December 15, 2009
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY - Industrialized nations must recognize their responsibility for the environmental crisis, shed their consumerism and embrace more sober lifestyles, Pope Benedict said on Tuesday.
The pope's call for more environmental commitments came in his message for the Roman Catholic Church's annual World Day of Peace, to be marked on Jan 1 and whose theme is "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation."
The message is traditionally sent to heads of state, government and international organizations and its importance this year is more significant because its release coincided with the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen.
"It is important to acknowledge that among the causes of the present ecological crisis is the historical responsibility of the industrialized countries," he said in the message.
While saying that developing countries "are not exempt from their own responsibilities with regard to creation," and had a duty to gradually adopt effective environmental measures, the bulk of his criticism was aimed at rich nations.
Speaking of the need for all nations to address the issue of energy resources, he said:
"This means that technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency."
He said no nation or people can remain indifferent to problems such as climate change, desertification, pollution, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions.
Environmental concerns too often took a back seat to what he called "myopic economic interests," adding the international community and governments had a moral duty to "send the right signals" to effectively combat misuse of the environment.
"Humanity needs a profound cultural renewal; it needs to rediscover those values which can serve as the solid basis for building a brighter future for all," he said.
"Our present crises -- be they economic, food-related, environmental or social -- are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated."
He called on all people to "move beyond a purely consumerist mentality" so that they could "rethink the path which we are traveling together" and adapt "a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity" between the haves and the have nots.
Environmental issues deserved the attention of the world community because the were human rights issues that could influence the right to life, food, health and development.
"Sad to say, it is all too evident that large numbers of people in different countries and areas of our planet are experiencing increased hardship because of the negligence or refusal of many others to exercise responsible stewardship over the environment," he said.