Pope is right on target: We all have responsibility to respect creation Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009 -- 1:00 AM

As the United Nations climate summit gets underway in Copenhagen this week, Pope Benedict XVI was right on target — as usual — in giving some advice to the delegates from around the world attending the summit in Denmark.

The Holy Father said he hoped the December 7 to 18 conference would identify policies that “respect creation and promote a cooperative development founded on the dignity of the human person and oriented toward the common good.”

editor's view by Mary C. Uhler

It’s everyone’s responsibility

The pope also put responsibility to protect creation on the shoulders of all citizens of the world. “The protection of creation demands the adoption of lifestyles that are sober and responsible, especially toward the poor and future generations.”

Often called the “Green Pope,” Pope Benedict XVI has repeated calls for simpler lifestyles and he has said that solutions to the earth’s environment problems must involve everyone. The pope practices what he preaches. He has taken steps to reduce the Vatican’s carbon footprint, including installation of solar panels on top of the papal audience hall and participation in a reforestation project in Hungary.

A Catholic News Service article on the Copenhagen conference quoted Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who said that implementing new policies “will depend on the aggregate behavior of all of us inhabitants of the earth.”

Father Lombardi pointed out that people today have grown too used to shifting ecological responsibility to others. They need to see themselves as protagonists in the defense of the environment, he said. He noted that many problems today were caused in part by human behavior and decisions, including drought, air pollution, water contamination, soil erosion, rainfall modification, and even hurricanes.

I agree that sometimes we think global problems, such as those affecting the environment, are out of our control. We wonder what effect one person can have on all of the created world.

What we can do to help the earth

But there are things we can do individually and as communities to help the earth. In checking the Internet, I found a list of 30 things that each of us can do to improve the environment prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Here are some of the suggestions for individuals (for more, visit

• Keep your vehicle in good condition or buy a new car; 1994 and newer cars emit much less pollution than older models. (Note: Cars contribute about one-third of the emissions that cause ground-level ozone pollution.)

• Plant and preserve trees in your home or neighborhood. (People identify with the rain forests, forgetting the value of trees near their homes.)

• Use a bicycle or walk to do errands or to commute to work rather than driving a car.

• Bring your own bags to the market; buy used goods; attempt to throw away nearly nothing.

• Save water by putting a brick in your commode tank.

• Use less air conditioning.

• Teach children, by example, to clean up their rooms and clean up after themselves. These simple habits, embraced when young, will influence their adult behavior.

• Substitute safer products such as non-solvent based paints. Use vinegar or detergents for household cleaning. Share leftover paint with places such as city fix-up projects.

Suggestions for communities

Some suggestions for communities include:

• Facilitate bicycle riding by providing safe bike lanes, signaling, and public support for such travelers.

• Create litter pick-up groups to keep areas beautiful all year round.

• Clean up local parks, streams, and roads and plant bushes and flowers on roadway islands.

• Encourage park managers and individuals to use less pesticides on lawns.

Let’s pray for the success of the Copenhagen summit and consider ways we can follow the Holy Father’s call to take responsibility for the world around us. We can take small steps today to help ensure a brighter future for ourselves and succeeding generations.