Yesterday, following the close of the Vatican's sustainability summit, Pope Francis shared with a crowd in Rome an argument grounded in Catholic teaching for a heightened need for environmental protection, in the face of rampant degradation and climate change.
[T]he gift of knowledge helps us to avoid falling prey to excessive or incorrect attitudes. The first lies in the risk of considering ourselves masters of Creation. Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.
...We are Custodians of Creation. But when we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: “I don’t like it!. This is not good!” “So what do you like?” “I like myself!” – Here, this is sin! Do you see? Custody of Creation is custody of God’s gift to us and it is also a way of saying thank you to God. I am the master of Creation but to carry it forward I will never destroy your gift. And this should be our attitude towards Creation. Safeguard Creation. Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!
The full transcript of the Pope's speech can be seen here. The Pope's words can be interpreted to be a comment on climate change specifically—on how human actions are threatening to radically reshape the global ecosystem. But Pope Francis' words also apply to environmentalism more broadly.
Though in his term so far Pope Francis has developed a reputation for breaking with tradition, his respect for nature is not an example of that, says Think Progress:
The pontiff’s catechesis and the Vatican’s summit appear to be part of a renewed effort by the Catholic church to draw attention to environmental issues. Keeping with a long history of Catholic environmentalism (including several pro-environmentalist sermons delivered by Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor), Francis addressed climate change in his inaugural mass as pope, and is rumored to be working on a formal encyclical on the environment.
This also isn't the first time the Vatican has made note of global climate change. In 2011, says the New York Times, “the Vatican released a report... calling man-made climate change "serious and potentially irreversible" and advocating aggressive action to curb emissions.”