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People must care for creation or face self-destruction, pope says

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VATICAN CITY — When it comes to safeguarding creation, there is no time to waste — humanity either must live up to its responsibility or continue on a path of self-destruction, Pope Francis said, commemorating Earth Day with a video message.

The pope appealed to world leaders to "act with courage, work with justice and always tell people the truth, so that people know how to protect themselves from the destruction of the planet, how to protect the planet from the destruction that many times we trigger."

The pope's recorded message was aired as part of "Earth Day Live: Restore Our Earth," a global livestreamed event April 22 sponsored by EarthDay.org.

Bringing together dozens of experts, activists, educators, researchers, musicians, artists and influencers, the event sought to "explore the natural processes, emerging green technologies and innovative thinking that can restore the world's ecosystems," according to its website. More than 8.5 million viewers watched last year's livestream, it said.

Addressing viewers in Spanish, the pope thanked them for what they were doing, for their "good intentions" and for gathering together for the virtual event.

While there has been growing awareness for a long time about the need to protect and care for nature, especially God's gift of biodiversity, humanity must do so with "the utmost attention and respect," he said.

The global COVID-19 pandemic, in fact, has shown what happens when the world comes to a standstill, even just for a few months, he said, referring to scientific reports that estimated carbon emissions fell by between 14 percent and 17 percent at the peak of the global lockdowns in early 2020, with a total drop of six percent in global CO2 emissions for 2020, according to a 2021 report by the International Energy Agency. However, CO2 output emissions are on the rise again with December 2020 output being two percent more than the same month in 2019, the IEA said.

The pope said the pandemic has shown the "sadly positive impact" humanity has on nature — how people can cause damage, but also how the environment "needs our lives on this planet."

It shows how everyone counts and "also teaches us even more what we must do to create a planet that is just, equitable and safe from an environmental point of view," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how interdependent everything is, he said, as humanity must share the planet.

"Global disasters, COVID and the climate all show that we do not have time to wait," that time is ticking and yet, "we have the means to face the challenge," he said.

But the time to act is now, he added; "we are at the limit."

"We will be more resilient if we work together instead of doing it alone," Pope Francis said. "The adversity we are experiencing with the pandemic, and which we already notice with climate change, must spur us, must push us toward innovation, invention and to seek new pathways."

People have a choice to come out of a crisis "better or worse," he said. "This is the challenge, and if we do not come out of it better, we are taking a path of self-destruction."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021