After revealing that the topic of consumerism will be a key theme in his upcoming encyclical, Pope Francis today delivered a speech condemning food waste and the indifference of states when confronted with the topic of hunger.
“Statistics on waste are very concerning: a third of food products end up under this heading,” the Pope told members of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in a June 11 audience.
“It is unsettling to know that a good portion of agricultural products end up used for other purposes, maybe good, but that are not immediate needs of the hungry,” he said.
Francis’ comments were addressed to participants of the organization’s annual conference, being held in Rome June 6-13.
Just five days earlier, the Pope told journalists on board his June 6 return flight from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina that the themes of relativism and consumerism would be areas of focus in his upcoming encyclical on human ecology, to be published next Thursday, June 18.
In response to a question on the overuse of computers and technology, the Pope lamented that “empty programs, without words, for example those that are relativist, hedonistic, consumeristic,” are frequently encouraged.
“We know that consumerism is a cancer of society and relativism is a cancer of society and of this I’ll speak in the coming encyclical that will come out within the month,” he said.
In his speech to members of the FAO, Pope Francis said that the reduction of waste worldwide “is essential,” and called on individuals to make small changes in their daily lives in order to reduce the amount of resources they consume.
“Let us make a more decisive commitment to change lifestyles, and perhaps we will need fewer resources,” he said, explaining that sobriety “is not opposed to development,” but has instead become “a condition” for it.
The Pope also lamented that there seems to be “a general resignation, disinterest or even the absence of many, even states” on the topic of hunger.
“Sometimes the feeling is that hunger is an unpopular topic, an unsolvable problem, which doesn’t find solutions within a legislative or presidential mandate and therefore does not ensure approval,” he said.
The Pope called on world leaders to develop a new vocabulary based on the “policy of the other,” which fosters solidarity among nations.
“Our tendency to ‘desert’ in front of difficult issues is human,” Francis noted, explaining that it is an attitude many prefer to take, “even though we don’t miss a meeting, a conference or the preparation for a document.”
“Instead we must respond to the imperative that access to the necessary food is a right for all. Human rights do not allow exclusions!” he said.
The Pope also brought up the topic of climate change, saying that it is related to the “forced displacement of peoples and to the many humanitarian tragedies” currently being experienced due to a lack of resources, beginning with water.
“It is not enough to say that a fight for water exists without acting to create sustainable consumption of this good-resource and eliminating waste,” he said, and told the organization they can play a key role in ensuring there will be enough water for basic human and agricultural needs in the future.
He also spoke of the need to ensure “more healthy environmental conditions,” but said this must be done without “excluding someone.”
An increased awareness across the globe on the type of nutrition needed, which varies depending on latitude, would serve all countries well, Francis continued.
However, he noted that both the quality and quantity of nutrition are weighed down by a sense of insecurity due to the climate, an increase in demand and by price uncertainty.
“Climate change rightly worries us, but we cannot forget financial speculation,” the Pope said, explaining that the state of the market influences world hunger for better or for worse.
According to FAO studies, the price of food products has fluctuated since 2008, first doubled and then stabilized, “but always with values higher than the previous period,” the Pope noted.
“Prices so volatile prevent the poorest from making progress or from counting on a minimum nutrition,” he said, explaining that the causes for this “are many.”
Food security is something that must be achieved even if people are in different geographical locations, economic situations or food cultures, the Pope said.
He called on the global community to overcome differences and unite their efforts, observing the current disconnect as nutrition for some countries “means eliminating fats and promoting exercise” and for others means “worrying that they have at least one meal a day.”
Pope Francis concluded by assuring the organization that the Church is walking beside them with full knowledge “that the earth’s resources are limited and their sustainable use absolutely urgent for agricultural and food development.”
“Because of this, the Church is committed to promoting a shift in attitude necessary for the good of future generations.”