The Pope calls upon urgent actions to preserve and optimize both the environment in which we live in and the quality of human life In the Laudato Si’ —Praise Be To You— Encyclical, the Pope condemns the weakness of reaction of international political stakeholders and the economic interests involved in tackling the defense of the environment, and calls for a “courageous cultural revolution” to save our ecosystem. His critical analysis and a request for honesty and action complete his proclamation, with an impeccable content that goes beyond promoting awareness, but also identifies the problem’s causes and points the way forward to solve it. He urgently calls for a new dialogue about the way we are building the planet’s future, underlining the fact that we need to have a conversation that unites all of us, arguing that “the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” He stressed the fact that the global environmental movement has come a long way, having formed many civic groups that now work on awareness, although there is a long way still to go. We’d like to share some of the key environmental topics Pope Francis was referring to, since they’re extremely important to preserve the environment in which we live, and must be taken into account for any daily or professional actions, both individually and collectively.
We must be concerned about environmental pollution caused by waste, including the hazardous kind. Hundreds of millions of tons of waste are produced every year, and many of those residues are not biodegradable —including residential and commercial waste, demolition waste, medical, electronic and industrial waste, and toxic and highly radioactive waste. These issues are closely linked to the “culture of waste” that affects both the excluded human beings as well as those objects that quickly become trash —for example, the majority of paper products aren’t recycled after use and are, thus, wasted. On the other hand, the industrial system has yet to develop the ability to absorb and reuse waste and scrap at the end of the cycle of production and consumption. It still hasn’t managed to adopt a circular production model to ensure resources for all and for future generations —that is, limiting the use of non-renewable resources, moderating consumption, maximizing the efficiency of use, reuse and recycle. Addressing this issue would be a way to counter the “culture of waste” that ends up affecting the entire planet; although efforts are made daily, the reality is that progress in this regard is still negligible.
Mankind is being called upon to become aware of the need for production, consumption and lifestyle changes, in order to fight global warming or, at least, the human causes that produce and enable it. While there are other factors involved —volcanism, the variations in the orbit and the axis of the Earth or the solar cycle—, many scientific studies show that a large part of the global warming of recent decades was caused by the large concentration of greenhouse gases —maleic carbon, methane and nitrogen oxides, among others—, mainly produced by human activity. Shall this trend continue, our century would bear witness to outrageous climate changes and an unprecedented destruction of our ecosystems, with great consequences for the global population. The rise in sea levels, for example, can create situations of extreme gravity, if one considers the fact that a quarter of the world’s population lives by the sea or very close to it, and most of the mega-cities and cosmopolitan clusters are located in coastal areas. The many signs now visible indicate that these effects will worsen if we continue with our current models of production and consumption. That’s why it has become urgent and imperative to develop policies to drastically reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and other heavily polluting gases in the upcoming years —for example, by replacing the use of fossil fuels and developing renewable energy sources, something that many countries, via individual efforts or ad-hoc alliances, have been developing, although they should advocate for collective efforts.
In many places, groundwater is being threatened by pollution from extractive, agricultural and industrial activities, especially in countries with no proper regulation and/or controls in place. Also, discharges from factories, as well as detergents and chemical products used by the general population in many parts of the world keep ending up in rivers, lakes and seas. While the quality of available water goes downhill, many countries are experiencing a worrying trend: privatizing this scarce resource, thus turning it into a commodity regulated by market laws. Actually, access to clean and safe drinking water is a basic, fundamental and universal human right, since it’s imperative for survival, and therefore is a condition to the exercise of other human rights.
When the environmental impact of any project is analyzed, one usually takes into account its effects on soil, water and air, but not necessarily on biodiversity, as if the loss of some species or animal or plant groups were of little importance or something foreign to this particular biodiversity. Roads, new crops, fences, dams and other structures are overtaking their surrounding habitats, paying little attention to their natural capital, fragmenting it in a way that animal groups can no longer migrate or move freely, and some species thus face the risk of extinction. On the other hand, if we enter the tropical and subtropical seas we’ll find the coral reefs, the underwater version of the Earth’s great forests, since they host about a million species, including fish, crabs, mollusks, sponges and algae, among others. Currently, many of those coral reefs are sterile or in a continuous state of decline. This remarkable situation is due in large part to the pollution that heads to the sea as a result of deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial discharges and destructive fishing methods, particularly those that use cyanide and dynamite.
A DECLINE IN THE QUALITY OF HUMAN LIFE
Uncontrolled and unplanned growth in many cities has turned them into unhealthy environments, due to pollution caused by toxic emissions, urban chaos, transportation problems and visual and acoustic pollution. Many cities are large inefficient structures that use energy and water excessively and inefficiently. Even certain areas that were built recently are congested and disorderly, lacking in green spaces. It’s unlike us to live in this planet increasingly surrounded by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, deprived of any physical contact with nature. When someone as important and highly regarded as the Pope, namely Francis, takes the initiative from the highest leadership calling upon Faith and Belief, and engages in a global call to action via an Encyclical, it means the situation is far more serious than what we previously understood, and it can become even more acute. This is why each and every one of us, both individually and collectively, has to protect, act, promote and raise awareness about taking care of the environment we live in, to preserve the quality of life of the planet’s current population and for its future generations, if we want to ensure its existence. In our daily lives, including the professional aspect, we engage in development actions and projects that promote the highest degree of commitment to environmental care in the tourism, industrial and commercial sectors in the Dominican Republic, so that everyone involved can accurately and effectively protect the country’s rich biodiversity. If each and every one of us carries out these efforts individually, sooner or later they will turn into collective actions that can keep the situation for worsening and eventually make it recede. It’s a long way to go, with problems to solve, mindsets to change and people to educate. These things will only happen if we ourselves become involved.