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Comments and suggestions about Pope Francis’ letter on the environment

September 21, 2015

 Pope Francis

Pope Francis

ARTI-Italia’s Giovanni Ravelli looks at the Pope’s recent encyclical letter on the environment – Laudato si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for our Common Home – and how it could have an impact on attitudes to recycling.

There are some reasons why this letter was published now; one being that the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) took place on 13 to 16 July 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference was held at the highest possible political level, including Heads of State or governments, relevant ministers – for finance, foreign affairs and development cooperation – and other special representatives

The second reason is the Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF15); the largest business-focused side event held during the annual Conference of Parties (COP) will take place in 2015 on 7 to 8 December in the Le Bourget area of Paris, convening over 750 cross-sector participants from business, government, investors, the UN, NGOs and civil societies. Pope Francesco decided therefore to write this letter on the environment, and to invite us to take care of the “common home”, which is the earth we inhabit.

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.

“Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, who is the day and through whom you give us light.  And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour; and bears a likeness of you, Most High. Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful. Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather  through whom you give sustenance to your creatures. Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste. Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire,  through whom you light the night,  and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be 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, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”.

Giovanni Ravelli

Giovanni Ravelli

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy and Communications and Chair of the Climate Coalition for the UK government, reminds us that for each nine people on earth, one hungers every day because lack of food.

He was a speaker at the presentation of the encyclical letter Laudato si at EXPO Milano, on June 30 2015, where I attended to report these comments. Moreover he told us that farmers have difficulties predicting weather and seasons because of climate changes.


  1. The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called ‘rapidification’.
  2. Following a period of irrational confidence in progress and human abilities, some sectors of society are now adopting a more critical approach. We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet.”
  4. Pollution, waste and the throwaway culture
  5. These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. To cite one example, most of the paper we produce is thrown away and not recycled…But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt 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, maximising their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard.”

Francesco invites us to “maximis[e] their efficient use, reusing and recycling them”. Please do it! Please look at what is happening to our common home!! Our industry is going the right way, please go ahead. We need support from governments and people to understand our jobs are to make profit, but also to reduce waste and take care of the environment.

Laura Pallanzani, Professor of biogiuridica and legal philosophers, at LUMSA, Rome and Vice President for the National Committee for Bioethics, discussed care ethics. The moral theory known as “the ethics of care” implies that there is moral significance in the fundamental elements of relationships and dependencies in human life. Most often defined as a practice or virtue rather than a theory as such, “care” involves maintaining the world of, and meeting the needs of, ourselves and others.

At the end of the day we have to do something to increase our efforts to change the choice of the people, so they recognise environmentally bad products and prefer good recycled goods.

My wish to all of you is to see flowers growing on the earth as Francesco suggested, so our Sister, Mother Earth, will stop crying

Categories : Special Report

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