Earth Day 2020
On Earth Day, Pope Francis calls for action and unity
April 23, 2020
On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Pope Francis called for greater protection for the planet.
During his weekly general audience, the pope described humans’ failure as guardians of the Earth, as seen in our exploitation of resources and damages to ecosystems.
“Because of our selfishness, we have failed in our responsibility to be guardians and stewards of the Earth,” he said. “We have polluted and despoiled it, endangering our very lives.”
Greenhouse gas emissions have warmed the Earth: The last five years have been the hottest on record — and 2020 is expected to be the hottest on record. A warmer globe has been catastrophic for the planet: record wildfires, fiercer hurricanes, megadroughts, displacement of millions.
We must, then, rethink how we approach the Earth. Rather than exploit it for resources, said Francis, we must remember that “we stand on holy ground.”
The pope noted, too, that we are capable of global responses. We have seen collective action in our response to the coronavirus pandemic, “by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst,” he said.
Francis cited the necessity of young people taking to the streets, as well as the importance of international negotiation, drawing attention to two major international conferences coming up — the United Nations Biodiversity Conference and the U.N. 26th Conference of Parties on climate change (COP26), both of which have been postponed due to the coronavirus.
With a nod toward the grassroots activism of Earth Day, the pope also pointed to the benefits of “people at all levels of society [coming] together to create a popular movement.”