Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 10, No. 6, June 2014
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility

Members of the Academies with Pope Francis
Source: Catholic Climate Covenant

This issue is focused on the recent Workshop of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences at the Vatican, 2-6 May 2014, on Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility. The final statement reprinted in full below with links to related information and all the presentations. The list of participants is most impressive and includes representatives of all the biophysical and human sciences, as well as philosophy and theology. There was unanimity that irreversible ecological damage is being done, and it is no longer a matter of damaging individual ecosystems; the entire human-earth system is being degraded. The final statement is clear and forceful, and reportedly will inform Pope Francis' forthcoming encyclical on human ecology.

It is opportune to analyze this important event in the context of the ongoing series in this journal on the family -- both the nuclear family and the entire human family. It is somewhat disappointing that family issues received only marginal consideration by this distinguished group of scholars. There was a presentation on inter-generational solidarity, but nothing is said about other dimensions of solidarity in family life such as nuptial relations, parent-child relations, and inter-gender solidarity. Since the family is widely recognized in Catholic social teaching as the "domestic school" of social and ecological justice, it should have been a central concern of the workshop. It would have been a good opportunity to integrate the results of the 2005 plennary session on Conceptualization of the Person in Social Sciences with analysis of social and ecological ethics. In this regard, the reader may want to check the ongoing series of essays on the family and integral human development:

As Pope John Paul II said, "as the family goes, so goes society, and so goes the world in which we live." Nuptial relations are a central concern of his Theology of the Body, a treatise on theological anthropology which shows that humans are not just objective bodies but also personal subjects, and that we attain our full humanity in inter-personal relationships. Specifically, it shows that (1) the objectification of both the male and female body is to be avoided by recognizing that both men and women are "body-subjects," and (2) that as humans we attain full humanity only to the extent that we become a communion of persons (communio personarum). These fundamental ingredients of integral human development will be further explored in subsequent essays on family life as it pertains to current solidarity and sustainability issues.

It will be argued that all secular and religious institutions based on the patriarchal culture are gradually becoming obsolete in today's world. However, the conservation and transmission of enduring family values is crucial for the transition to a civilization of solidarity and sustainability. Two enduring family values that must be further developed and nurtured are the gift of love and the gift of life. These are the two basic dimensions of the nuptial covenant, and both must be preserved and adapted in response to the signs of the times. After millennia of pervasive cultural conditioning, reflexive patriarchal behavior is a huge obstacle to change. But an irreversible cultural evolution is already underway focused on a holistic understanding of human beings as "body-persons" who need physical sustenance but also need to love and be loved. This cultural evolution must be worked out in the family as the "domestic school" where the integral development of the human person is engendered and nurtured during childhood and adolescence, and brought to fruitful completion in adulthood. For a new civilization of social and ecological justice, nothing is more crucial than a renewal of family life!



Final Statement
Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility
Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences
Vatican City, 2-6 May 2014

Stabilizing the Climate and Giving Energy Access to All with an Inclusive Economy

Humanity has entered a new era. Our technological prowess has brought humanity to a crossroads. We are the inheritors of two centuries of remarkable waves of technological change: steam power, railroads, the telegraph, electrification, automotive transport, aviation, industrial chemistry, modern medicine, computing, and now the digital revolution, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. These advances have reshaped the world economy into one that is increasingly urban and globally connected, but also more and more unequal.

However, just as humanity confronted “Revolutionary Change” (Rerum Novarum>) in the Age of Industrialization in the 19th century, today we have changed our natural environment to such an extent that scientists are redefining the current period as the Age of the Anthropocene, that is to say an age when human action, through the use of fossil fuels, is having a decisive impact on the planet. If current trends continue, this century will witness unprecedented climate changes and ecosystem destruction that will severely impact us all.

Human action which is not respectful of nature becomes a boomerang for human beings that creates inequality and extends what Pope Francis has termed “the globalization of indifference” and the “economy of exclusion” (Evangelii Gaudium), which themselves endanger solidarity with present and future generations.


The advances in measured productivity in all sectors – agriculture, industry and services – enable us to envision the end of poverty, the sharing of prosperity, and the further extensions of life spans. However, unfair social structures (Evangelii Gaudium) have become obstacles to an appropriate and sustainable organization of production and a fair distribution of its fruits, which are both necessary to achieve those goals. Humanity’s relationship with nature is riddled with unaccounted for consequences of the actions each of us take for both present and future generations. Socio-environmental processes are not self-correcting. Market forces alone, bereft of ethics and collective action, cannot solve the intertwined crises of poverty, exclusion, and the environment. However, the failure of the market has been accompanied by the failure of institutions, which have not always aimed at the common good.

Problems have been exacerbated by the fact that economic activity is currently measured solely in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and therefore does not record the degradation of Earth that accompanies it nor the abject inequalities between countries and within each country.  The growth in GDP has been accompanied by unacceptable gaps between the rich and the poor, who still have no access to most of the advancement of the Era. For example, about fifty-percent of available energy is accessed by just one billion people, yet the negative impacts on the environment are being felt by the three billion who have no access to that energy.  Three billion have so little access to modern energy that they are forced to cook, heat and light their homes with methods dangerous to their health.

The massive fossil fuel use at the heart of the global energy system deeply disrupts the Earth’s climate and acidifies the world’s oceans. The warming and associated extreme weather will reach unprecedented levels in our children’s life times and 40% of the world’s poor, who have a minimal role in generating global pollution, are likely to suffer the most. Industrial-scale agricultural practices are transforming landscapes around the world, disrupting ecosystems and threatening the diversity and survival of species on a planetary scale.  Yet even with the unprecedented scale and intensity of land use, food insecurity still stalks the planet, with one billion people suffering from chronic hunger and another billion or so suffering from the hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies.  Tragically, a third of the produced food is wasted, which as Pope Francis said is “like stealing from the table of the poor and the hungry”.

In view of the persistence of poverty, the widening of economic and social inequalities, and the continued destruction of the environment, the world’s governments called for the adoption by 2015 of new universal goals, to be called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to guide planetary-scale actions after 2015. To achieve these goals will require global cooperation, technological innovations that are within reach, and supportive economic and social policies at the national and regional levels, such as the taxation and regulation of environmental abuses, limits to the enormous power of transnational corporations and a fair redistribution of wealth. It has become abundantly clear that Humanity’s relationship with Nature needs to be undertaken by cooperative, collective action at all levels – local, regional, and global.

The technological and operational bases for a true sustainable development are available or within reach.  Extreme poverty can be ended through targeted investments in sustainable energy access, education, health, housing, social infrastructure and livelihoods for the poor. Social inequalities can be reduced through the defense of human rights, the rule of law, participatory democracy, universal access to public services, the recognition of personal dignity, a significant improvement in the effectiveness of fiscal and social policies, an ethical finance reform, large scale decent work creation policies, integration of the informal and popular economic sectors, and national and international collaboration to eradicate the new forms of slavery such as forced labor and sexual exploitation. Energy systems can be made much more efficient and much less dependent on coal, petrol and natural gas to avoid climate change, protect the oceans, and clean the air of coal-based pollutants.  Food production can be made far more fruitful and less wasteful of land and water, more respectful of peasants and indigenous people and less polluting.  Food wastage can be cut significantly, with both social and ecological benefits.

Perhaps the greatest challenge lies in the sphere of human values. The main obstacles to achieving sustainability and human inclusion are inequality, unfairness, corruption and human trafficking. Our economies, our democracies, our societies and our cultures pay a high price for the growing gap between the rich and the poor within and between nations. And perhaps the most deleterious aspect of the widening income and wealth gap in so many countries is that it is deepening inequality of opportunity. Most importantly, inequality, global injustice, and corruption are undermining our ethical values, personal dignity and human rights. We need, above all, to change our convictions and attitudes, and combat the globalization of indifference with its culture of waste and idolatry of money.  We should insist upon the preferential option for the poor; strengthen the family and community; and honor and protect Creation as humanity’s imperative responsibility to future generations.  We have the innovative and technological capability to be good stewards of Creation. Humanity needs urgently to redirect our relationship with nature by adopting the Sustainable Development Goals so as to promote a sustainable pattern of economic development and social inclusion.  A human ecology that is healthy in terms of ethical virtues contributes to the achievement of sustainable nature and a balanced environment. Today we need a relationship of mutual benefit: true values should permeate the economy and respect for Creation should promote human dignity and wellbeing.

These are matters on which all religions and individuals of goodwill can agree.  These are matters that today’s young people around the world will embrace, as a way to shape a better world. Our message is one of urgent warning, for the dangers of the Anthropocene are real and the injustice of globalization of indifference is serious.  Yet our message is also one of hope and joy.  A healthier, safer, more just, more prosperous, and sustainable world is within reach. The believers among us ask the Lord to give us all our daily bread, which is food for the body and the spirit.

Signatories: PASS President Prof. Margaret Archer, Prof. Vanderlei S. Bagnato, Prof. Antonio M. Battro, Dr. Lorenzo Borghese, Prof. María Verónica Brasesco, Prof. Joachim von Braun, Prof. Edith Brown Weiss, Dr. Pablo Canziani, Marco Casazza, Prof. Paul Crutzen, Aisha Dasgupta, Prof. Sir Partha Dasgupta, Prof. Gretchen Daily, Prof. Pierpaolo Donati, Prof. Gérard-François Dumont, Prof. Ombretta Fumagalli Carulli, Juan Grabois, Prof. Allen Hertzke, Prof. Vittorio Hösle, Prof. Daniel Kammen, Emily Kelly, Prof. Charles Kennel, Dr. Anil Kulkarni, Prof. Yuan T. Lee, Prof. Pierre Léna, Prof. M. Ramón Llamas, Dr. Marcia McNutt, Prof. Karl-Göran Mäler, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Mittelstrass, Prof. Walter Munk, Prof. Naomi Oreskes, Alicia Peressutti, Dr. Janice Perlman, Prof. Vittorio Possenti, Prof. Ingo Potrykus, PAS President Prof. V. Ramanathan, Prof. Sir Martin J. Rees, Dr. Daniel Richter, Prof. Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe, Prof. Louis Sabourin, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, PAS/PASS Chancellor Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Prof. Bob Scholes, Matthew Siegfried, Prof. Hanna Suchocka, Prof. Govind Swarup, Msgr. Mario Toso, Prof. Rafael Vicuña, Prof. Peter Wadhams, Prof. Dr. Hans F. Zacher, Prof. Stefano Zamagni.

Sources: Workshop Brochure & Program, PAS/PASS, 2-6 May 2014; Workshop Photos and Presentations, PAS/PASS, 2-6 May 2014; Final Statement, PAS/PASS, 12 May 2014; From the Vatican at Sustainability Conference by Dan Misleh, Catholic Climate Covenant, 13 May 2014; Hefty Global Goals from a Vatican Meeting by Andrew Revkin, New York Times, 15 May 2014; Vatican sustainability summit urges action on ecological devastation by Dan Misleh, National Catholic Reporter, 20 May 2014.


The following are links to some relevant references from Catholic social teaching:

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