Supporting the environment with a new style of life
Traveling and being a tourist can create real risks for the sustainability of the planet. Airplanes pollute the skies; boats do the same with the sea and oceans, cars in the cities. Hotels and new luxurious buildings destroy beaches and natural paradise. The Pacific trash vortex is one of the saddest monuments to human consumption, for which our planet is paying dearly.
Every pilgrim should always carry in his or her heart concern for the environment. Travelers who are moved by a spiritual search and by a different level of awareness should realize that they are not the owners of nature. They fully understand that Earth was not given to them for personal and indiscriminate use. If we destroy all the forms of life that our Lord has created, we condemn our grandsons and granddaughters a future of repairing the damage we caused by our lack of consideration and ungrateful behavior. However, pilgrims can contribute to the preservation of our planet for future generations.
Spiritual wellbeing as mission of tourism
We need to find a real balance in our lives, and become more concerned with our psychological and spiritual health. We daily run after objects that are not really important—events and false models of success. We are under the domination of things that in each moment become the object of our attention, whatever they are. We don’t choose them; they choose and control us.
For this reason we are not able to discriminate anymore, to see what is actually happening in the world due to our lack of consideration and attention. We live enclosed in our little garden and become insensitive to our calling to God. We surround ourselves with objects that hypnotize us—mobiles, televisions, computers, and any other source of technology that shuts off our feelings and our capacity to listen and truly see what is before us.
The unhappiness and stress of our society risk destroying our relationship with other human beings, with our planet, with nature, and with ourselves. By introducing what we call “the pilgrim lifestyle,” spiritual and psychological wellbeing becomes part of the mission of tourism. We experience how to leave our little world and open ourselves to appreciate and respect other cultures. With the help of spiritual guides and people who we may find on our journey, we can reconnect with real objectives; we can again feel a desperate need for God, for His help, and for an inner transformation.
Message from Pope Benedict XVI
This responsibility is a global one, for it is concerned not just with energy but with the whole of creation, which must not be bequeathed to future generations depleted of its resources. Human beings legitimately exercise a responsible stewardship over nature, in order to protect it, to enjoy its fruits and to cultivate it in new ways, with the assistance of advanced technologies, so that it can worthily accommodate and feed the world’s population.On this earth there is room for everyone: here the entire human family must find the resources to live with dignity, through the help of nature itself— God’s gift to his children—and through hard work and creativity.
At the same time we must recognize our grave duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that they too can worthily inhabit it and continue to cultivate it. This means being committed to making joint decisions “after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.”
Let us hope that the international community and individual governments will succeed in countering harmful ways of treating the environment. It is likewise incumbent upon the competent authorities to make every effort to ensure that the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations: the protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate obliges all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet.
One of the greatest challenges facing the economy is to achieve the most efficient use—not abuse—of natural resources, based on a realization that the notion of “efficiency” is not value-free.
Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate 50, I