Cardinal Turkson: We must reverse degradation of our oceans and seas

29 November 2019
Image: Pixabay.


Cardinal Peter Turkson addresses the International Maritime Organisation’s General Assembly. The theme for this 31st regular session is “Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, spoke on Wednesday at the 31st Regular Session of the International Maritime Organisation’s General Assembly. This session, which is being held at IMO headquarters in London, is aimed at finding more effective measures and marshalling greater resources toward the conservation and sustainable use of our oceans, seas and marine resources.

The danger of growing carbon emissions

In his opening words to the General Assembly on Wednesday, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Peter Turkson extended to delegates Pope Francis’ appreciation “for the IMO’s commitment to develop measures to control emissions from the shipping sector.”

The Cardinal said that “this places shipping at the forefront of efforts to decarbonise the global economy and promote investments in clean energy for sustainable shipping.”

Growing carbon dioxide emissions, Cardinal Turkson underlined, “increase the acidity of oceans, as oceans absorb at least a quarter of emitted carbon dioxide.”

If these present trends continue, he added, “this century may well witness an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.”

The Prefect praised the IMO’s new regulations that mandate cleaner burning fuels at sea to reduce sulphur emissions. But, he underlined, “we also need to recognise how much detergents and chemical pollutants continue to pour into our rivers and into seas and oceans.”

Five guiding principles

During his speech, the Cardinal focused his attention on five guiding principles. The first, he said, is a moral imperative to take care of our environment. “The environment is a gift entrusted to our responsible stewardship.”

The second guiding principle, Cardinal Turkson pointed out, “is what Pope Francis calls integral ecology.” “The term articulates the fundamental multidimensionality of our relationships: with one another, with the environment as a whole, and with the Creator who has given us the gift of nature,” he said.

The Cardinal stressed that a “crisis of the environment necessarily means a crisis for humanity. A crisis of our oceans and seas necessarily means a crisis for us, especially, the people of the sea and local fishers.”

The third principle, he said, “is the need for an integrated approach to finding solutions to problems that are not merely environmental but also social.”

Ethical considerations, he underlined, “must be integrated in our scientific approaches to environmental issues, because environmental deterioration and human and ethical degradation are closely linked.”

Fundamental role of Education

As a fourth principle, Cardinal Turkson emphasised the fundamental role of education. “Educating all from an early age about the marvels of nature leads to loving and caring for it,” he said.

“Education is all the more necessary in places where public service in proper waste disposal is either scarce or absent.”

Arriving at the fifth guiding principle, the Cardinal stressed the “need to dialogue and collaborate at all levels that can lead to common international, national and local decision-making, policy and action. We must bring into the conversation about the health of our oceans and seas the specific contributions of individuals and societies, State institutions and civic organisations,” he said.


Before taking his leave, Cardinal Turkson made reference to the issue of migration. “Sea-borne migrants and refugees are not a new phenomenon,” he noted.

“Throughout the ages, people around the world have risked their lives aboard un-seaworthy crafts, whether in search of work, better living conditions or international protection against persecution or other threats to their life, liberty or security. Today, let us not forget those migrants seeking to flee from conflicts, growing poverty caused by environmental degradation, natural disasters.”

Wrapping up his speech, Cardinal Turkson said, “we can and must reverse the degradation of our oceans and seas. This vast blue realm is God’s gift for us.”

The International Maritime Organisation’s General Assembly runs from the 25 November to 4 December.

With thanks to Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.


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