Pope Francis on Tuesday railed against humanity's exploitation of natural resources and pursuit of endless growth as he urged people across the world to act with the urgency young people worldwide have demanded to protect the Earth and build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.
The pope's call came in a written message to mark the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and in which he urged people to view the "disintegration of biodiversity, spiraling climate disasters, and unjust impact of the current pandemic on the poor and vulnerable" as "a wakeup call in the face of our rampant greed and consumption."
"Our constant demand for growth and an endless cycle of production and consumption are exhausting the natural world," he said. "Forests are leached, topsoil erodes, fields fail, deserts advance, seas acidify, and storms intensify. Creation is groaning!"
Francis framed the Covid-19 crisis as having "given us a chance to develop new ways of living" and "brought us to a crossroads" at which societies can choose "to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections, and activities that are life-giving."
In addition to reiterating his call for debt cancellation for poor countries, the pope said the post-pandemic recovery packages being crafted by lawmakers "must be regeneration packages."
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"Policy, legislation, and investment must be focused on the common good and guarantee that global social and environmental goals are met," he said.
The pope stressed the need to meet the Paris climate accord goals to stave off "catastrophic" impacts of the planet's heating. "Climate restoration is of utmost importance, since we are in the midst of a climate emergency. We are running out of time, as our children and young people have reminded us," he added.
He further called on leaders to work "to stem the alarming rate of biodiversity loss" and expressed hope the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity—set for next May in Kunming, China—could be "a turning point in restoring the Earth to be a home of life in abundance."
The new message also called for strengthened regulation of "the activities of extractive companies" to "ensure access to justice for those affected," especially Indigenous communities.
Young climate activists and those "on the frontlines in responding to the ecological crisis," drew praise from Francis. "They are calling for a Jubilee for the Earth and a new beginning, aware that 'things can change,'" he said.