Article nine: The Environment
The Goodness of the Created Order
311. And God saw that it was good (Gn 1:25). These words from the first chapter of the Book of Genesis reveal the meaning of what God has done. To men and women, the crown of the entire process of creation, the Creator entrusts the care of the earth (cf. Gn2:15). This brings concrete obligations in the area of ecology for every person. Fulfillment of these obligations supposes an openness to a spiritual and ethical perspective capable of overcoming selfish attitudes and lifestyles which lead to the depletion of natural resources.
(Ecclesia in America, n. 25)
312. The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.
(CCC, n. 2415)
313. Everyone certainly knows that in some parts of the world there is an imbalance between the amount of arable land and the size of the population, and, in other parts, between the fertility of the soil and available farm implements. Consequently, necessity demands a cooperative effort on the part of the people to bring about a quicker exchange of goods, or of capital, or the migration of people themselves.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 101)
314. [N]atural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their availability not only for the present generation but, above all, for generations to come…. We all know that the direct or indirect result of industrialization is, ever more frequently, the pollution of the environment, with serious con sequences for the health of the population. Once again it is evident that development, the planning which governs it, and the way in which resources are used must include respect for moral demands. One of the latter undoubtedly imposes limits on the use of the natural world. The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to `use and misuse,’ or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the tree (cf. Gn 2:16 17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be vio lated with impunity.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 34)
315. We seem to be increasingly aware of the fact that the exploitation of the earth, the planet on which we are living, demands rational and honest planning. At the same time, exploitation of the earth not only for industrial but also for military purposes and the uncontrolled development of technology outside the framework of a long term authentically humanistic plan often bring with them a threat to man’s natural environment, alienate him in his relations with nature and remove him from nature.
(Redemptor Hominis, n. 15)
316. Equally worrying is the ecological question which accompanies the problem of consumerism and which is closely connected to it. In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way. At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which un fortunately is widespread in our day. Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and, in a certain sense, create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can take arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though the earth did not have its own requisites and a prior God given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray. Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him. In all this, one notes first the poverty or narrowness of man’s outlook, motivated as he is by a desire to possess things rather than to relate them to the truth, and lacking that disinterested, unselfish and aesthetic attitude that is born of wonder in the presence of being and of the beauty which enables one to see in visible things the message of the invisible God who created them. In this regard, humanity today must be conscious of its duties and obligations towards future generations.
(Centesimus Annus,n. 37)
317. While the horizon of man is thus being modified according to the images that are chosen for him, another transformation is making itself felt, one which is the dramatic and unexpected consequence of human activity. Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming, in his turn, the victim of this degradation. Not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace pollution and refuse, new illness and absolute destructive capacity but the human framework is no longer under man’s control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family. The Christian must turn to these new perceptions in order to take on responsibility, together with the rest of men, for a destiny which from now on is shared by all.
(Octogesima Adveniens, n. 21)
318. In addition to the irrational destruction of the natural environment, we must also mention the more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves. Although people are rightly worried though much less than they should be about preserving the natural habitats of the various animal species threatened with extinction, because they realize that each of these species makes its particular contribution to the balance of nature in general, too little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic `human ecology.’ Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man, too, is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed. In this context, mention should be made of the serious problems of modern urbanization, of the need for urban planning which is concerned with how people are to live, and of the attention which should be given to a `social ecology’ of work.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 38)
319. As one called to till and look after the garden of the world (cf. Gn 2:15), man has a specific responsibility towards the environment in which he lives, towards the creation which God has put at the service of his personal dignity, of his life, not only for the present but also for future generations. It is the ecological question ranging from the preservation of the natural habitats of the different species of animals and of other forms of life to `human ecology’ properly speaking which finds in the Bible clear and strong ethical direction, leading to a solution which respects the great good of life, of every life. In fact, the dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to `use and misuse,’ or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to `eat of the fruit of the tree’ (cf. Gn2:16 17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity (SRS, n. 34).
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 42)
320. Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business, and they guarantee employment.
(CCC, n. 2432)
321. The promotion of human dignity is linked to the right to a healthy environment, since this right highlights the dynamics of the relationship between the individual and the society. A body of inter national, regional, and national norms on the environment is gradually giving juridic form to this right. But juridic measures are by them selves not sufficient…. The world’s present and future depend on the safeguarding of creation, because of the endless interdependence between human beings and their environment. Placing human well being at the center of concern for the environment is actually the surest way of safeguarding creation.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1999, n. 10)
322. The development of industry and of the various sectors connected with it, even the most modern electronics technology, especially in the fields of miniaturization, communications and telecommunications and so forth, shows how vast is the role of technology, that ally of work that human thought has produced, in the interaction between the subject and the object of work (in the widest sense of the word)…. [T]echnology is undoubtedly man’s ally. It facilitates his work, perfects, accelerates and augments it. However, it is also a fact that, in some instances, technology can cease to be man’s ally and become almost his enemy, as when the mechanization of work supplants him, taking away all personal satisfaction and the incentive to creativity and responsibility, when it deprives many workers of their employment, or when through exalting the machine, it reduces man to the status of its slave.
(Laborem Exercens, n. 5)
323. The present generation knows that it is in a privileged position: progress provides it with countless possibilities that only a few decades ago were undreamed of. Man’s creative activity, his in telligence and his work, have brought about profound changes both in the field of science and technology and in that of social and cultural life. Man has extended power over nature and has acquired deeper knowledge of the laws of social behavior…. Today’s young people, especially, know that the progress of science and technology can produce not only new material goods but also a wider sharing in knowledge…. The achievements of biological, psychological and social science will help man to understand better the riches of his own being…. But side by side with all this, or rather, as part of it, there are also difficulties that appear whenever there is growth.
(Dives in Misericordia, n. 10)