"If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation"

The Vatican released excerpts from Pope Benedict's World Day of Peace address for New Year's 2010: Reworking a line from Pope Paul, Benedict says, "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation." "The quest for peace by people of good will surely become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation. In the light of divine Revelation and in fidelity to the Church's Tradition, Christians have their own contribution to make."

Benedict notes that threats to global peace just as often arise from misuse or neglect of the earth's resources as they do from man's inhumanity to man. "For this reason, it is imperative that mankind renew and strengthen that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying . . . Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of 'environmental refugees', people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it - and often their possessions as well - in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources?"

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He argues that responding appropriately to our ecological crisis will aid in addressing the spiritual and moral crisis which propels overconsumption and indifference and challenges global leaders to reconsider long-held beliefs about the role and nature of economic development: "The ecological crisis cannot be viewed in isolation from ... the notion of development itself and our understanding of man in his relationship to others and to the rest of creation. Prudence would thus dictate a profound, long-term review of our model of development, one which would take into consideration the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications. The ecological health of the planet calls for this, but it is also demanded by the cultural and moral crisis of humanity whose symptoms have for some time been evident in every part of the world."

The Jan. 1 address also advocates a "inter-generational solidarity": "Natural resources should be used in such a way that immediate benefits do not have a negative impact on living creatures, human and not, present and future; that the protection of private property does not conflict with the universal destination of goods; that human activity does not compromise the fruitfulness of the earth, for the benefit of people now and in the future."

Overall, Benedict seems to appreciate the global environmental crisis as something of an opportunity to promote solidarity and address industrialized society's consumption compulsion, call it a global deadly sin of gluttony, that trickles down unpleasantly into individual morality. "The ecological problem must be dealt with not only because of the chilling prospects of environmental degradation on the horizon; the real motivation must be the quest for authentic worldwide solidarity inspired by the values of charity, justice and the common good. . . . It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view. ... We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment. This responsibility knows no boundaries. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity it is important for everyone to be committed at his or her proper level, working to overcome the prevalence of particular interests."

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