by Fr. Fred Kammer, S.J.
Environmental consciousness in the Church received a strong kick-start with Pope John Paul's 1990 World Day of Peace message Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation and in a number of statements from national and regional conferences of bishops in recent years. While there had been some environmental activism from the Catholic Rural Life Conference and other grassroots Catholic groups and Church leaders at the local, national, and international levels prior to 1990, it intensified in the years that followed.
In his own 2008 World Day of Peace message The Human Family, A Community of Peace, Pope Benedict XVI returned to this theme bringing into the discussion the concept of a “covenant between human beings and the environment” [no. 7]. In his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the Holy Father develops this theme further in a threefold responsibility that is part of the human relationship to the environment: “a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations, and towards humanity as a whole” [no. 48]. This care too is a part of our “vocation” as humans and proper human development projects consequently “cannot ignore coming generations, but need to be marked by solidarity and inter-generational justice…” [no. 48]. Pope Benedict, in framing the environmental concerns in terms of covenant has taken a giant step in moving us from just the “stewardship model”—which positions humans over-against the rest of creation—to a more adequate and updated approach that would take seriously the solidarity that extends beyond the human species to other forms of life and their habitats.
As part of this responsibility, the Pope focuses his attention on the problem of energy in today’s world—an important consideration for those in Louisiana and the Gulf South, for example, where our economy is closely tied to realities of oil and gas—by decrying hoarding by some nations and stockpiling that gives rise to exploitation and frequent conflicts between and within nations. He urges increased solidarity between developing countries and those that already are highly industrialized, lowering energy consumption, increased research into alternative forms of energy, and redistribution of energy resources [no. 49]. With regard to the overall global environment, Pope Benedict emphasizes the concepts of responsible stewardship, duties to future generations, international joint action, transparency and accountability for using up shared resources, and strengthening the “covenant between human beings and the environment” [no. 50]. As the Pope notes, we often treat ourselves in the same destructive ways that we treat the environment, and effective stewardship of creation calls for a shift from a consumerist mentality to profoundly changed life-styles reflective of creation’s beauty and our social responsibilities. Benedict also underscores how many of the world’s resources are “squandered by wars!” [no. 51]
In this last point Benedict lines up strongly with the Catholic tradition which proclaims a double connection between war and violence, on one hand, and economic injustice. First, persistent injustice and poverty gives rise to violence and war. Second, wars (hot or cold) squander great resources (human, financial, and scientific) that could be used for integral human development and care for all of creation.
 See, for example, U.S. Catholic Bishops, Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching (November 14, 1991) and Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, the Common Good (June 15, 2001); The Dominican Episcopal Conference, Pastoral Letter on the Relationship of Human Beings to Nature (January 21, 1987); The Catholic Bishops of the Philippines, What Is Happening to Our Beautiful Land? (January 29, 1988); Indiana Catholic Conference, Care for the Earth (February, 2000); Catholic Bishops of the Boston Province, And God Saw That It Was Good (October 4, 2000); and Twelve U.S. and Canadian Bishops, The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good (February 22, 2001).
 Thomas Massaro, S.J., “The Future of Catholic Social Teaching,” in Blueprint for Social Justice, Volume LIV, No. 5, January 2001, pp. 1-7, at 6.
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