22 June, 2015
By Ruud Lubbers
In 2015, the U.N. will agree on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change will offer nations the opportunity to make a choice for Our Common Future. Pope Francis has just gone on record with Laudato Si’; the Encyclical Letter on Care for Our Common Home.
This gives me an immense joy. As a Roman Catholic, born in 1939, I have lived my life according to the teachings of Christ, my beliefs based on Love as His most important lesson. Also, I have been greatly influenced by Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit cited by the Pope in Laudato Si’, whose Le Phénomène Humain taught me in terms of science what our history and future is about.
During my life I have had the fortune to raise my children to become aware of our misbehavior in relation to nature. In that time, Europe – in particular the Rhine area with Rotterdam as its main port – was recovering from the Second World War and industrializing thanks to the generous American Marshall Plan. While recovery was impressive, it came at the cost of the environment and nature. It was an important lesson for me to respect nature, Our Common Home.
Almost 50 years ago, the Club of Rome published Limits to Growth and I entered politics to contribute to sustainable growth, prioritizing the quality of life above simply growth as an end in itself. It was what I thought my children, then teenagers, deserved.
Shortly after, I met Gro Harlem Brundtland, then the Environment Minister (in Norway), while I was at the time the Minister for the Economy (in the Netherlands).
Later, the two of us became Prime Ministers of our respective countries and were together in Rio de Janeiro at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the Earth Summit in 1992, trying to give shape and substance to Our Common Future. It was there where NGOs and indigenous people convinced us to try and create the Earth Charter.
In the following years, people like Leonardo Boff, invited to go into silence by the Roman Catholic Church because of his Liberation theology, joined the effort, and now in 2015, the Pope, who chose to be named after Francis of Assisi, has written history with his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’.
Only two generations after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Pope has made history by inviting mankind to the joyful celebration of life, contributing to the awareness needed to make a new start to achieve Our Common Future and to leave behind a period of self-destruction due to unsustainable growth and the lack of care for Our Common Home.