NEW YORK, MAY 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Good environmental policies are by extension good people policies too, said the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations as he advocated a “human ecology.”
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, in an address last Thursday to a session of the U.N. Economic and Social Council’s Commission on Sustainable Development, affirmed that “Only the integration of environmental and developmental concerns into policy-making and a committed political follow-through will lead to the improvement in living standards for all, while assuring our world’s environmental future.”
After criticizing “the irrational destruction of the natural environment,” the archbishop added that “there has been the more serious destruction of the human environment.”
“Although people are rightly worried about preserving natural habitats,” noted Archbishop Migliore, “too little effort has been made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology.”
Such an ecology will place the human person “at the center of environmental concerns, while simultaneously promoting an urgent sense of human responsibility for the earth, be it at the level of states, commerce or individuals,” the Holy See official said.
Pointing out some key environmental problems, the prelate mentioned water first.
“Within 20 years the reserves of water per person will be a third of what they were in 1950 and, by 2025, a third of the world’s nations will have catastrophically low levels of water,” warned Archbishop Migliore, 53.
“Even today, 34,000 people die every day for lack of clean water,” he said. “One and a half billion people do not have access to clean water, a figure which could rise to 3 billion by 2025.
“This is already a humanitarian and environmental crisis, as well as a question of social justice. Encouraging change in consumption patterns and in increasing access to water supply and sanitation is also a matter of developmental common sense, since both yield very high rates of return, making them extremely attractive from a social investment standpoint.”
Related to the above is another “essential question, that of food security.”
In the last three years, “there has actually been an increase in the numbers of hungry people, although in world terms the general picture appears to have improved,” commented the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations.
“There can be little doubt that changing climactic conditions have had an impact here,” he said. “We can no longer pretend that human activity has little or no impact on these matters.”
According to Archbishop Migliore, energy is an essential element to achieve the objectives of sustainable development.
“With more than 1.6 billion people still lacking access to electricity worldwide and 2.4 billion using traditional biomass,” he said, “improving access to reliable, affordable and environmentally-friendly energy services is a major challenge to poverty eradication and the achievement of the MDGs,” or Millennium Development Goals.
The prelate also reminded of the “urgent need to transform global energy systems,” stating that “the development of renewables continues to be a human, ecological, economic and strategic necessity and should have a priority in public research projects.”
In this situation, Archbishop Migliore said that “the dovetailing of environmental and developmental concerns with commercial and industrial policy-making will surely lead to a safer, more prosperous future for all.”
“No nation can achieve this alone,” he added, “but member states working together can and must do so, if sustainable patterns in these fields, essential to our common future, are to be assured.”