Webinar calls for joint efforts to care for biodiversity
Cardinal Peter Turkson highlights the importance of ecological conversion and a shared commitment to caring for our common home during a biodiversity webinar inspired by Pope Francis‘ encyclical “Laudato sí”.
In partnership with the Ecology Working Group of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission, the Dicastery for Integral Human Development organized a biodiversity webinar on Tuesday, inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si ‘.
The online event, titled “The Road to COP15”, aims to share wisdom, understanding, experiences and mutual insights drawn from various disciplines of knowledge, including indigenous and scientific traditions, the Holy Scriptures and the Church’s social doctrine on biodiversity. Together, they will advocate and inspire the protection and restoration of biodiversity at the next fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) and COP26.
The webinar will also invite the church community to spark a dialogue on biodiversity in order to find new ways for the human family to heal and restore relationships with creation, especially in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 health emergency.
Speakers at the event included Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development; and Dr. Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace.
All creation is interconnected
In his intervention, Cardinal Turkson underlined two main points: the current context of the multifaceted crisis and the safeguard of biodiversity. He explained who these two are related, based on a 2020 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services which showed that the same human actions that lead to biodiversity loss have also led to an increase. pandemics.
In the current situation of the Covid-19 pandemic – which has affected global economies, widened the already existing gap between the rich and the poor, and further highlighted the poor access to health care from which some populations of the society – “one pandemic has revealed other social pandemics,” the cardinal said, echoing Pope Francis‘ words.
Given that Covid-19 has been designated as a zoonotic disease (transmitted between animals and humans), he continued, “the current pandemic alerts us to the fact that when nature is sick, humanity is sick. – even is very ill. ” This, he notes, was highlighted in Pope Benedict XVI‘s encyclical Caritas in veritate, who notes that the way humanity treats the environment also influences the way it treats itself. Cardinal Turkson pointed out that all elements of creation are interconnected, and contempt and abuse of one invariably affects other parts of society. The ecological crisis is therefore linked to an anthropological crisis – to human conduct and behavior.
Joint responsibility to protect biodiversity
Drawing inspiration from the scriptures, Cardinal Turkson notes that in the book of Genesis, “biodiversity took shape from the very beginning of creation,” for God created plants and animals as well as humans.
In addition, in the social teaching of the Church, “biodiversity is the continuing work of God’s creation, a sacred gift from God, and each creature has intrinsic value and value as such, and a purpose. known to God ”. In this sense, every creature reveals God to us and is a manifestation of God’s own glory as expressed in Psalms 19 and 104.
Cardinal Turkson then lamented the deconstruction of God’s creation and the continuous cry of creation and the poor highlighted in Laudato si and manifested by the disappearance of plant and animal species, lost forever due to our abusive treatment of nature. “The cost of damage caused by human exploitation of nature far exceeds the economic benefits obtained from it.”
“For ethical, moral and theological reasons,” said the cardinal, “it behooves us to safeguard biodiversity on earth.” He noted that a global framework in this regard has been provided by the International Convention on Biological Diversity, which recognizes the need for a multisectoral and cross-cutting approach to ensure the conservation and sustainability of biodiversity. COP15 also has a vision of a world living in harmony with nature, where, by 2050, biodiversity is conserved and used wisely to maintain a healthy planet and deliver essential benefits for all.
For this, four objectives can serve as focal points: first, the increase of protected areas so that biodiversity can be ensured in its interconnectivity and integrity in order to reduce the number of threatened species; second, to value the contribution of nature to people, to maintain and enhance it through sustainable use for the benefit of all; third, to fairly and equitably share the benefits of genetic resources; and finally, verify the means of implementation of these objectives and the related targets.
“Keep and plow”
“The Church always raises her prophetic voice to provide a spiritual basis for thinking about protecting the poor, which includes the diversity of the earth and its ecosystems,” Cardinal Turkson said. He also recalled Pope Francis’ relentless appeals for greater care of the earth, including his appeals to universal brotherhood, which further underline our interconnection.
Cardinal Turkson further emphasized that humans have a responsibility to take care of nature. He explained that this comes from the book of Genesis, when at creation God commissioned Adam to cultivate and keep the garden: “to plow” was to make the land productive, while “to keep” was to keep the garden. ensure that the land maintains its production. qualities and traits to sustain life all the time. This imperative of care also extends to teaching about rest on the Sabbath, which is for human beings also to preserve creation, he said. “The Sabbath has a sense of liberation and respite, lean on any oppressed system and live in slavery.”
He also pointed out that the word used in the book of Genesis to describe the conservation of the garden is the same one used to describe the relationship between Cain and Abel. Hence, “our relationship to creation is similar and comparable to our relationship as human beings to each other. It is the relationship of brotherhood and brotherhood. We are therefore invited to treat everything “with affection, concern, responsibility and care”. At the same time, “we are collectively called to undergo an ecological conversion”, underlined the cardinal. He called for a change in mindset – “from a desire to control and dominate, to a desire to safeguard and protect”.
Indigenous peoples, guardians of biodiversity
Indigenous peoples, according to the Cardinal, are “custodians of biodiversity” and are essential to the protection of biodiversity. They have also been recognized by Pope Francis as “the great masters of the conservation of our biodiversity system”.
He added that they should be respected and protected so that we can learn from them by paying attention. Cardinal Turkson also denied claims that the relationship between indigenous peoples and nature is idolatrous. On the contrary, he explained, “it is an accumulation of time-tested wisdom that ensures the living together of human beings and systems in creation.”
Offering measures to save biodiversity, Cardinal Turkson proposed planting trees and partnering with nature-conscious organizations. He also urged to prioritize the restoration of degraded ecosystems, support for regenerative agriculture and participation in initiatives even at the local level in parishes.
In conclusion, the Cardinal underlined that the protection of biodiversity directly affects each of us, affecting the social, cultural and economic dimensions of our lives. We are therefore called to “take an integral ecological perspective and approach and apply holistic thinking to reorient economies, education and cultural practices and policies, so that we honor the dignity of the human person and the integrity of the human being. creation”.
Speech by Dr Jane Goodall
After Cardinal Turkson’s intervention, Dr Jane Goodall took the floor, sharing her rich experience studying chimpanzees in Africa and working to preserve their habitat.
She regretted that despite the developed intellect of humans, we were destroying our only home. She noted that our lack of respect for the natural world and our contribution to the destruction of animal habitat has brought us into increased contact with normally isolated animals, increasing the risk of pathogens spreading from animals to humans and creating a zoonotic pandemic such as the current one. This same lack of respect for the world has also led to climate change, which is one of the main factors affecting biodiversity, she noted.
Proposing concrete actions, Dr Goodall stressed the need to act in this “window of opportunity”. She underlined the urgency to reduce “the unsustainable way of life of hundreds of thousands of us on this planet who have much more than we need”, especially with regard to food, where tons are wasted when there are people who go to bed hungry.
Dr Goodall also stressed the importance of eradicating poverty. One way to do this, she explained, is to teach people to find ways to live without destroying the environment. She recalls that this became obvious to her when she flew over a forest that once housed chimpanzees that had been greatly reduced and surrounded by human presence and farmland. In this regard, she, through the work of her foundation, promotes community-based conservation to restore the fertility of overexploited lands without agricultural chemicals or pesticides and without water management. She also suggests scholarships to keep girls in school; and micro-finance so that villagers, especially women, can take out loans to create environmentally friendly businesses. In addition, local people can also be provided with tools to monitor the health of their own village forest reserves.
It will help people understand that we are protecting the environment, not only for wildlife, but for their own future, because the environment provides us with clean water; and we depend on healthy ecosystems for everything, explained Dr Goodall.
Biodiversity, a fragile tapestry of life
“I like to see an ecosystem as a tapestry of life made up of this diversity of animal and plant species, all of which are interdependent, with every little species having a role to play,” said Goodall.
With this in mind, if one of the species goes extinct, it tears a hole in that tapestry, and as more and more holes are torn, in the end we will end up with a tapestry so torn that the ecosystem s ‘will collapse, she warned.
In this regard, Dr Goodall commends the efforts of organizations and scientists working to protect and conserve the ‘tapestry’. She also salutes the many young people who are rising up to tackle the ecological problems they have inherited from those who came before them.