Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
May 7, 2001
Environment, economy linked
Quebec bishops issue plea to hear cries of the earth and the poor
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
MONTREAL — Environmental devastation and the struggle of the poor for a more equitable distribution of the world's resources are interrelated issues that should be of concern to Catholics, said Quebec's bishops.
``The Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor,'' an eight-page document issued by the social affairs committee of the Quebec Assembly of Bishops as their traditional May Day message, calls on Catholics to stop thinking of environmental degradation as a scientific problem and to wake up to the serious social consequences of ongoing ecological destruction.
The challenges of desertification, biosphere imbalances, climatic changes and pollution are not just scientific and technical issues, but also ``political challenges that affect the lives of workers at home and abroad, particularly in the developing world,'' said the Quebec bishops, referring to the 1987 report of the World Commission on Development and Environment. The report affirmed that the one crisis facing humankind is environmental — and is at the root of all other problems facing the world's population.
``We must all hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, the cry of the dispossessed and the distress of an earth ravaged by excessive consumerism,'' warned the bishops.
Their comments echoed statements by the Canadian bishops earlier in April regarding talks on a hemispheric free trade zone at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City.
The Canadian bishops affirmed then that the liberalization of trade and investment must be accompanied by measures to protect poor communities and the environment.
The Quebec bishops drew particular attention to the situation in the developing world, where, they said, the environment and local populations are destabilized by the demand for land to grow export crops.
Such demands result in intensive monocultural farming, driving poor communities off their lands to settle in urban areas, and thus destroying traditional ways of life.
To complete the cycle of social and environmental destruction, they said, poverty results in pollution, as poor people, dispossessed of their traditional ways of life, end up being reduced to destroying their environment simply to survive.
In Quebec, the bishops pointed to intensive fishing practices that have threatened to deplete the seas, threatening the livelihood of those who work in the industry. Forests are suffering from irresponsible companies' failure to adequately replant, they said.
Environmental degradation hits native communities even harder than others, the bishops said.
``The same problems are felt even more acutely by native peoples, who not only rely on the earth for subsistence, but also have strong cultural and spiritual dimensions in their relationship with the earth.''
Behind much ecological damage is an ``unbridled race toward self-enrichment'' that disregards the needs of the peoples of the earth, they said.
``It is vital to make the link once again between economy and ecology and to bring environmental and social costs into the equation of economic costs, for example, the cost of pollution and social problems generated by certain projects,'' the bishops said.
Otherwise, they added, ``We will be witness to the privatization of profits and the sharing of costs among all.''
To counter the current trends, the bishops called for improved impact studies before the implementation of large-scale development projects and increased public debates on the issues and how they will affect communities. They also encouraged Catholics to work to get environmental issues in the school curriculum.
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