Symposium Focuses on Christian View of Ecology

Warns That Biodiversity Is Being Annihilated

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, SEPT. 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A symposium on the "Christian Spirituality of Ecology" raised a warning that biodiversity is being irreversibly annihilated.

Participants from 16 countries gathered for the Aug. 21-24 symposium in Buenos Aires. The event was convoked by the Justice and Solidarity Department of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM).

In a concluding statement, the symposium participants expressed concern over "the growing process of concentration of the ownership of land in a few hands, threatening peoples' territories." 

Part of this threat, they added, is due to the fact that "an economic logic prevails of mere self-interest or profit, in deterioration of the good living of peoples." 

In this sense, the participants expressed concern over "the frequent occurrence of corrupt acts in the process of concession of territories without due consultation of the peoples who inhabit them." 

The statement noted that "the enormous biodiversity of Latin America and the Caribbean offers environmental services for the whole planet, a fact that transcends the present mercantile significance and offers true benefits." 

It added, "This biodiversity is being irreversibly annihilated: In Amazonia alone just over 17% of the jungle has disappeared and the rate of extinction of species is 1,000 times higher than the historical."

The participants warned: "We are witnessing a growing environmental destruction through deforestation, contamination due to industrial and urban residues, opencast mining, extensive mono-cultivation, the growth of desertification, extraction of hydrocarbons, among other things, which also affect vital resources such as fresh water and natural provision of foods for peoples, especially among the poorest."

Unbridled consumption

They pointed out that "the prevailing lifestyles of unbridled consumption in a portion of humanity entails a lack of balance between the growing demand for natural resources -- renewable and non-renewable -- and the availability of land -- together with the risk of the annihilation of biodiversity -- as well as the exhaustion of low-cost energies that threaten the development of societies in the mid-term."

The statement affirmed that "different environmental catastrophes on the planet, both natural as well as manmade, in the last decades prove this" and "cause numerous displaced peoples and environmental refugees, which generates even more poverty."

Added to this is "the prevailing economic activity in technologically developed cultures, under the logic of efficiency, maximization of earnings in a few hands and socialization of losses, characterized by the neglect of the sacred and spiritual dimension of nature -- as part of the loving creation of God, source of life -- and of the gratuitousness of the goods and services offered by it," it added (Cf. "Caritas in Veritate" 37). 

The statement highlighted "the lack of responsibility in the management of the sources of energy and natural resources that are being exhausted under processes of unsustainable production and consumption, which do not assume the environmental costs present and end up being paid by the poor, endangering the survival of present and future generations." 

Faced to this reality, the participants reaffirmed their faith "in a loving God, Creator of all that exists, who is the only Lord of the earth."

They continued: "He has entrusted this creation to human beings, faces of the qualities of their Creator, for its protection and cultivation. Sustained on this is the principle of the universal destiny of goods.

"From it is derived the logic of the gift and gratuitousness that must govern human relations and activities, among them, the economic, under the form of responsible use of the environment in order to promote and guarantee the common good for all human beings, as well as beauty, goodness and truth present everywhere in the gift of creation (Caritas in Veritate 50, 51)."

The participants underlined the need to preserve "the qualities that guarantee the vital prolongation and richness of biodiversity on earth." 

To do this, they stated, ecclesial tasks, catecheses, preaching, celebrations and other pastoral, technical, academic and professional activities "must be oriented to fostering ecological conversion as an integral dimension of the faith."

St. Francis of Assisi

Likewise, they added, "experiences of cosmic fraternity must be fostered in contact with God the Creator, in the dynamic that inspired St. Francis of Assisi, patron of ecology."

The statement affirmed, "Popular spirituality, personal and community prayer, inculturated liturgical celebrations and the profound living of the sacraments in an ecological key, are privileged places to experience the action of God's Spirit and the free initiative of his love."

In this sense, it underlined "the need to know better and to accept the age-old wisdom of the indigenous peoples of our continent; above all of their experience of faith that enables us to learn their relationship of harmony and communion with God, human beings, nature and the other beings of creation."

"This implies cultivating a contemplative attitude vis-a-vis the goods of creation as gifts of God," the statement added.

As prophetic Church, the participants affirmed, "it is urgent to prioritize an economy of human needs that is just, has solidarity, and is reciprocal, and of policies of integral human development that respect the right of peoples and preserve the vital qualities of the natural environment."

To do so, they explained, "it is necessary to denounce the negative impact of mega economic projects and infrastructure, as well as to promote and demand the monitoring of business, state and civil projects, shedding light on illegal and immoral situations."

They urged, "We must find mechanisms of influence on national and international powers in defense of human rights."

The statement concluded that in local communities, in the framework of the continental mission of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, and especially in the family, the domestic Church, there must be a "task to promote a culture of austerity/sobriety, simplicity and joy as healthy and ecological alternative, both individual as well as collective, through organic, eco-friendly production, and responsible consumption, recycling, the adequate use of goods and education in respect for nature that makes possible present conditions of social justice and the life of future generations."