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Satellite images of the deep wounds of our planet

The anguished plea of the Earth

 The anguished plea of the Earth  ING-036
09 September 2022

Earth is beautiful seen from above. From space it emerges in the darkness of the cosmos like a precious gem. And the closer we get, the more it appears in all its beauty, majestic and lush, full of life. But if you look closely, it is precisely from above that you discover the wounds we are inflicting on it. Wounds that are increasingly wider and deeper, as the satellite images on this page show. They represent that “anguished plea” Pope Francis talks about in his Message for World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which on 1 September kicked off the Season of Creation, which will conclude on 4 October, the Feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Referring to the theme chosen for this period of reflection — Listen to the voice of creation — the Pontiff writes that “if we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance. On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home”. But it is a plea we stubbornly refuse to listen to, despite it being deafening and insistent.

We are in fact overwhelmed by news of violent torrential rains and floods with dozens, and sometimes hundreds of dead, as we are by news of long periods of drought and famine with thousands of victims and exoduses of displaced persons. They are increasingly extreme events, the consequence of a production and economic model that is no longer sustainable, which continues to violate and exploit nature, polluting land, air and water, without limits and without concern for the future. And the ones who pay the highest price of this “tyrannical anthropocentrism”, as Pope Francis defines it in Laudato Si’, are the poorest people, those living in countries plundered for their own precious resources — without receiving anything in return — by that part of the world that already has so much but always wants more.

Nevertheless, as much as we would like to pretend that everything is fine, as if these events were distant and only affected others, for some time now we have been aware that certain extreme phenomena are getting closer, becoming more frequent and devastating. Rains are now instilling fear everywhere, as are rivers, drying up due to lack of water, glaciers melting and collapsing due to rising temperatures, sea levels — increasingly hot — rising and devouring coastlines. Now, despite irrational denialists and conscious liars, many more people, including in the industrialised West, are realising that climate change is real and dramatically affects everyone, as Pope Francis has been repeating for some time. “The present state of decay of our common home merits the same attention as other global challenges such as grave health crises and wars”, he says, also highlighting the need “for all of us to act decisively”, because “we are reaching a ‘breaking point’”. From this comes his oft-repeated and inescapable appeal: “In the name of God, I ask the great extractive industries — mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness — to stop destroying forests, wetlands, and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people”.

Images by Federico Monica - Placemarks
Copyright Images: Google Earth / Maxar Technologies

Gaetano Vallini