Pope Says Humans Have ‘Sinned’ Against Planet in Earth Day Message
Francis delivered the remarks during his general audience, which he broadcast from his library because of lockdown measures put in place to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, as Reuters reported. The speech in honor of Earth Day's 50th anniversary comes around two weeks after the pope suggested in an interview that the pandemic might be part of nature's response to the climate crisis.
In his remarks Wednesday, Francis warned that harming the earth put human life at risk.
"There is a Spanish saying that is very clear about this," he said. "It goes: 'God always forgives; we humans sometimes forgive, and sometimes not; the earth never forgives.' The earth does not forgive: if we have despoiled the earth, its response will be very ugly."
First, he praised local and international environmental movements and highlighted youth-led climate strikes. But the pope's message was not only a warning. He also proposed solutions.
"[S]till it will be necessary for our children to take to the streets to teach us the obvious: we have no future if we destroy the very environment that sustains us," he said.
He also held up the knowledge of indigenous communities as an example of an alternative way of interacting with the planet.
"They teach us that we cannot heal the earth unless we love and respect it," he said. "They have the wisdom of 'living well,' not in the sense of having a good time, no, but of living in harmony with the earth. They call this harmony 'living well.'"
He concluded with a call to action both for world leaders and ordinary citizens. He urged leaders to prepare for two major upcoming international conferences: COP15 on Biodiversity in Kunming, China and COP26 on Climate Change in Glasgow, United Kingdom, which has been delayed because of the coronavirus.
For everyone else, he encouraged joining the environmental movement.
"It will help if people at all levels of society come together to create a popular movement 'from below,'" he said. "The Earth Day we are celebrating today was itself born in precisely this way. We can each contribute in our own small way."
Francis' Earth Day remarks build on his efforts to use his office to promote a theology that honors the earth. They come five years after he published a landmark encyclical on climate change called "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," which gave the official Catholic Church seal of approval to the pope's environmental concerns.
Since then, he has urged oil executives to lead the clean energy transition and spoken out for indigenous people threatened by the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. He also has suggested he would add a definition of "ecological sins" to the Roman Catholic Catechism, Reuters reported.
In his Earth Day message, the pope revisited key themes from his encyclical of caring for the earth and the most vulnerable.
"Today we celebrate the fiftieth Earth Day," he began. "This is an occasion for renewing our commitment to love and care for our common home and for the weaker members of our human family. As the tragic coronavirus pandemic has taught us, we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst."
Francis wasn't the only climate leader to offer an Earth Day call to action in the time of coronavirus.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said the response to the virus that causes COVID-19 showed what could happen when world leaders listened to scientists.
"Whether we like it or not, the world has changed," she said in a digital conversation Wednesday with Potsdam Institute Director Johan Rockström, as The Guardian reported. "It looks completely different now from how it did a few months ago. It may never look the same again. We have to choose a new way forward."
"On this Earth Day, please join me in demanding a healthy and resilient future for people and planet alike," he said.
- Pope Francis Says Coronavirus May Be Symptom of Climate Crisis ... ›
- Pope Francis Urges World to Act Fast on Climate Emergency ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The 2020 hurricane season is now expected to be the most active since at least the early 1980s, meteorologists at Colorado State University, a standard bearer for seasonal hurricane predictions, announced Wednesday.
Three years ago, scientists predicted it would happen. Now, new NASA satellite imagery confirms it's true: two ice caps in Canada's Nunavut province have disappeared completely, providing more visual evidence of the rapid warming happening near the poles, as CTV News in Canada reported.
- Climate Explained: What the World Was Like the Last Time Carbon ... ›
- Polar Bears Could Be Nearly Gone by 2100, Study Finds - EcoWatch ›
- Greenland's Ice Sheet Is Melting at Rate That Surpasses Scientists ... ›
By Katell Ané
The European Commission launched a new Farm to Fork strategy in an effort to reduce the social and environmental impact of the European food system. It is the newest strategy under the European Green Deal, setting sustainability targets for farmers, consumers, and policymakers.
Facebook and Twitter removed posts by President Donald Trump and his campaign Wednesday for violating their policies against spreading false information about COVID-19.
- Rare Inflammatory Disease Linked to More Than 100 Childhood ... ›
- COVID-19: What Experts Think About Reopening Schools - EcoWatch ›
- Teens and Tweens Are Fastest COVID-19 Spreaders, New Study ... ›
- Researchers Are Creating a Drone to Study Wild Dolphins With Help ... ›
- These Whales Are Suffering a Slow-Motion Extinction - EcoWatch ›
By Alexander Freund
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab says he believes Tuesday's explosion in Beirut could have been caused by large quantities of ammonium nitrate stored in the port.
What Is Ammonium Nitrate?<p>Ammonium nitrate is a white crystalline salt that can be fairly cheaply produced from ammonia and nitric acid. It is soluble and often used as fertilizer, as nitrogen is needed for healthy plant development.</p><p>Ammonium nitrate in its pure form is not dangerous. It is, however, heat sensitive. At 32.2 degrees Celsius (89.96 degrees Fahrenheit), ammonium nitrate changes its atomic structure, which in turn changes its chemical properties.</p><p>When large quantities of ammonium nitrate are stored in one place, heat is generated. If the amount is sufficiently vast, it can cause the chemical to ignite. Once a temperature of 170 C is reached, ammonium nitrate starts breaking down, emitting nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas. Any sudden ignition causes ammonium nitrate to decompose directly into water, nitrogen and oxygen, which explains the enormous explosive power of the salt.</p>
Deadly Disasters<p>As ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive chemical, many countries strictly regulate its use. Over the past 100 years, there have been several disasters involving the chemical.</p><p>In 1921, for example, a massive blast occurred at a BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. About 400 metric tons of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate exploded, killing 559 people and injuring 1,977. The plant was largely destroyed in the blast, which could be heard as far away as Munich, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) distant.</p><p>In 2015, explosions caused by ammonium nitrate ripped through the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/china-convicts-dozens-for-last-years-giant-explosions-in-tianjin/a-36324321" target="_blank">Chinese port city of Tianjin</a>. Eight hundred metric tons of the chemical were said to have been stored along with other substances in a warehouse for hazardous materials. The blasts killed 173 people and destroyed an entire city district.</p><p>Two years earlier, in 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company site in Texas, killing 14 people. And in 2001, 31 people died in Toulouse, France, in an explosion caused by the chemical.</p>
Terrorist Favorite<p>In Germany, the purchase and use of ammonium nitrate is regulated by the explosives act. This is because the cheap, highly explosive and relatively easily obtainable material has in the past been used by terrorists to carry out attacks.</p><p>For example, in 1995, U.S. conspiracy theorist and gun enthusiast Timothy McVeigh used a mixture of ammonium nitrate and other substances to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik also used ammonium nitrate in a car bomb attack in Oslo in 2011.</p>
- 5 Ways to Keep Unhealthy Nitrates and Nitrites Out of Your Body ... ›
- The Price of Our Fertilizer Addiction - EcoWatch ›
- 8 Disturbing Facts About Monsanto's Evil Twin—The Chemical ... ›
By Michelle D. Holmes
Most Americans know about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans primarily through their colorful representations: the original food pyramid, which a few years ago morphed into MyPlate. The guidelines represent the government mothering us to choose the healthiest vegetables, grains, sources of protein, and desserts, and to eat them in the healthiest portions.
As innocuous as the food pyramid and MyPlate seem, they are actually a matter of life and death.
- 6 Powerful Ways to Improve Mental Health - EcoWatch ›
- New, Improved Vegetarian and Vegan Food Pyramid - EcoWatch ›
- Dr. Mark Hyman: Here's How the Food Pyramid Should Look ... ›