are at variance with the dignity of the human person. In developed countries there is a "drop in the birth-rates, with repercussions on the aging of the population, unable even to renew itself biologically".[1006] The situation is different in the developing countries where demographic changes are increasing. Although it is true that an uneven distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.[1007] "There is widespread agreement that a population policy is only one part of an overall development strategy. Accordingly, it is important that any discussion of population policies should keep in mind the actual and projected development of nations and regions. At the same time, it is impossible to leave out of account the very nature of what is meant by the term 'development'. All development worthy of the name must be integral, that is, it must be directed to the true good of every person and of the whole person".[1008]

484. The principle of the universal destination of goods also applies naturally to water, considered in the Sacred Scriptures as a symbol of purification (cf. Ps 51:4; Jn 13:8) and of life (cf. Jn 3:5; Gal 3:27). "As a gift from God, water is a vital element essential to survival; thus, everyone has a right to it".[1009] Satisfying the needs of all, especially of those who live in poverty, must guide the use of water and the services connected with it. Inadequate access to safe drinking water affects the well-being of a huge number of people and is often the cause of disease, suffering, conflicts, poverty and even death. For a suitable solution to this problem, it "must be set in context in order to establish moral criteria based precisely on the value of life and the respect for the rights and dignity of all human beings".[1010]

485. By its very nature water cannot be treated as just another commodity among many, and it must be used rationally and in solidarity with others. The distribution of water is traditionally among the responsibilities that fall to public agencies, since water is considered a public good. If water distribution is entrusted to the private sector it should still be considered a public good. The right to water,[1011] as all human rights, finds its basis in human dignity and not in any kind of merely quantitative assessment that considers water as a merely economic good. Without water, life is threatened. Therefore, the right to safe drinking water is a universal and inalienable right.

d. New lifestyles

486. Serious ecological problems call for an effective change of mentality leading to the adoption of new lifestyles,[1012] "in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of the common good are the factors that determine consumer choices, savings and investments".[1013] These lifestyles should be inspired by sobriety, temperance, and self-discipline at both the individual and social levels. There is a need to break with the logic of mere consumption and promote forms of agricultural and industrial production that respect the order of creation and satisfy the basic human needs of all. These attitudes, sustained by a renewed awareness of the interdependence of all the inhabitants of the earth, will contribute to eliminating the numerous causes of ecological disasters as well as guaranteeing the ability to respond quickly when such disasters strike peoples and territories.[1014] The ecological question must not be faced solely because of the frightening prospects that environmental destruction represents; rather it must above all become a strong motivation for an authentic solidarity of worldwide dimensions.

487. The attitude that must characterize the way man acts in relation to creation is essentially one of gratitude and appreciation; the world, in fact, reveals the mystery of God who created and sustains it. If the relationship with God is placed aside, nature is stripped of its profound meaning and impoverished. If on the other hand, nature is rediscovered in its creaturely dimension, channels of communication with it can be established, its rich and symbolic meaning can be understood, allowing us to enter into its realm of mystery. This realm opens the path of man to God, Creator of heaven and earth. The world presents itself before man's eyes as evidence of God, the place where his creative, providential and redemptive power unfolds.

[946] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 15: AAS 58 (1966), 1036.

[947] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 15: AAS 58 (1966), 1036.

[948] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 33: AAS 58 (1966), 1052.

[949] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 34: AAS 58 (1966), 1052.

[950] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 34: AAS 58 (1966), 1053.

[951] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 34: AAS 58 (1966), 1053.

[952] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 35: AAS 58 (1966), 1053.

[953] Cf. John Paul II, Address given at Mercy Maternity Hospital, Melbourne (28 November 1986): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 9 December 1986, p. 13.

[954] John Paul II, Meeting with scientists and representatives of the United Nations University, Hiroshima (25 February 1981), 3: AAS 73 (1981), 422.

[955] John Paul II, Meeting with employees of the Olivetti workshops in Ivrea, Italy (19 March 1990), 5: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 26 March 1990, p. 7.

[956] John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (3 October 1981), 3: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 October 1981, p. 4.

[957] John Paul II, Address to the participants in a convention sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, for the bicentenary of its foundation (21 September 1982), 4: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 4 October 1982, p. 3.

[958] John Paul II, Meeting with scientists and representatives of the United Nations University, Hiroshima (25 February 1981), 3: AAS 73 (1981), 422.

[959] John Paul II, Meeting with employees of the Olivetti workshops in Ivrea, Italy (19 March 1990), 4: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 26 March 1990, p. 7.

[960] John Paul II, Homily during Mass at the Victorian Racing Club, Melbourne (26 November 1986), 11: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IX, 2 (1986), 1730.

[961] John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (23 October 1982), 6: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V, 3 (1982), 892-893.

[962] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 34: AAS 80 (1988), 559.

[963] John Paul II, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 7: AAS 82 (1990), 151.

[964] John Paul II, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 6: AAS 82 (1990), 150.

[965] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.

[966] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.

[967] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.

[968] John Paul II, Address to the 35th General Assembly of the World Medical Association (29 October 1983): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 5 December 1986, p. 11.

[969] Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens, 21: AAS 63 (1971), 416-417.

[970] Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesimo Adveniens, 21: AAS 63 (1971), 417.

[971] John Paul II, Address to participants in a convention on "The Environment and Health" (24 March 1997), 2: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 9 April 1997, p. 2.

[972] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 28: AAS 80 (1988), 548-550.

[973] Cf., for example, Pontifical Council for Culture - Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life. A Christian Reflection on the "New Age", Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2003, p. 33.

[974] John Paul II, Address to participants in a convention on "The Environment and Health" (24 March 1997), 5: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 9 April 1997, p. 2.

[975] John Paul II, Address to participants in a convention on "The Environment and Health" (24 March 1997), 4: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 9 April 1997, p. 2.

[976] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 38: AAS 83 (1991), 841.

[977] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 34: AAS 80 (1988), 559-560.

[978] John Paul II, Address to participants in a convention on "The Environment and Health" (24 March 1997), 5: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 9 April 1997, p. 2.

[979] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 40: AAS 83 (1991), 843.

[980] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 34: AAS 80 (1988), 559.

[981] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 34: AAS 80 (1988), 559.

[982] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, 25: AAS 91 (1999), 760.

[983] Cf. John Paul II, Homily in Val Visdende (Italy) for the votive feast of St. John Gualberto (12 July 1987): Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X, 3 (1987), 67.

[984] Paul II, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 17: AAS 59 (1967), 266.

[985] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.

[986] John Paul II, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 9: AAS 82 (1990), 152.

[987] John Paul II, Address to the European Commission and Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg (8 October 1988), 5: AAS 81 (1989), 685; cf. John Paul II, Message for the 1999 World Day of Peace, 10: AAS 91 (1999), 384-385.

[988] Cf. John Paul II, Message for the 1999 World Day of Peace, 10: AAS 91 (1999), 384-385.

[989] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 26: AAS 80 (1988), 546.

[990] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis,34: AAS 80 (1988), 559-560.

[991] John Paul II, Address to the Twenty-Fifth General Conference of FAO (16 November 1989), 8: AAS 82 (1990), 673.

[992] Cf. John Paul II, Address to a study group of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (6 November 1987): Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X, 3 (1987), 1018-1020.

[993] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 40: AAS 83 (1991), 843.

[994] Cf. John Paul II, Address to the participants at the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (28 October 1994): Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XVII, 2 (1994), 567-568.

[995] Cf. John Paul II, Address to the participants at a Symposium on physics (18 December 1992): Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V, 3 (1982), 1631-1634.

[996] Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, Manaus (10 July 1980): AAS 72 (1980), 960-961.

[997] Cf. John Paul II, Homily at the Liturgy of the Word with the Indigenous Peoples of the Peruvian Amazon Valley (5 February 1985), 4: AAS 77 (1985), 897- 898; cf. also Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Towards a Better Distribution of Land. The Challenge of Agrarian Reform (23 November 1997), 11, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 1997, p. 17.

[998] Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Indigenous Peoples of Australia (29 November 1986), 4: AAS 79 (1987), 974-975.

[999] Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala (7 March 1983), 4: AAS 75 (1983), 742-743; John Paul II, Address to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada (18 September 1984), 7-8: AAS 77 (1988), 421-422; John Paul II, Address to the Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador (31 January 1985), II,1: AAS 77 (1985), 861; John Paul II, Address to the Indigenous Peoples of Australia (29 November 1986), 10: AAS 79 (1987), 976-977.

[1000] Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Indigenous Peoples of Australia (29 November 1986), 4: AAS 79 (1987), 974-975; John Paul II, Address to Native Americans (14 September 1987), 4: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 21 September 1987, p. 21.

[1001] Cf. Pontifical Academy for Life, Animal and Plant Biotechnology: New Frontiers and New Responsibilities, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 1999.

[1002] Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (23 October 1982), 6: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V, 3 (1982), 892-893.

[1003] Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (3 October 1981): AAS 73 (1981), 668-672.

[1004] Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (23 October 1982): Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V, 3 (1982), 889-893. John Paul II, Address to the participants in a convention sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, for the bicentenary of its foundation (21 September 1982): Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V, 3 (1982), 511-515.

[1005] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 69: AAS 58 (1966), 1090-1092; Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 22: AAS 59 (1967), 268.

[1006] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 25: AAS 80 (1988), 543; cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 16: AAS 87 (1995), 418.

[1007] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 25: AAS 80 (1988), 543-544.

[1008] John Paul II, Message to Nafis Sadik, Secretary General of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (18 March 1994), 3: AAS 87 (1995), 191.

[1009] John Paul II, Message to Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo on the occasion of the 2004 Brotherhood Campaign of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (19 January 2004): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 17 March 2004, p. 3.

[1010] John Paul II, Message to Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo on the occasion of the 2004 Brotherhood Campaign of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (19 January 2004): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 17 March 2004, p. 3.

[1011] Cf. John Paul II, Message for the 2003 World Day of Peace, 5: AAS 95 (2003), 343; Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Water, an Essential Element for Life. A Contribution of the Delegation of the Holy See on the occasion of the 3rd World Water Forum, Kyoto, 16-23 March 2003.

[1012] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 36: AAS 83 (1991), 838-840.

[1013] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 36: AAS 83 (1991), 839.

[1014] Cf. John Paul II, Address to the UN Center, Nairobi, Kenya (18 August 1985), 5: AAS 78 (1986), 92.

References
Table of Contents

This item 7220 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org

Fall 2014 Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

It is a failure of mercy to deny sin 17 hours ago
Yesterday's news, tomorrow November 20
Light of the World: Morality vital, but mercy first November 19
Nuances of Leadership November 18
American influence at the Vatican and in the Synod November 18

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days