Behind the Papal Call for "Ecological Conversion"

John Paul´s View Stresses Man´s Vocation, Says Antonio Gaspari

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ROME, JAN. 18, 2001 (
John Paul II´s call for an «ecological conversion» has caused a stir in the world media.

For more insight into the issue raised by the Pope at his Wednesday general audience, ZENIT interviewed Antonio Gaspari, an Italian journalist and director of the specialized agency Green-Watch News, who has written numerous books on the subject of environmentalism.

Referring to the Book of Genesis on Wednesday, John Paul II explained that God gave man dominion over nature. The Pope added, however, that the Creator did not make man an «autonomous despot.» His mission is a «call to continue with the work of the Creator, a work of life and peace.»

Thus, the Holy Father proposed that this «conversion» should be reflected in a «human ecology … that will make the life of creatures more dignified.»

«When the Pope speaks of a ´human ecology,´» Gaspari said, «he is referring to a specific ethical idea according to which the ecosystem´s balance, and the defense and health of the environment, exact responsibility on man´s part in the use of scientific and technological knowledge, as instruments to cure the scourges of hunger and sicknesses, and protect humanity from natural disasters.»

This view is different to that of some radical ecological groups, which regard man as the greatest danger to nature. Gaspari explained: «These are points of view that are diametrically opposed. While the Holy Father calls for greater ethical responsibility on the part of people, these ecological associations refer to man as the ´cancer of the planet.´ While the Pontiff denounces the scandal of hunger in a world in which God has given us a great number of resources, those organization call for demographic control in the poorest regions of the planet, in the name of a lack of environmental resources.»

«In yesterday´s audience,» Gaspari continued, «John Paul II stressed the vocation of man and woman, created in the image of God, who have received the mission to ´be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, subjugating it, and having dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all beings that live on the earth.´ It is a lordship that is not absolute, but delegated by God.

«On the contrary, some ecological associations tend to eliminate every ontological difference between man and other living beings, thus canceling man´s higher responsibility in relation to other natural realities.»

During the presentation of his latest book, «From Malthus to Green Racism — The Authentic History of the Birth Control Movement,» e-mail ( ), Gaspari appealed for an «optimistic ecology.»

«This is a manifesto, underwritten by scientists and university professors, in which an idea of the defense of the environment is expressed in line with the ´human ecology´ proposed by the Holy Father,» Gaspari explained. «This is a government of creation founded on a more optimistic idea of man and his potential. Man who is a blessing and not a curse for the planet, not impoverishment but wealth for the world. Man whose origin inspires hope and not despair, both for the rest of humanity as well as for creation.

«I think this manifesto comes close to the hope expressed by the Pontiff, so that ´men and women will once again walk in the garden of creation, making the goods of the earth available to all and not just to the privileged few.´»

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