Broadcast live from the Australian Catholic University in Rome, Father Joshtrom Kureethadam of the Vatican led a dynamic conversation centered on raising Indigenous voices ahead of the United Nations biodiversity conference later this year. Led by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Vatican COVID-19 Commission,  experts shared wisdom, understanding, experiences, and ideas from each other and from biodiversity knowledge disciplines to educate, advocate and inspire the protection and restoration of biodiversity in advance of the COP15 meeting in 2022.

Jacqui Remond, Amy Echeverria, and Lindlyn Moma  moderated the event, responding to the first goal of Laudato Si’: hearing and responding to the cry of the Earth. Viewers were encouraged to participate fully in the process of listening, discerning, and moving toward action, inspired by Laudato Si’

“Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right” (LS 33).

Did you miss this event? Watch it here:
Speakers’ main reflections:

Angela Manno, award-winning artist, led the opening prayer, “Responding to the Cry of the Earth,” featuring several endangered species recounting their unique stories. The honeybee, for example, mentions a few of the staple crops that would be wiped out with its disappearance, and reminds us that it has intrinsic value in my own right, not just its use to humans. Angela’s prayer concluded,  “Today we pray with and for creation as we cry out: no more biodiversity collapse!”  

Sr. Alessandra Smerilli, FMA, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, highlighted that, “Together following this ecological and synodal path, we discover more vividly the purpose and meaning of our interconnectedness, with each other, with all creation, and with our Creator.” She explained that we are on a seven-year journey with seven goals and seven groups (categories) of people that are committed to putting Laudato Si’ into practice. She concluded by emphasizing that, “It is crucial that we turn our thoughts into action.”

Theresa Ardler, Research Indigenous Liaison Officer at Australian Catholic University, Director and Owner of Gweagal Cultural Connections, shared how the deeply-rooted traditions of Indigenous Peoples are in tune with an interconnected dance shared by all of creation, constantly communicating in simple and complex ways. She reminded us that, “Protecting and managing our ocean is a custodial and inter-generational responsibility.” She illustrated  how whales have rich lives and complex behaviors, and have a culture of care and connection, and spoke of numerous examples of how our actions are destroying biodiversity, stating: “Our land has been destroyed. Our Mother has been taken away from us.”  Theresa reminds us that integral ecology is not something that we do, but who we are.

Greg Asner, the director of ASU’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, illustrated how climate change has been accelerating for decades, as shown by intensifying natural disasters that are driven by a combination of human drivers, and the interaction of those with natural feedbacks. It is also deeply connected to the unraveling of our natural capital–our biodiversity, which is driving the marginalization of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. He noted that, “The impacts of climate change on an island and its people are among the most profound on the planet.” To tackle climate change, Greg urges, “We must draw on lessons from the past and fuse that knowledge with technologies of the future.”

Dr. Vandana Shiva, Founder of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India and President of Navdanya International, began by stressing that, “We cannot allow the idea that our relatives are the property of the poison-makers…who are saying, ‘God, move over!’” She went on to mention that saving the seed, the very continuity of life on Earth, and protecting biodiversity will now be seen as an international crime.  Dr. Shiva also mentioned the wisdom of those most connected to the Earth and our traditions, and stressed that, “We are biodiversity. We are made of the oxygen that the Earth and the forests give us. We are made of the food that the seeds give us…we are the sun, we are plants, we are the forests. There is no separation.” 

Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, Head of the Vatican’s Ecology and Creation Office, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, reflected on three themes as we face the destruction of life: compassion, conversion, and contemplation. For compassion he drew upon scripture, comparing how water, the loaves, the fishes, the hills, and all of the elements of the Earth must be allowed to enter into our lives. He stated that ecological conversion is “a change in mentality and our hearts. Moving from control and domination to letting go, with an openness to encounter creation and to welcome nature’s gift, turning to a contemplative gaze. Every creature is a living image of God.”  He expanded on ways that we put our ecological conversion into practice in our daily lives by finding joy in nature and how we relate to others.  For contemplation, Fr. Joshtrom focused on our awareness that Earth is a living organism.  

“We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet” (LS 19).

Lyndlin Moma, Laudato Si’ Movement’s Director of Advocacy, spoke about how biodiversity is declining faster than any other time in history. However, we have an opportunity to reverse these adverse impacts. She shared the videos below and mentioned what other concrete actions we can take for biodiversity: biodiversity collapse: 

Learn more about the Laudato Si’ Action Platform by joining Laudato Si’ Week from May 22-29

Sign the Healthy Planet, Healthy People petition 

Commit to divesting from fossil fuels

“All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents” (LS14).

Related videos:
No more biodiversity collapse
Join the Laudato Si’ Action Platform