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Conference on „Radical Ecological Conversion After Laudato Sì“

Logo Konferenz Laudato Si

Logo Konferenz Laudato Si, © Botschaft beim Hl. Stuhl


Sponsored by the Embassies of Georgia, Germany and the Netherlands to the Holy See in collaboration with the Pontifical Gregorian University, and the Joint Diploma in Integral Ecology Group of the Pontifical Universities, a conference on „Radical Ecological Conversion After Laudato Sí: Discovering the Intrinsic Value of all Creatures, Human and Non-human“ took place on March 7 – 8 at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

The conference brought together priests, religious, scholars and teachers to discuss the implications of the Holy Father’s teaching in Laudato si’ on the intrinsic value of all creatures for the Academy, the Church, and Society. The speakers highlighted the urgent necessity to re-order human society and the economy so as to respect the natural order of Creation. A radical ecological conversion is needed to reverse climate change and preserve life on Earth. People should be aware that creatures do not only have value in relation to humankind (instrumental value), but that every creature also has intrinsic value. From the smallest to the largest organisms, every creature is valuable in itself and all life is interconnected.

The conference was convened and organised by a group of theologians and the ambassadors to the Holy See of Georgia, Germany and the Netherlands.

In the following, you find the key notes of the conference. The contributions of the speakers can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

1. Call for more nature reserves

The speakers agreed that more nature reserve areas are needed on earth. Enric Sala (National Geographic Society) pointed out that he would like to have 50 % of the world’s surface as nature reserve in order to give species sufficient space in peace and to preserve biodiversity. A planetary ethic that affirms the right of creatures to continue to thrive should be created and „ecocide“, the mass killing of other creatures, should become a crime.

2. The necessity to introduce a coal tax and a carbon tax

Ottmar Edenhofer (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) explained that cheap coal was the driver of a so-called „re-carbonisation“ of the energy system in some parts of the world. He also warned about the „renaissance of coal“ as it is inconsistent with the 2 °C target. The speakers agreed that mitigating climate change will bring down economic costs more significantly than unabated climate change. Molly Scott Cato (MEP/Greens) pointed out that the most powerful and direct way to put a price on carbon is introducing a European carbon tax. This carbon tax would lead to the necessary reduction in global carbon emissions.

3. The current destruction of nature and species will lead to their extinction and migration

Michael Northcott (University of Heidelberg, Germany) reported a 78% decline in insect populations in protected area measurement sites from 1989 to 2013 and an 89% decline in ocean mammal and fish populations since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Chris Southgate expects that a rise of 3 °C would lead to a 20-50% loss of species including 25-60% of all mammals.  Protected areas would be the best way to save endangered species. A whole complex of other economic, technological and socio-political measures needs to be put in place to mitigate the impact of climate change and to prevent mass extinction. Cardinal Peter Turkson pointed out that from a theological point of view the destruction of nature is an ecological sin.

4. Learning from indigenous peoples how to live in harmony with other species

Indigenous peoples teach us about how an environmental equilibrium can be restored and that there is a universal human responsibility to take care of creatures. For millennia indigenous peoples have lived in harmony with the Earth. Their knowledge can help us to live within the Earth’s ecological limits and their traditional environmental wisdom could show a way to a sustainable use of local biodiversity, to modest water use and to ensure food security. Alberto Alejo (Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines) showed that ecological awareness and resource management are fields where indigenous peoples might be role models for other societies. Therefore indigenous peoples should have the right to own land. Sophia Chirongoma (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe) criticized that Pope Francis did not make any reference to all of the women who suffer from gender injustice. The fact that the majority of those who suffer social, economic and environmental injustices are women is lacking according to Chirongoma. Hence she would like the Pope to look at the connection between ecological destruction and the exploitation endured by women.

Conference contributions

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