Card Turkson: Change needed to protect earth and its people
(Vatican Radio) “We clearly need a fundamental change of course, to protect the earth and its people – which, in turn, will allow us to ‘dignify humanity’.”
Speaking at the General Assembly for Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said humanity is facing far reaching changes especially with regard to climate change and human development.
Although humanity has made great progress, especially in the past two centuries, this progress “has its dark sides and unacceptable costs.” Much of the world remains in poverty, despite abundant resources, while “a privileged global elite” controls the bulk of the world’s wealth and consumes the bulk of its resources. As an example, Cardinal Turkson pointed out that although the world produces more than enough food for everyone, hundreds of millions of people still go hungry. Caritas’ campaign “One Human Family: Food for All,” he noted, seeks to address that challenge.
The same attitudes of indifference also affect how we treat the natural world. Human beings are part of nature, but too often we have “traversed the planet’s most fundamental natural boundaries” leading to a disruption of the earth’s ecological balance, and threatening the earth with “great ruin.” Cardinal Turkson warned that climate related disasters threaten both “poor countries and those at the heart of the modern economy” – although the consequences are much more serious for poorer countries.
The solutions, Cardinal Turkson said, must be based on several fundamental principles. All human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and so we must treat one another as brothers and sisters, basing our relationships on respect, reconciliation, and solidarity.”
We must also recognize “that everything God has created is good, precious, and valuable… and thus, the correct response to receiving such a magnificent gift is surely one of gratitude, love, and respect.” For this reason, he said, we have a “sacred duty” to care for the earth, and to ensure that we will hand this gift down to our children.
Cardinal Turkson said we can and should use the gifts of the earth, but the current model is “out of balance.” We have used too much, and preserved too little. In 2015, he noted, three major conferences – on financial development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; on sustainable development in New York; and on climate change in Paris – will attempt to come to grips with the real problems we face, and come to an agreement on the remedies.
In the concluding portion of his address, Cardinal Turkson said any attempts to find solutions must be grounded on a firm moral foundation. “Without moral conversion and change of hearts, even good regulations, policies, and targets in the world are unlikely to prove effective. Without this ethical foundation, humanity will lack the courage, the moral substance, to carry out even the most sensible policy proposals.” We all have a “moral imperative” to protect and care for creation, and for the human person, noting especially the obligation of more privileged nations – and individuals – to care for the poor, especially with regard to climate change.
Therefore, he said, we need “to cultivate a new set of values and virtues – including conservation of the environment, compassion for the excluded, courage to take bold decisions, and a commitment to work together in common purpose for the global common good. We need a full conversion of hearts and minds, habits and lifestyles, structures and institutions.”
Listen to Christopher Wells’ report:
The 20th General Assembly for Caritas Internationalis concludes on Sunday.