Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
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On Care For Our Common Home: Laudato Si’ (Praise be to You)
OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME
1. “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”.
2. 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. We have come to see ourselves
as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The
violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected
in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. 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 dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are
made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
Nothing in this world is indifferent to us
3. More than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an
Encyclical which not only rejected 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 home.
4. In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as “a tragic
consequence” of unchecked human activity: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk
of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”. 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 stressed “the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity”,
inasmuch as “the most extraordinary scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most
astonishing economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively
turn against man”.
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”. Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion. At the same time, he noted
that little effort had been made to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology”. The
destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us
men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of
debasement. 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”. Authentic
human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be
concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in
an ordered system”. Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original
gift of all that is.
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”. He observed 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, and
so forth. It follows that “the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human
coexistence”. Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by
our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same
evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We
have 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”. With paternal concern, Benedict urged us to realize that creation is harmed
“where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves
alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we
see nothing else but ourselves”.
United by the same concern
7. These statements of the Popes echo the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic
groups, 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 expressed deep concern and offered
valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing. To give just one striking example, I would mention the
statements made by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial
8. Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have
harmed the planet, for “inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our
contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation”. He has repeatedly stated
this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation: “For human beings… to
destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing
changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to
contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”. For “to commit a crime against
the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”.
9. At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental
problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise
we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with
generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to
give up. 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 compulsion”. As Christians, we 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 slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in
the last speck of dust of our planet”.
Saint Francis of Assisi
10. I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I
took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example
par excellence of care for the vulnerable and 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 poor and outcast. 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. He shows us just how inseparable the
bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.
11. 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”. His response to the world around him was
so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every 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, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant
piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”. Such a conviction
cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices 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, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately
united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint
Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an
object simply to be used and controlled.
12. What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God
speaks to us and grants us a glimpse 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); indeed, “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 untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those
who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty. Rather than a problem to be solved,
the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.
13. The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family
together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does
not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to
work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in
countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those
who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest.
Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking
of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.
14. I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a
conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots,
concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to
the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably,
many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of
powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part
of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant 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”.
 All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own
culture, experience, involvements and talents.
15. It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can
help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face. I will begin by briefly
reviewing several aspects of the present ecological crisis, with the aim of drawing on the results of the best
scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical
and spiritual itinerary that follows. I will then consider some principles drawn from the Judaeo-Christian tradition
which can render our commitment to the environment more coherent. I will then attempt to get to the roots of the
present situation, so as to consider not only its symptoms but also its deepest causes. This will help to provide an
approach to ecology which respects our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our
surroundings. In light of this reflection, I will advance some broader proposals for dialogue and action which would
involve each of us as individuals, and also affect international policy. Finally, convinced as I am that change is
impossible without motivation and a process of education, I will offer some inspired guidelines for human
development to be found in the treasure of Christian spiritual experience.
16. Although each chapter will have its own subject and specific approach, it will also take up and re-examine
important questions previously dealt with. This is particularly the case with a number of themes which will
reappear as the Encyclical unfolds. As examples, I will point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the
fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and
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 meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the
serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle.
These questions will not be dealt with once and for all, but reframed and enriched again and again.
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COMMON HOME
17. Theological and philosophical reflections on the situation of humanity and the world can sound tiresome and
abstract, unless they are grounded in a fresh analysis of our present situation, which is in many ways
unprecedented in the history of humanity. So, before considering how faith brings new incentives and requirements
with regard to the world of which we are a part, I will briefly turn to what is happening to our common home.
18. 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”. Although change is part of the working of
complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of
biological evolution. Moreover, the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the
common good or to integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a
source of anxiety when it causes harm 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, 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. Let us
review, however cursorily, those questions which are troubling us today and which we can no longer sweep under
the carpet. Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to
dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us
can do about it.
I. POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Pollution, waste and the throwaway culture
20. Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a
broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths. People take
sick, for example, from breathing high levels of smoke from fuels used in cooking or heating. There is also
pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the
acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general. Technology,
which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves
incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only
to create others.
21. Account must also be taken of the pollution produced by residue, including dangerous waste present in
different areas. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable,
highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical,
electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of
filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.
Industrial waste and chemical products utilized in cities and agricultural areas can lead to bioaccumulation in the
organisms of the local population, even when levels of toxins in those places are low. Frequently no measures are
taken until after people’s health has been irreversibly affected.
22. 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. It is hard
for us to accept 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 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, maximizing 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.
Climate as a common good
23. The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system
linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are
presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been
accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events,
even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called
to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at
least the human causes which produce or aggravate 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
most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide,
methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. 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.
The problem is aggravated 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
regions, and leading to the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity. The melting in the polar ice caps and in
high altitude plains can lead to the dangerous 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 may well witness
extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all
of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can 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
25. Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for
the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact
will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the 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, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead
them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, 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 be concerned with
masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative
impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if
we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to develop policies so
that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically
reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is
minimal access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop adequate storage technologies.
Some countries have made considerable progress, although it is far from constituting a significant 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 widespread.
II. THE ISSUE OF WATER
27. Other indicators of the present situation have to do with the depletion of natural resources. We all know that it
is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society,
where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has
already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.
28. 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. Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the
sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences in the short and long term. Large cities dependent on significant
supplies of water have experienced periods of shortage, and at critical moments these have not always been
administered with sufficient oversight and impartiality. Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors
of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural
production. Some countries have areas rich in water while others endure drastic scarcity.
29. One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in
many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical
substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of
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 lacking adequate regulation or
controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many
places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.
30. Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency,
despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet
access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as
such, is a condition for the exercise of 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 consistent with their inalienable dignity.
This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor.
But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess
it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is
little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality.
31. Greater scarcity of water will lead to 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 unless urgent action is
taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of
water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.
III. LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY
32. 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
33. It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while
overlooking the fact that 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 for
ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to 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 well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. But the good
functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of
microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in
maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place. Human beings must intervene when a geosystem reaches a
critical state. But nowadays, such intervention in nature has become more and more frequent. As a consequence,
serious problems arise, leading to further interventions; human activity becomes ubiquitous, 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 synthetic agrotoxins are helpful for
agriculture: their disappearance will have to be compensated for by yet other techniques which may well prove
harmful. We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to
finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human
intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and
beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound
limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which
we have created ourselves.
35. 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. Highways, new plantations, the fencing-off of certain areas, the damming of
water sources, and similar developments, crowd out natural habitats and, at times, break them up in such a way
that animal populations can no longer migrate or roam freely. As a result, some species face extinction.
Alternatives exist which at least lessen the impact of these projects, like the creation of biological corridors, but
few countries demonstrate such concern and foresight. 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.
36. Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly
interested in their preservation. But the cost of the damage caused by such selfish lack of concern is much greater
than the economic benefits to be obtained. Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values
involved are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant
benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental
37. Some countries have made significant progress in establishing sanctuaries on land and in the oceans where
any human intervention is prohibited which might modify their features or alter their original structures. In the
protection of biodiversity, specialists insist on the need for particular attention to be shown to areas richer both in
the number of species and in endemic, rare or less protected species. Certain places need greater protection
because of their immense 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 richly biodiverse lungs of our planet which are the Amazon and the Congo
basins, or the great aquifers and glaciers. We know how important these are for the entire earth and for the future
of humanity. The ecosystems of tropical forests possess an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost
impossible to appreciate fully, yet when these forests are burned down or levelled for purposes of cultivation,
within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands. A
delicate balance has to be maintained when speaking about these places, for we cannot overlook 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 the Amazon, which only serve the economic interests of
transnational corporations”. We cannot fail to praise the commitment of international agencies and civil society
organizations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate
means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve
its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests.
39. The replacement of virgin forest with plantations of trees, usually monocultures, is rarely adequately analyzed.
Yet this can seriously compromise a biodiversity which the new species being introduced does not accommodate.
Similarly, wetlands converted into cultivated land lose the enormous biodiversity which they formerly hosted. In
some coastal areas the disappearance of ecosystems sustained by mangrove swamps is a source of serious
40. Oceans not only contain the bulk of our planet’s water supply, but also most of the immense variety of living
creatures, many of them still unknown to us and threatened for various reasons. What is more, 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. Selective forms of fishing which discard much of what they
collect continue unabated. Particularly threatened are marine organisms which we tend to overlook, like some
forms of plankton; they represent a significant element in the ocean food chain, and species used for our food
ultimately depend on them.
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