Laudato Si, written by Pope Francis, is a call for awareness and education in regard to the environment. It analyses the effects on the environment brought on by human intervention and reflects on the bond between them, urging, ultimately, a more harmonious relationship that has a more positive affect on both humans and the environment. Humans have, in fact, impacted the environment negatively. One way that they’ve done this is through the conduct of warfare. Many aspects of warfare leave lasting scars on the environment, from fuel emissions because of war factories and vehicles to oil spilled into the ocean as a result of naval combat. In this essay, I’m going to reflect on two specific examples of war-related events that have made an impact on the environment to draw a connection to Laudato Si’s message of awareness and education when it comes to environmental protection and conservation. One will cover the affects of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center, and the other will examine the possible effects of a nuclear bomb on the environment, primarily by looking at the Chernobyl incident. But first, allow me to establish a summary of some of the basic ideas behind Laudato Si, for it is within this context that this essay will analyze the connection between its message and the environmental effects of war acts.
Pope Francis made a call to human society, urging people to recognize the seriousness of the health of our environment, in Laudato Si. “This sister 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,” says the Pope. This refers, of course, to the direct harm that humans are causing every day to the environment in a variety of ways. The Pope encouraged people to listen practically to the research that the scientific community has produced on this matter. He encouraged people to “[Listen] spiritually to the results of the best scientific research on environmental matters available today, letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows”. He points out specific problems that need to be overcome. He talks about pollution that causes health problems and premature deaths. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he claims in a bold statement. He also points out that water is an invaluable resource when it comes to human health. Dirty water is a major problem, therefore, that the Pope believes needs to be addressed. “Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right,
since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human
rights” In short, Pope Francis highlights the fact there are incredibly detrimental issues brought about by human actions that negatively affect the environment. One way that that might occur is through the conduct of war. (Laudato Si).
One such incident that may be referenced is that of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. The terrorists essentially weaponized two airplanes into improvised bombs to crash into the two towers. Not only did people die as a result of the attack, but there were environmental effects as well. This led many people in the surrounding area to develop health problems. Not only did 90,000 L of jet fuel burn to create a massive plume of smoke, but, when the towers collapsed, particles of crushed concrete, dust, glass fibers, asbestos, lead, and other materials, flooded the lower part of Manhattan in giant clouds of smoke and debris (Landrigan). This is what caused a lot of health problems, a lot of it relating to the respiratory system and even cancers. When the World Trade Center Health Program was created, it received over 80,000 applicants who sought treatment. 10,000 of those were living in the immediate area surrounding the towers (Ramsey).
Nuclear weapons also pose an immense threat to the environment, and are one of the most highly debated weapons ever created. They were only deployed in combat twice against the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but nuclear war today, on even a small scale, would be catastrophic.
Another good example of how even a singular nuclear bomb could affect the environment could the Chernobyl disaster. Though a nuclear power plant, and not a bomb, it provides some very unique insights into the affects of radiation on both people and animals alike.
Laudato Si calls to the forefront the effects of human habitation and influence on the environment, and warfare is certainly one way that the environment can be harmed in the short term and long term. The two examples provided show that there is an environmental consequence to acts of war, and that there are weapons today that, if used, could be catastrophic to not just local ecosystems, but the planet as a whole. It is all the more reason, perhaps, to heed the warnings of scientists and the wisdom of those who urge a greater awareness and bond to our environment, such as Pope Francis, so that our planet may never suffer such dire circumstances.