ROME — Human beings have despoiled the earth, sinned against the earth, and “its response will be very ugly,” Pope Francis said Wednesday in a message for Earth Day 2020.
We have “failed to care for the earth,” we have “sinned against the earth,” the pope said during his Wednesday audience. “And how does the earth react?”
“There is a Spanish saying that is very clear about this. It goes: ‘God always forgives; we humans sometimes forgive, and sometimes not; the earth never forgives,’” he warned, departing from his prepared text. “The earth does not forgive: if we have despoiled the earth, its response will be very ugly.”
The pontiff has declared that the Wuhan coronavirus is “nature’s response” to humanity’s failure to address the “catastrophes” wrought by human-induced climate change.
Asked earlier this month whether the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for an “ecological conversion,” the pontiff reasserted his conviction that humanity has provoked nature by not responding adequately to the climate crisis.
“We did not respond to the partial catastrophes. Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that a year and a half ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods?” he asked.
“I don’t know if it is nature’s revenge, but it is certainly nature’s response,” he added.
Similarly, in late March Francis asserted that the coronavirus outbreak is nature’s cry for humans to take better care of creation.
Asked whether the pandemic is nature’s way of taking “revenge” on humanity, the pontiff suggested that nature is screaming for attention.
“Fires, earthquakes … nature is throwing a tantrum so that we will take care of her,” he said.
On a number of occasions, the pope has repeated this thought. Last December, he said that natural disasters such as a severe storm that struck northern Italy in the fall of 2018 are nature’s way of sounding an alarm to make us more environmentally engaged.
“These are events that frighten us,” Francis said. “They are alarm signals that creation sends us, which summon us to immediately take effective decisions to safeguard our common home.”
In 2015, Francis became the first pope in history to devote an entire encyclical letter to the issue of care for the environment, in which he decried human exploitation of nature.
The earth “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her,” Francis wrote. “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”