Among today's positive signs we must also mention a greater realization of the limits of available resources, and of the need to respect the integrity and the cycles of nature and to take them into account when planning for development rather than sacrificing them to certain demagogic ideas about the latter. Today this is called ecological concern... Nor can the moral character of development exclude respect for the beings which constitute the natural world, which the ancient Greeks alluding precisely to the order which distinguishes it–called the “cosmos”. Such realities also demand respect, by virtue of a threefold consideration which it is useful to reflect upon carefully.
1. The first consideration is the appropriateness of acquiring a growing awareness of the fact that one cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate, animals, plants, the natural elements simply as one wishes, according to one's own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system, which is precisely the “cosmos”.
2. The second consideration is based on the realization which is perhaps more urgent that natural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their availability not only for the present generation but above all for generations to come.
3. The third consideration refers directly to the consequences of a certain type of development on the quality of life in the industrialized zones. We all know that the direct or indirect result of industrialization is, ever more frequently, the pollution of the environment, with serious consequences for the health of the population.
Once again it is evident that development, the planning which governs it, and the way in which resources are used must include respect for moral demands. One of the latter undoubtedly imposes limits on the use of the natural world. The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to “use and misuse”, or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to “eat of the fruit of the tree” shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity. A true concept of development cannot ignore the use of the elements of nature, the renewability of resources, and the consequences of haphazard industrialization, three considerations which alert our consciences to the moral dimension of development. (Section 34)
Development which is merely economic is incapable of setting man free; on the contrary, it will end by enslaving him further. (Section 46)
Human behavior sometimes is the cause of serious ecological imbalance, with particularly harmful and disastrous consequences in different countries and the globe as a whole... The Creator has put man in creation, charging him to administer it for the sake of the good of all, thanks to his intelligence and his reason. We can therefore be certain that even a person's tiny good actions have a mysterious effect of social change and contribute to the growth of all. On the basis of the covenant with the Creator, towards whom man is called over and over to return, each one is invited to a deep personal conversion in his or her relationship with others and with nature.
Address to the Seminar on "Science for Survival and Sustainable Development," March 12, 1999