The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Our oceans, our future

“As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family." 

Pope Francis

This World Oceans Day (8 June) we celebrate the Oceans as one of the most integral sources of life on earth. By preserving the oceans, we preserve integral human development, which is a key principle of Catholic social teaching.

As far back as 2001, Pope John Paul II said in his Ecclesia in Oceania that it was the ‘special responsibility’ of the governments and peoples of Oceania to protect our precious environment, and “to assume on behalf of all humanity stewardship of the Pacific Ocean, containing over one half of the Earth’s total supply of water”.

Caritas organisations in Oceania and our partners have seen an increasing number of significant changes in the environment over the last two decades, all of which are impacting most on the poorest communities in our region. Four years ago, we began tracking those changes more comprehensively through our State of the Environment Report for Oceania series, with the aim of better informing the governments and peoples of our region and encouraging them to exercise responsible stewardship of our vast ocean – Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, which covers one third of the world’s surface.

Our foundational 2014 report, Small yet strong: Voices from Oceania on the environment raised awareness of environmental challenges and the impacts of climate change in the Pacific, promoted sustainable and integral development, and became an advocacy tool for addressing structural environmental injustices.  

Each year since this first report, we have documented how people in low-lying coastal parts of Oceania are building makeshift sea walls of stones, logs, coral and shells to protect their homes, move inland or emigrate to other places. Each year we also learn of more places affected in this manner. 

In 2017, the State of the Environment Report for Oceania will focus on how long-term and unpredictable changes to our oceans are already disrupting and threatening people’s lives. It will also focus on the positive steps people are taking to adapt to these changes and mitigate the impacts.

The oceans are our future and protecting the oceans calls for an interconnected agreement to govern an interconnected ‘global commons’ (i.e. the atmosphere, forests, global water cycle and oceans); a response that is closely linked to conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development (Sustainable Development Goal 14).

“May the relationship between man and nature not be driven by greed, to manipulate and exploit, but may the divine harmony between beings and creation be conserved in the logic of respect and care,” says Pope Francis.  

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust