This was affirmed today by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, before the Second Committee of the 63rd session of the U.N. General Assembly.
"It is often said that we have to defend the environment," the archbishop said. "The term 'defense' could mislead us to see a conflict between the environment and the human being. In this forum, we speak of 'protection' or 'safeguarding.'
"Indeed, in this case, protection encompasses more than defense. It implies a positive vision of the human being, meaning that the person is considered not a nuisance or a threat to the environment, but as its steward.
"In this sense, not only is there no opposition between the human being and the environment, but there is an established and inseparable alliance, in which the environment essentially conditions the human being's existence and development, while the latter perfects and ennobles the environment by his creative activity."
Archbishop Migliore considered the principle of the "responsibility to protect" in regard to the environment.
"Applying this principle to environmental issues and associating it with the protection of the global climate actually gives the international community an opportunity to reflect on different aspects that can help promote an authentic human development," he said.
The Holy See represented mentioned three such aspects.
"The responsibility to protect the climate requires us to further deepen the interactions between food security and climate change, focusing on the centrality of the human person, in particular on the most vulnerable populations, often located in rural areas of developing countries," he said.
The archbishop added: "Secondly, the responsibility to protect the climate should be based on the alliance between the principles of subsidiarity and global solidarity. In a world so interconnected as today, we are witnessing the rapid expansion of a series of challenges in many areas of human life, from food crisis to financial turmoil. Such crises have revealed the limited national resources and capacities to deal with them adequately, and the increasing need for collective action by the international community. […]
"Thirdly, it should be borne in mind that the environmental question cannot be considered separately from other issues, like energy and economy, peace and justice, national interests and international solidarity."
Archbishop Migliore affirmed, however, that today's society cannot adequately respond to the duty to protect the environment "if it does not seriously review its lifestyle, its patterns of consumption and production."
"There is, therefore, an urgent need to educate in ecological responsibility, based on the fact that many ethical values, fundamental for developing a peaceful society, have a direct relationship to the environmental question," he said. "Conversely, the interdependence of the many challenges that the world faces today confirms the need for coordinated solutions based on a coherent moral vision of the world."