The Pontifical Academy of Sciences plans a sustainable future

Two high-level conferences held at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences focused on the need to invest in science to save the oceans and the planet in an increasingly urbanized and industrial world.

By Mario Galgano & Linda Bordoni

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican hosted two conferences this week aimed at proposing and discussing solutions to save the planet and its inhabitants from environmental degradation and its effects.

The first event was dedicated to the oceans and the protection of people who live in coastal areas and whose livelihoods depend on fishing, while the second focused on the need to build sustainable cities as urbanization is set to grow.

The President of the Academy, the agricultural scientist Joachim von Braun, spoke on Vatican Radio about the intense week spent at the Casina Pio IV of the Academy in the Vatican Gardens and the urgency to plan the future and invest in science to save the world.

Listen to the interview with Professor Joachim von Braun

Health of the seas and oceans

The first of two conferences organized this week was entitled “The health of the seas and oceans and their role in the present and future of humanity”.

Professor von Braun explained that it arises from the collaboration between the Pontifical Academy and the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station of Naples, an important ocean research institute.






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During that event, which took place on June 8, “together with the Naples-based institution, we prepared the scientific community for the United Nations Summit on Oceans to be held later this month,” he said.

The main focus of the conference was the best way to protect the ocean through adequate measures to curb overfishing, eliminate pollution, “especially from plastics and microplastics”, and also the culture of peoples living in coastal areas. : the communities that need to be protected.

“At least 1.5 billion people live on ocean resources and many of them are poor people.”

The professor said that one of the main objectives of the conference was rooted in the teachings of Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si: “Taking care of life in the ocean and taking care of people linked to the ocean”.

Promising to follow up on this activity in the future, a scientific agenda that was developed during the conference will require further follow-up activities.

Rebuilding the future of people and the planet

From 9 to 10 June a second conference was held in the Vatican entitled “Rebuilding the future of people and the planet.

This conference, explained Professor von Braun, was organized with a new organization called “Bauhaus Earth” and focused on the future of urban areas and cities.

A large amount of garbage floats next to homes in the Sao Jorge neighborhood in Manaus, Brazil




A large amount of garbage floats next to homes in the Sao Jorge neighborhood in Manaus, Brazil

“Cities are growing very fast and the living environment, especially for the poor living in the slums, is very unhealthy,” he said.

“The construction sector with which these cities are built is unsustainable”.

Sustainability, beauty, inclusiveness

He noted that in the closing speech Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher stressed the need for sustainability, beauty and inclusiveness in all plans and projects to build urban realities for the future.

The conference was opened by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who, said Professor Von Braun, is a big supporter of the initiative to make the construction sector sustainable.

The construction sector is one of the main polluters in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it is a major polluter that must and can change.

He explained that splendid examples were welcomed during the event in which alternative materials and methods for construction were illustrated.

“Building with wood, with clay, with bamboo, with paper,” he said, noting that building materials must change as well as the design of houses and buildings.

“The design of cities has to change and can change,” he added.

Construction workers stand on scaffolding over an oil tank, Lagos, Nigeria




Construction workers stand on scaffolding over an oil tank, Lagos, Nigeria

Von Braun explained that the workshop led to an agenda that includes the development of all the issues addressed with a view to building a sustainable future.

“It’s a very long-term agenda. The reconstruction of the future of people and the planet must go on for the next decades “, she stressed, stressing that urbanization is destined to increase.

“Urbanization will continue rapidly as we go from 8 billion people to 10 billion people.”

He said, it is estimated to be the number at which the world population is likely to stabilize. However, “the urban population, which currently stands at around 4 billion people, is sure to get much bigger.”

“Probably 7 out of 10 billion people will live in cities at the turn of the century,” he said.

“We have an agenda for this century, but we need to start now. And we have to invest in science to make cities livable, sustainable and climate neutral very quickly ”.

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