Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

OK, I'll do it, but I won't enjoy it.

Update 6/21/15 12:44pm EDT: Back at it. New stuff, as always, in blue. (I also threw in some clarifying comments in [brackets].)

Update 6/21/15 2:59am (!) EDT: Look at what I am going through for you, Internet.

Update 6/20/15 9:52am EDT: I just posted the opening sections correctly translated. I wanted to address something I have read in a few separate places: That Pope Francis is either a) picking on the free market model of development "whereas the greatest environmental damage is seen in centrally planned economies" or that "economic liberty is the surest way to lift the poor out of poverty." Ask yourself this question..."Why is it these authors automatically assume that the development model being criticized is the free market model?" Unless I have missed something -- possible, yes -- there isn't anything glaring in the text(s) to support such a projection...so why make it?

Update 6/18/15 11:48pm EDT: I'm posting the most recent sections correctly translated in blue. CHECK BACK OFTEN. I may very well catch errors in my own translation, and fix them, so don't panic if you notice some variations. Also, in your kindness, please be patient, I have a job and a family, and it's Fathers Day weekend, and...etc. ...

Update 6/18/15 9:06am EDT: At first I'll just put up a "straight" re-translation, later on I'll go with the usual "track changes" version. In the meantime read this and this.

Dear Internet,

Here's the thing.

The Pope is releasing an encyclical on the Creation, the environment, etc. I'm fully expecting the official English translation from the Vatican to be, at very best, lousy. I will, as is my stubborn habit, issue a correct translation.

However, I'm not expecting to feel the love.

I'm not expecting to accomplish much, frankly. People (generally) will take what they want from what they read (invariably commentary on it, and not the full text itself) and ignore what the truth is, as they always have even after a correction has floated around for YEARS.

In Spanish, there's phrase that, roughly, means "He who hits first, hits twice." In this case, that would seem the inevitable result. People (generally) are convinced the Pope wrote X and rejoice (if they are of a certain cast of mind) or jeer (if they are from the opposite cast of mind) and it doesn't really matter much to the overwhelming number of people that he wrote Y and not X.

Update 6/18/15 8:53am EDT: Already we are seeing headlines along the lines of "Pope calls for radical measures to combat climate change."

But God, as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta often noted, calls us to be faithful...not successful. So I plow on.

Part of the problem (and I've noted it previously) is that left-of-center people will run triumphantly with what the Pope allegedly wrote/said to further their left-of-center agenda, and that drives right-of-center BAT$#!+ crazy. It doesn't matter (to either side) that this wouldn't be an infallible declaration of anything, changing neither a jot nor tittle of doctrine. One side will run with no matter what is actually said, and the other side will be angry about it...and nobody will really bother to read it, preferring articles by critics with whom they generally agree.

This all said, it bears noting that I don't think an encyclical on the environment qua environment is wise at this time.

It further bears noting that I disagree (as is the case with some of his comments on capital punishment, Cuba, etc.) with what this encyclical says on climate change.

In the meantime, I'm not going to worry my pretty little head about the leaked version. As noted philosopher, Jackie Mason stated: "Why should this make me nauseous and disturbed? I have my own problems."

I leave you with this burst of wisdom from Princeton professor Robert P. George:

"Catholic friends: If I may offer a word of advice, please receive the forthcoming papal encyclical in a spirit of willingness to listen and to be taught by the Holy Father. Do not approach it by simply looking for what one agrees with or disagrees with on matters of climate science or anything else. The gift of the papal magisterium to us, the faithful, is just that: a gift--a charism. We are to receive it as such. We can, and no doubt... each of us will, appreciate the fact that different teachings or aspects of the teaching contained in the document will be proposed at different levels of authority. That is virtually always true of teaching instruments of this sort. But there will be plenty of time to sort all that out. It should NOT be our first priority. Our first priority should be to open ourselves to learning what is to be learned from the Holy Father's reflections on the physical and moral ecology in the context of the Church's witness to, and proclamation of, the Gospel. We are about to hear the voice of Peter. Our first and most important task is to listen attentively and with open-hearted willingness to be taught."

First, some general notes. While I'm not crazy about some parts of it, it's nowhere nearly as troubling as I feared. A LOT of the translation magically changes the  usual "we should" to "we must" and the "it would seem" to "it is" and so forth.

I've buried myself in re-translating it, so be on the lookout for that.

In the original there are a LOT of "hedge" words ("it may be that..." or "it would seem...") that, gee-whiz, just didn't come through in English. The Holy Father is trying to steer a middle course -- in my view not perfectly successfully, it must be said -- which is  the translation.

Also interesting (it may or may not be significant) is that this encyclical was openly ghostwritten -- previously the Pope "sent it back for revisions" -- and that may have affected some of the content.

If the translators were trying to hide their American-ness, with words such as "behaviour" and "centre"...they slipped up when they used "tons" instead of "tonnes."

Feel free to compare this text with the official English translation:

ENCYCLICAL LETTER
LAUDATO SI’
OF THE HOLY FATHER
FRANCIS
ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOUSE

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praised be you, my Lord” sang Saint Francis of Assisi. In this beautiful canticle, he reminded us that our common house is also like a sister with whom we share existence and a beautiful mother who embraces us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, for [this] sister, our mother earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and grass”.[1]

2. This sister appeals to us because of the harm we have prompted upon her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has placed on her. We have grown up thinking we were her owners and masters, authorized to despoil her. The violence present in human hearts, wounded by sin, is also manifested in the symptoms of sickness we notice in the soil, in the water, in the air and in living beings. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of the planet’s elements, her air is our breath and we vivified and restored by her waters.

Nothing in this world is indifferent to us

3. More than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the edge of a nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an Encyclical which was not satisfied with merely rejecting war but offered a proposal for peace. He addressed his message Pacem in Terris to the entire “Catholic world” and indeed “to all men and women of good will”. Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet. In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common house.

4. In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as “a dramatic consequence” of out of control human activity: “Due to an inconsiderate exploitation of nature, [the human being] runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”.[2] He spoke in similar terms to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations about the potential for an “ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilization”, and underlined “the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity”, because “the most extraordinary scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most prodigious economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively turn against man”.[3]

5. Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption”.[4] Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion.[5] At the same time, he noted that little effort had been made to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology”.[6] The destruction of the human environment is very serious, not only because God has commended the world to the human person, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of degradation. Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in “lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies”.[7] Authentic human development has a moral character. It [pre]supposes full respect for the human person, but should pay attention to the natural world and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system”.[8] Therefore, the ability to transform reality which the human person has should develop from the base the original gift of all things that comes from God’s part.[9]

6. My predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed “eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment”.[10] He reminds that the world cannot be analyzed by isolating only one of its aspects, since “the book of nature is one and indivisible”, and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, etc. It follows that “the deterioration of nature is united to the culture which shapes human coexistence”.[11] Pope Benedict proposed that we recognize that the natural environment has is filled with wounds produced by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment also has its wounds. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and therefore the liberty of humans is limitless. It is forgotten that “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature”.[12] With paternal worry, Benedict urged us to realize that creation is harmed “where we ourselves are the final authority [literally, “instance”], where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The squandering of creation begins when we do not recognize any instance above us, but that we only see us by ourselves”.[13]

United by the same concern

7. These offerings of the Popes gather the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and social organizations, all of which have enriched the Church’s thinking on these questions. Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have developed ample concerns and a valuable reflection on issues which concern all of us. To give just one noteworthy example, I want to collect in brief part of the statement made by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial communion.

8. The Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of our [individual] ways of harming the planet, for “in the [same] way all generate small ecological damages”, we are called to recognize “our contribution -- small or great -- to the disfigurement and destruction of creation”.[14] On this point he has expressed himself in a firm and stimulating manner, inviting us to recognize our sins against creation: “That human beings destroy the biological diversity of divine creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth and contribute to climate change, by denuding the earth of its natural forests or destroying its humid zones; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its soil, its air. All these are sins”.[15] For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”.[16]

9. At the same time, Bartholomew has called attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which invite us to find solutions not only in technology but in a change of the human person; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He proposes passing from consumption to sacrifice, from greed to generosity, from wastefulness to the capacity for sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to renounce [or, possibly, “resign”]. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and dependence”.[17] Christians, are also called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the smallest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet”.[18]
 
Saint Francis of Assisi

10. I do not want to develop this Encyclical without turning to a beautiful model that could motivate us. I took his name as my guide and as inspiration at the moment I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe Francis is the example par excellence for [how to] care for that which is weak and [also] of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the most poor and abandoned. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. In him we see up to what point the bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace are inseparable.

11. His testimony also demonstrates that an integral ecology requires openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics or biology, and connect us with the essence of that which is human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, his reaction was to sing, drawing into his praise all other creatures. He would enter into communication with all that was created, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, as if they enjoyed the gift of reason”.[19] His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual valuation or an economic calculation, for to him any creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “filled with the greatest tenderness upon consideration of the common origin of all things, he would call creatures, no matter how inconsequential they may have seemed, by the sweet name of or ‘sister’”.[20] Such a conviction cannot be written off as irrational romanticism, because it has consequences in the options which determine our behaviour. If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, mere exploiters of resources, [who are] unable to set limits on their immediate interests [or “wants”]. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will spring forth spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere exterior asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an mere object to be used and dominated.

12. What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, proposes that we recognize nature as a splendid book in which God speaks to us and [which] reflects something of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); and, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left uncultivated, so that wild herbs would grow there, and those who admired them could raise their minds to God, the Author of such beauty.[21] Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery we contemplate with joyous praise.

My appeal

13. The urgent challenge to protect our common house includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, since we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never places his loving project in reverse gear or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work collaboratively in building our common house. I wish to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the house which we share. Special gratitude is deserved by those who strive with vigor to resolve the dramatic consequences of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people appeal [to us for] change. They ask themselves how it is possible to attempt building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.

14. I urgently make an invitation for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which unites us all, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, [is of] interest, and impacts us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already traveled a long and productive way and has spawned numerous civic organizations that helped in raising awareness. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis tend to be frustrated, not just because of the rejection by the powerful but also because of lack of interest by everyone else. Attitudes of obstruction, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, comfortable resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”. [22] All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each from his own culture, experience, initiative and capacity.

15. It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the social Magisterium of the Church, can help us to recognize the grand scale, urgency and beauty of the challenge with which we have been presented. In the first place, I will make a brief run-through of different aspects of the present ecological crisis, with the aim of drawing on the best fruits of the scientific research currently available, allowing ourselves to be profoundly touched and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows. From that point of departure, I will retake some topics which spring from the Judeo-Christian tradition, with the end of making our commitment to the environment more coherent. I will then attempt to get to the roots of the present situation, so as to look at not only its symptoms but also its most profound causes. This will help to propose an ecology which, among its other dimensions, respects the unique place of the human person in this world and his relationship to the reality which surrounds him. In light of this reflection, I would like to advance, along some broad lines of dialogue and action which would involve each of us as individuals, and also international policy. Finally, given that I am convinced that all change needs motivation and an educational path, I will propose some guidelines for human development inspired by the treasure of Christian spiritual experience.

16. Although each chapter has its own theme and specific methodology, it will also retake from a new optic important questions dealt with in previous chapters. This is particularly the case with axes which will traverse the whole Encyclical. For example: the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, a critique of new paradigms and the forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human sense of ecology, the need for sincere and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the discarding culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle. These questions are neither to be closed nor abandoned, but constantly reconsidered and enriched.

CHAPTER ONE

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COMMON HOUSE

17. Theological and philosophical reflections on the situation of humanity and the world can sound like a repeated message [i.e., in the sense of “broken record”] and abstract, unless they are presented anew taking as a point of departure the current context, in that which is unprecedented in the history of humanity. So, before gathering [thoughts on] how faith brings new motivations and demands with regard to the world of which we form part, I propose we pause briefly turn to consider what is happening to our common house.

18. The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is united today with an intensifying rhythm of life and work which might be called “rapidification”. Although change is part of the dynamic of complex systems, the speed with which human actions has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. To this is added the problem that these objectives of rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or to an integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes deterioration to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity.

19. Following a period of irrational confidence in progress and human abilities, a part of society is entering a phase of greater awareness. We notice a growing sensitivity to the environment and the care of nature, along with a growing concern, both sincere and pained, for what is happening to our planet. Let us make a review, which will certainly be incomplete, those questions which prompt disquiet and which we can no longer sweep under the carpet. The objective is not to gather information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become take pains to be conscious, to dare turn what is happening to the world into personal suffering and thus recognize the contribution each of us can bring.

I. POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Pollution, waste and the culture of discarding

20. There exist forms of pollution which affect people daily. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces an ample spectrum of effects on [human] health, especially for the most poor, and trigger [literally, “provoke”] millions of premature deaths. People are made sick, for example, from breathing high levels of smoke issuing from fuels used in cooking or heating. To this must be added the pollution that affects [us] all, caused by transport, industrial fumes, deposits of substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general. Technology, which, linked to business [literally, "finance"], presents itself as [this is a weird one to translate because in Romance languages “technology” is seen as a “person” and thus this usage that reads weirdly to the Anglophone] the only solution to problems, usually [or “often”] is incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.

21. One must also consider the pollution produced by residues, including dangerous waste present in different environments. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from houses and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our house, is beginning to look more and more like an immense deposit of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now inundated with rubbish. Industrial waste and chemical products utilized in cities and agricultural areas can lead to a bioaccumulative effect in the organisms of the local population, even when levels of toxic elements in a given place are low. Frequently no measures are taken until after people’s health has had irreversible effects.

22. These problems are closely linked to a discarding culture which affects excluded human beings just as it does those things quickly reduced to rubbish. To cite one example, most of the paper we produce is discarded and not recycled. It pains [literally “costs”] us to recognize that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary: plants synthesize nutrients which feed herbivores; these in turn become food for carnivores, which produce significant quantities of organic waste which give rise to new generations of plants. But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reutilize residues [in the sense of “residual things”] and discards. To this day, the adoption of a circular model of production, capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them, has not yet been achieved. Pondering this issue would be one way of counteracting the culture of discarding which winds up affecting the entire planet, but we make the observation that advances in this regard are still very scarce.

Climate as a common good

23. The climate is a common good, of all and for all. At the global level, it is a complex system related to many of the essential conditions for human life. There is a very consistent scientific consensus [This is technically correct, in that there is such a consensus...how scientifically valid that may be, I am not yet convinced. -J.] that indicates we are encountering a worrisome warming of the climatic system. In the last several decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would be difficult not to relate it to an increase of extreme meteorological events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. [Emphasis mine. -J.] Humanity is called to be conscious of the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or accentuate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that the greater part of global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) emitted mainly as a result of human activity. [Therefore, according to these studies] by being concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. This is seen as potentiated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.

24. Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious circle which aggravates the situation even more, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer zones, and would [or “might”] prompt [literally, “provoke”] the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity. The melting in the polar ice caps and in high altitude plains threatens [us] with the risk of release of methane gas, while the decomposition of frozen organic material can further increase the emission of carbon dioxide. Things are made worse by the loss of tropical forests which would otherwise help to mitigate climate change. Carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans and compromises the marine food chain. If present trends continue, this century might witness unheard-of climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, might create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal zones.

25. Climate change is a global problem with grave dimensions: environmental, social, economic, political and distributive. It poses one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, lead to the migration of [those] animals and plants which cannot always adapt; this in turn affects the productive resources of the poor, who then see themselves obligated [in the sense of "needing"] to leave their houses, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. 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. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.

26. Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to concentrate on masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, trying only to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will become worse if we continue with current models of production and consumption. For this reason it has become urgent and necessary to develop policies so that, in the coming years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases which are highly polluting can be drastically reduced, for example, replacing the use of fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. In the world there is scant access to clean and renewable energy. It is still necessary to develop adequate storage technologies. Although some countries have begun to make significant advances [in these efforts], these are far from reaching an important proportion. Investments have also been made in means of production and transportation which consume less energy and require fewer raw materials, as well as in methods of construction and renovating buildings which improve their energy efficiency. But these good practices are still far from becoming generalized.
II. THE ISSUE OF WATER

27. Other indicators of the present situation have to do with the exhausting of natural resources. [This has roots in a deforestation/paper mill controversy in South America. –J.] We know well the impossibility of sustaining the current level of consumption in developed countries and the wealthiest sectors of society, where the habit of wasting and discarding reaches unheard of levels. Certain maximum limits in the exploitation of the planet have already been surpassed, without us having yet solved the problem of poverty.

28. Clean and potable water represents a question of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for sustaining terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Sources of fresh water supply the health care, agriculture and industrial sectors. Water supplies had [always] remained relatively constant, but now in many places demand is superior to the sustainable supply, with grave consequences in the short and long term. Large cities dependent on important levels of water storage have experienced periods of shortage, and at critical moments is not always been administered by an adequate government [possibly “governance”] and impartiality. Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no secure [possibly “stable”] access to drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production. Some countries have areas with abundant water while others endure grave scarcity.

29. One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor which every day results in many deaths. Frequent among the poor are water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant factor in suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries where there are not satisfactory regulation or controls. Let us not think only of factory effluents. Detergents and chemical products, used by the populations of many places of the world, are continue spilling into rivers, lakes and seas.

30. Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is an advancing tendency to privatize this scarce resource, turning it into merchandise subject to regulation [not in regulatory sense] by market laws. In reality, secure access to potable water is a basic human right, fundamental and universal, since it is [a] determinant [factor] to the survival of the human person and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of the other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life rooted in their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by greater economic contribution to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor populations [or “peoples”]. But water continues to be wasted, not just in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This demonstrates that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural question, since there is no consciousness of the seriousness of such conduct within a context of great inequality.

31. An increase in the scarcity of water would prompt an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades if we do not act with urgency. The environmental repercussions might affect billions of people; it is also plausible that the control of water by great global businesses might become one of the major sources of conflict in this century.[23]

III. LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY

32. The earth’s resources are also subject to depredation because of immediacy-first [literally, “immediatist”] forms of understanding the economy, and commercial and productive activity. At the same time, the loss of jungles and forests implies the loss of species which could constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and multiple other services [to mankind]. These diverse species contain genes which could be key resources in the future for meeting human needs and for normalizing some environmental problem.

33. It is not sufficient to think of different species merely as eventual developable “resources”, forgetting they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons which have to do with human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

34. It may possibly disquiet us to learn of the extinction of some mammal or bird, by their greater visibility. But necessary to the good functioning of ecosystems are also fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, which generally go unseen, play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a [given] place. It is true that humans must intervene when a geosystem reaches a critical state. But today human intervention in a reality as complex as nature is such that constant disasters caused by humans lead to further interventions; human activity is made omnipresent, with all the risks which this entails. Often a vicious circle results, as human intervention to resolve a problem further aggravates the situation. For example, many birds and insects, which disappear due to agrotoxins created by technology, are helpful for agriculture: their disappearance will have to be replaced for by yet other technical interventions which may bring noxious effects. Laudable and even admirable are the efforts being made by scientists and technologists who seek to bring solutions to problem created by humans. But looking at the world we notice the degree of human intervention, frequently at the service of financial interests and of consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, while at the same time the development of technology and temptation [literally, “offers”] to consume continue advancing without limits. In this manner, we seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.

35. When the environmental impact of any project is analyzed, it is normal to be attentive to its effects on soil, water and air, but not always are careful studies included of its impact on biodiversity, as if the loss of species or animals and plant groups were of scant relevance. Highways, new agricultural fields, fencing, damming, and other similar construction, take over habitats and, sometimes, fragment them in such a way that animal populations can no longer migrate or roam freely. As a result, some species enter into [the] risk of extinction. Alternatives exist which at least mitigate the impact of these projects, like the creation of biological corridors, but few countries demonstrate such care and foresight. [those “few countries” are in the Western mold, such as the US –J.] Frequently, when certain species are exploited commercially, little attention is paid to studying their reproductive patterns in order to prevent their depletion and the consequent imbalance of the ecosystem. [i.e. Latin America and its rapidly depleting sea bass fisheries, among several examples]

36. The care of ecosystems [pre]supposes a view beyond the immediate, because when only quick and easy gain is sought, nobody is really interested in their preservation. But the cost of the damage prompted by egotistical carelessness is much greater than the economic benefits which might be obtained. In the cases where certain species are lost or seriously harmed, the values about which we are talking are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to grave iniquity if we seek to obtain important benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration.

37. Some countries have made advances in the efficient preservation of certain places and zones -- on land and in the oceans -- where any human intervention is prohibited which might modify their physiognomy or alter their original constitution. In the protection of biodiversity, specialists insist on the need to place special attention to those zones richest in [the] variety of species, [or] in endemic, rare or less effectively protected species. Certain places need particular protection because of their enormous 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 lungs of our planet, replete with biodiversity, which are Amazonia and the fluvial Congo basin, or the great aquifers and glaciers. The importance of these, for the totality of the planet and for the future of humanity, is not [to be] ignored. The ecosystems of tropical jungles possess an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to recognize in an integral manner, yet when these jungles are burned down or razed to develop [agricultural] cultivation, in a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid deserts. A delicate equilibrium imposes itself when speaking about these places, because cannot also ignore 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 Amazonia, which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations”.[24] Laudable is the work of international agencies and organizations of civil society to make the public sensitive to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate mechanisms of pressure, to ensure that each government complies its proper and inalienable duty to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without selling [out] to spurious local or international interests.



2 Comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home