III. Work and the new challenges of nature
The environment becomes an issue as soon as it is understood as a common good value.
Multiple dangers degrade the environment because of human activity. Some examples:
—Transportation: airplanes consume 173 g/km of CO2 per passenger, 150 g/km for private cars.
—The oceans: the acidification of the oceans has increased by 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
—Waste: 20 billion tons of waste is dumped into the oceans every year
—Biodiversity: more than a quarter of the species listed by the IUCN are threatened with extinction
—Resource depletion: the world’s coal reserves are estimated at 150 years based on current consumption.
A. Man’s work must be in harmony with the environment
As the air, the aquatic environment, but also the terrestrial environment is affected by man’s work, it is necessary to build an environmental ethic.
Religions already value behaviors in favor of the environment. By avoiding waste, by taking care of nature, by respecting it, man approaches the will of God. Thus Islam recommends:
“If the end of the world should come when one of you is holding a plant in his hand, then if he can plant it before the end of the world, let him do it!”
In the same way, the Catholic religion advocates the respect of the Creation:
“Placing the good of the human being at the center of attention to the environment is actually the surest way to safeguard creation.”
Pope John-Paul II
Scientific reflection also tends to reconsider the environment. The biologist René Dubos (1901–1982) is at the origin of the United Nations Environment Program. By environment, it is not only a question of understanding what is outside the species, but also what is proper to the species.
“The environment must be considered in a broad sense, that is to say, it must include not only the inert and living environment outside the species, but also the inert and living environment within it, that is to say, the ecological niche that each species’ fashions and the members that compose it. Thus, with respect to its environment, every species must be considered both in its parts and its whole.