In his latest Apostolic Exhortation, Laudate Deum, released on October 4th, 2023, Pope Francis has sent a resounding message about humanity’s relationship with Nature. Titled “Laudate Deum: Apostolic Exhortation on the Climate Crisis,” the publication speaks to the urgent need for a paradigm shift in our perception and relationship with Nature. This transformative message aligns closely with the principles of the Rights of Nature, demonstrating the Church’s growing commitment to this important cause.
In his exhortation, Pope Francis unequivocally states: “Contrary to this technocratic paradigm, we say that the world that surrounds us is not an object of exploitation, unbridled use, and unlimited ambition. Nor can we claim that Nature is a mere ‘setting’ in which we develop our lives and our projects. For ‘we are part of Nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it,’ and thus ‘we [do] not look at the world from without but from within’.”
These words underscore a fundamental shift in perspective – a recognition that humanity is not separate from Nature, but an integral part of it. This acknowledgment emphasizes that human life, intelligence, and freedom are essential elements of the natural world, contributing to the planet’s equilibrium and vitality.
Pope Francis further emphasizes the importance of the interaction between human beings and the environment, drawing inspiration from Indigenous cultures that have maintained harmonious relationships with Nature for centuries. He asserts that the technocratic paradigm has disrupted this harmony, presenting a profound challenge to our planet.
This perspective resonates with the vision of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GARN) that has been echoing the message Indigenous People have been saying for centuries, that Nature is our mother and we are part of Nature; hence the essence of the movement that states that Nature is not an object you can exploit but a subject you respect with inherent rights. In September, GARN’s Indigenous Council’s chairwoman, Casey Camp Horinek, aptly stated during Climate Week in New York: “We humans are not protecting Nature; we are Nature protecting itself.” GARN has been at the forefront of advocating for the Rights of Nature, emphasizing that Nature is not a resource to be exploited but a living entity deserving of rights and protection.
Notably, a year ago, GARN Executive Committee Member and Latin America Hub representatives and Argentinian environmental lawyers, Enrique Viale and Rafael Colombo, had the privilege of discussing the Rights of Nature with Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican City in Rome.
During the meeting, Pope Francis affirmed the importance of recognizing Nature as a subject of rights rather than a mere object. His support for the Rights of Nature was evident, reinforcing the vital need for an eco-social pact in the Global South to address the pressing environmental challenges facing the region.
Enrique Viale and Rafael Colombo recounted the Pope’s encouraging words: “He told us to continue fighting.” This reaffirmation from the Supreme Pontiff is a powerful endorsement of the Rights of Nature movement and the imperative shift from an anthropocentric worldview to one that prioritizes living in harmony with Nature while respecting her intrinsic rights to sustain her vital cycles.
Pope Francis’ “Laudate Deum” offers a profound call to action, underscoring the urgency of adopting a new perspective towards our relationship with the environment. As the Church lends its support to the Rights of Nature, it strengthens the global movement working tirelessly to recognize Mother Earth’s rights and foster a brighter future for all living beings.