Sister Elizabeth Geraghty provides reflection and excerpts from Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home)
Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Sources of fresh water are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry… Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulations and controls …Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. The problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue.
The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production. The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses. Different species contain genes which could be key resources in years ahead for meeting human needs and regulating environmental problems.
In assessing the environmental impact of any project, concern is usually shown for its effects on soil, water, and air, yet few careful studies are made of its impact on biodiversity, as if the loss of species or animals and plant groups were of little importance.
Oceans not only contain the bulk of our planet’s water supply, but also most of the immense variety of living creatures… Marine life in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, which feeds a great part of the world’s population, is affected by uncontrolled fishing leading to a drastic depletion of certain species… Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline. This phenomenon is due largely to pollution which reaches the sea as the result of deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods, especially those using cyanide and dynamite…Greater investment needs to be made in research at understanding more fully the functioning of ecosystems.
Ecology studies the relationship between living organisms and the environment in which they develop. When we speak of the “environment”, what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it … Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.
Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment. Many intensive forms of environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the social structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of meaning of life and community…It is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred place with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values.
Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity. So we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development and the throwaway culture.
The social dimensions of global change include the effects of technological innovations on employment, social exclusion, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services, social breakdown, increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, and a loss of identity.
When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously
The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.
The land of the southern poor is rich and mostly unpolluted, yet access to ownership of goods and resources for meeting vital needs is inhibited by a system of commercial relations and ownership which is structurally perverse.
We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.