VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI dedicated a portion of his new social encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), to the urgent duty to share the earth’s resources equitably and safeguard the environment for future generations.
He criticized states, organizations and companies that hoard nonrenewable fossil fuels.
Not only does the stockpiling of natural resources hinder the development of poorer nations, but it “gives rise to exploitation and frequent conflicts between and within nations,” he said.
“The international community has an urgent duty to find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of nonrenewable resources, involving poor countries in the process, in order to plan together for the future,” he said.
Energy resources must be redistributed justly around the world, not left to “whoever is first to claim the spoils, or whoever is able to prevail over the rest,” he said.
By achieving greater energy efficiency, using alternate forms of energy, and cutting fossil fuel use, industrialized countries should be able to free up enough energy resources for poorer nations to use toward development, he said.
There is enough room on this earth for everyone, the pope said, including for future generations to live with dignity, but that cannot come about with reckless exploitation. The earth’s natural resources must be managed and used wisely and equitably for authentic human development for today and future generations, he said.
Individuals living in cultures that are “prone to hedonism and consumerism” must change their mentality and adopt new lifestyles, the pope said, so that “the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments.”
Most importantly, he said, the decisive factor in protecting the environment “is the overall moral tenor of society.”
If society does not respect human life from its conception to its natural end, “if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology,” he said.
A society will have great difficulty in promoting the environment when its very own laws, policies and educational systems do not even respect and protect its own members, he said.
The environment, life, sexuality, marriage and social relations are inextricably united, he said, noting “the book of nature is one and indivisible.”
People have the duty to safeguard all of creation – human life and the natural world – and “it would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling the others,” he said.