When we talk about the environment, about creation, my thoughts turn to the first pages of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, which states that God placed man and woman on earth to cultivate and care for it. And the question comes to my mind: What does cultivating and caring for the earth mean? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it?
The popes have spoken of human ecology, closely linked to environmental ecology. We are living in a time of crisis: we see this in the environment, but above all we see this in mankind … Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the ‘culture of waste.’
–Pope Francis to the crowds of pilgrims and visitors to St. Peter’s Square this week
He went on to stress what has become a recurrent theme for him: the contrast between how culture views the well-being of the financial world with the well-being and needs of the poor and the homeless.
If you break a computer it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs, the dramas of so many people end up becoming the norm. If on a winter’s night, here nearby in Via Ottaviano, for example, a person dies, that is not news. If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that’s not news, it seems normal. It cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities, is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash. Our grandparents used to make a point of not throwing away leftover food. Consumerism has made us accustomed to wasting food daily and we are unable to see its real value. Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hunger.
Since taking office in March, Pope Francis has said he wants the 1.2-billion-strong Roman Catholic Church to defend the poor and to practice greater austerity itself. He has also made several calls for global financial reform. Around 1.3 billion tons of food, or one third of what is produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted every year, according to the United Nations’ food agency.
If more Christians thought this way, the world would be a different place.