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The Magisterium of the Church teaches, proposes and invites the creation of itineraries for the sustainable development of the Planet. And for almost six years, the UN has also been working on the same path, with its 2030 Agenda.

 

 

From Pope Francis today to Pope Paul VI yesterday, passing by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Church has always been concerned with the integrity of creation; drawing attention at various times to a more responsible care of it. In doing so, it has made itself a precursor of the UN 2030 Agenda, which is an action program for people, the planet and prosperity.

Four months before the adoption of the said agenda, Pope Francis with the encyclical “Laudato si '”, on the care of our common home of May 24, 2015, already proposed the foundations of sustainable development and invited all humanity to contribute to its construction. He stressed that “In the face of possible risks to the environment which may affect the common good now and in the future”; he wants to speak to everyone who inhabits this planet; thus launching a universal call to take care of creation.

He equally maintains in his latest encyclical “Fratelli Tutti”, of October 3, 2020, that “to care for the world in which we live means to care for ourselves. Yet we need to think of ourselves more and more as a single-family dwelling in a common home.”

It is important to note that before Pope Francis, Saint Paul VI in the apostolic letter “Octagesima Adveniens” of 1971 was certainly the first to sound the alarm bells about the degradation of our planet. He wrote to this effect that man “by an ill-considered exploitation of nature (..) risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation. Not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace - pollution and refuse, new illness and absolute destructive capacity - but the human framework is no longer under man's control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family.”

Also, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of FAO, November 16, 1970, Saint Paul VI spoke of “the urgent need of a radical change in the conduct of humanity if it wishes to assure its survival.”

It is imperative to note as well that, Pope Saint John Paul II, in his first encyclical “Redemptor Hominis” of March 4, 1979, indicated that man often seems “to see no other meaning in his natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption. Yet it was the Creator’s will that man should communicate with nature as an intelligent and noble “master” and “guardian”, and not as a heedless “exploiter” and “destroyer”.

Subsequently, in 2001 he invited everyone to an “ecological conversion”, emphasizing two aspects: on the one hand physical ecology, concerned with protecting the habitat of different living beings; and on the other hand human ecology, anxious to make the existence of creatures more worthy, protecting the primordial good of life in all its manifestations and preparing for future generations an environment which is always more in conformity with the Creator's project.

It is against this backdrop that in 2008, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI affirmed again that it is only when creation is seen, as starting from God, that true and effective claims against its destruction “can be implemented and developed.”

In his message on World Day of Peace on January 1, 2021, Pope Francis proposed to the world the “grammar of care”, which consists of “promoting the dignity of each human person, solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, the pursuit of the common good and concern for protection of creation.”

Finally, on the occasion of World Earth Day, April 22, 2021, he equally stressed that nature deserves to be protected, for the mere fact that human interactions with God’s biodiversity must take place with the utmost attention and respect: caring for biodiversity, caring for nature. And we have learnt this more clearly in this pandemic, as he underlines; stressing how both global catastrophes, Covid and climate change, show that there is no time to lose. Time is pressing and, as Covid-19 taught us,  we have the means to rise up to the challenge. We have the means. It is time to act, we are at the limit.”

A call to action on which the United Nations has been working for more than six years with the 2030 Agenda.

The 2030 Agenda

The comprehensive action plan proposed by the UN was adopted on September 25, 2015 by its 193 member states. With this project, it is “the first time that world leaders have embarked on joint action and effort across such a broad and universal political agenda.” The agenda is made up of 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets (or sub-goals) to be achieved by the year 2030. The aim is to meet the “aspirations of men and women around the world, who want to live in peace, security and dignity on a healthy planet.”

Thus, as Gro Harlem Brundtland would say in her report, the agenda is intended to help “the present generation meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.”


The great novelty of the agenda consists in the fact that for the first time a clear judgment is expressed on the unsustainability of the current development model, not only on the environmental level, but also on the economic and social levels. Hence, definitively overcoming the idea that sustainability is solely an environmental issue and affirming an integrated vision of the different dimensions of development.

From a personal perspective, you could download the United Nations “ActNow” application. There you will find easy daily tips to help you live sustainably. Since each of us can make a difference and our actions matter, we are all called to contribute in one way or another. So, let us do what needs to be done, no matter how small, to achieve the sustainable development of the common home. Our little actions might sound like a drop in the ocean, but as Mother Theresa would say, the ocean would have been less because of that missing drop.

At The SMA Level

The aforementioned small actions for the preservation of our natural environment, are already spearheaded by the SMA like many other religious institutes. It is enough to turn to the commission of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation to appreciate and appraise the work already done. Units like Ireland and Ghana, to name but a few have taken the bull by the horn to preserve our natural environment with some action plans. Ireland for example this year has among many initiatives organized for two weeks a campaign to raise awareness about biodiversity; and through several videos, has called for a form of action.
In Ghana, we could talk about Eco Office through its many awareness campaigns both in schools and health centers.

However, while many of our units are already well invested into the process of preserving our natural environment, there are still a number of units that are to make an extra effort in this respect. As Pope Francis would say, it is together, through our combined efforts that we will succeed in saving our planet, our common home.

Brice Ulrich AFFERI