By Lisa Zengarini

Apr 23 2024

On World Earth Day 2024, Pope Francis reminds everyone of our duty to protect the planet and safeguard peace.

As the world marked Earth Day on Monday, Apr 22, Pope Francis reiterated his urgent plea for bold action for our common home and for world peace.

The international day was established in 1970 to raise awareness about the critical environmental challenges facing our planet, and to mobilize efforts to address them.

The observance provides an opportunity for individuals, communities, organizations, and governments to come together and engage in activities to repair and heal ecosystems, combat climate change, and preserve biodiversity so as to preserve the planet for future generations.

World not doing enough

In a post on his X social media platform (formerly known as Twitter), Pope Francis noted that his generation has bequeathed many monetary riches to later generations, but has done little to protect the planet.

He also commented on the link between current environmental problems and the many conflicts raging throughout the world.

“Our generation has bequeathed many riches, but we have failed to protect the planet and we are not safeguarding peace. We are called to become artisans and caretakers of our common home, the Earth which is “falling into ruin.” #EarthDay

The Pope’s post echoed his words in the 2015 Encyclical Laudato si‘ on care of our common home and its call for individuals, communities and governments to care for nature.

 

2024 Earth Day for a plastic-free world

Each year, Earth Day has a specific theme to draw global attention on pressing environmental issues. Under the banner “Planet vs. Plastics,” this 54th edition is focused on plastic pollution and on the urgent need to reduce its use and production.

Beyond its environmental implications, the proliferation of plastics poses a significant threat to human health, akin to the challenges posed by climate change.

400 million metric tons of plastic produced annually

Humans produce over 400 million metric tons of plastic annually, which is roughly the weight of all human beings on the planet.

Only 9% gets recycled, and about 22% of plastic waste worldwide is either not collected, improperly disposed of, or ends up as litter.

As plastics degrade into microplastics, they release toxic chemicals into ecosystems, contaminating oceans (where over 1 million metric tons end up every year), food and water sources, and endangering all forms of life.

Detrimental effects on environment and human health

This year’s campaign, therefore, prioritizes spreading awareness about these detrimental effects. It calls for increased research into the health implications of plastic exposure and advocates for transparency in sharing findings with the public.

The immediate aim of the campaign is to swiftly eliminate single-use plastics by 2030 and to embed this commitment within the United Nations Treaty on Plastic Pollution by 2024, ensuring global cooperation in tackling this pressing issue.

The longer-term aim is to obtain 60 percent reduction in plastic production by 2040 so as to safeguard both human and environment health. To this end the campaign, also emphasizes the importance of investing in innovative technologies and materials to pave the way for a plastic-free world. – Vatican News