The relationship between humanity and the environment is a foundational aspect of human identity. This in turn, is illustrative of humanity’s deeper relationship with God. Scripturally, creation is always an object of praise. Salvation is perceived as a new creation. While wounded by sin, the world is destined to undergo a radical purification that will make it a renewed world and a place of righteousness. Just as we as humans are made once more whole by the power of Christ, so to the whole of creation participates in the renewal that flows from Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.
This scriptural and theological understanding represents an essential reference point for evaluating the problems found in the relationship between humanity and the environment.
Care for the environment is a challenge for all of humanity. The environment belongs to the common good, and care for it arises from a common and universal duty. It is not the singular duty of a particular nation, but a common responsibility. This responsibility for what is in fact our common heritage extends not only to the present, but also to the future. It is a responsibility we have towards those who come after us.
To meet this responsibility, the right to a safe and healthy environment should find expression on a juridical level. Politically and socially, economic development must include careful consideration of the need to respect the integrity and cycles of nature so as to conserve natural resources that are by definition limited. The maximization of profit cannot be the primary objective. Also, as developed nations, through the use of technology and science, seek to utilize natural resources, they must pay particular attention to the relationship of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources for such a relationship expresses their fundamental identity.
The social doctrine of the Church reminds us that the goods of the earth were created by God to be used by all. These goods must be shared by all in accordance with justice and charity.
For an more extensive discussion of this, refer to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Nos. 461-481