The environment, sustainable development, and the place of man in the world were the topics of a recent statement to the United Nations given by the Apostolic Nuncio leading the Holy See's permanent observer mission.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore explained the moral concern at the heart of environmentalism. Emphasizing man's capacity for stewardship, he countered the mentality of some within the environmentalist movement that see man as a nuisance or a threat to the environment. Between the human being and the environment there is "an inseparable alliance, in which the environment essentially conditions man’s life and development, while the human being perfects and ennobles the environment by his or her creative activity," he stressed.
He highlighted the need to balance economic growth with the grave responsibility of protecting the environment: "While the duty to protect the environment should not be considered in opposition to development, it must not be sacrificed on the altar of economic development. My delegation believes that, at its core, the environmental crisis is a moral challenge."
The archbishop also explained that real development cannot be limited purely to concerns about providing for people materially. "Development is not achieved through a mere quantitative increase of production, but through a balanced approach to production, respect for the rights and dignity of workers, and environmental protection," he said.
Increasing responsibilities must accompany the expanding capacity for human power over nature, he claimed.
Archbishop Migliore related environmental concerns to energy policy, economics, peace and justice, national interests, and international solidarity. Lamenting the disproportionate impact of environmental degradation on the poor, he noted their desperate efforts to make a livelihood often adversely impact the environment. "Extreme want is not only the worst of all pollutions; it is also a great polluter."
The archbishop closed his speech by recommending personal commitment, education, equity between rich and poor, and by calling on large-scale industries to accept their special responsibility for the environment.