THE BLOG

Pope Francis: A Spokesman for Our Planet

This could be a great week for Planet Earth.

The confluence of Pope Francis's first visit to the United States and the United Nations' acceptance of 17 Sustainable Development Goals make this week a potential tipping point for our planet.

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Photo by Cristián Samper ©WCS.

On June 18, Pope Francis issued an encyclical on the environment.

In it, Francis messages to the Roman Catholic Church's 1.2 billion followers and to all: "I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all."

He adds: "Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded."

There are countless appeals from Francis beyond this encyclical advising us all that we have an obligation to be mindful stewards of our planet. Advising that everything in this world is connected. Especially, caring for the environment and caring for the poor.

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Photo ©Julie Larsen Maher

When Francis speaks to Congress and the United Nations this week, as he did in Havana recently, this call for all of us to be responsible will no doubt be a part of his message to this country.

And the timing is perfect.

This week, the UN is expected to confirm 17 Sustainable Development Goals, also known as The Global Goals. These goals are our planet's agenda. They are our work plan "for people, planet and prosperity."

The 17 goals range from ensuring sustainable use of natural resources, to taking action on wildlife trafficking, to ending hunger and achieving food security.

While the Sustainable Development Goals are not solely about conservation, the work of conservationists can play a key role in achieving many of these goals. For example, ending hunger and achieving food security can be tackled by working diligently to conserve terrestrial wildlife and freshwater and coastal fisheries. These resources, if well managed, are essential for food security and can act as insurance to smooth consumption during economic, health, and climatic shocks.

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Photo by Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS.

Conservation work, while focused on wildlife and the environment, has the effect of protecting the air, water, and land, which are vital for ensuring a healthy environment for all life. The connection between nature and people is as strong a force as gravity.

This link between nature and people is core to the message of Francis and the Sustainable Development Goals.

With the United Nations accepting these global goals and with a spokesperson like Francis for our planet, this week could end up being a game changer for Earth -- or as the Pope calls it, "our common home."