ROME (AFP) – Pope Francis warned Thursday that planet earth would not forgive the abuse of its resources for profit, urging the world’s leaders to rein in their greed and help the hungry — or risk a doomsday scenario in which nature would exact revenge.
“God always forgives, but the earth does not,” the Argentine pope told the Second International Conference on Nutrition (CIN2) in Rome, a three-day meeting aimed at tackling malnutrition, a global scourge which afflicts poor and rich alike.
“Take care of the earth so it does not respond with destruction,” he warned representatives from 190 countries gathered for the conference organised by the UN food agency (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) in the Italian capital.
The 77-year old, a staunch defender of the poor and downtrodden, said the world had “paid too little heed to those who are hungry.”
While the number of undernourished people dropped by over half in the past two decades, some 805 million people were still affected in 2014.
“It is also painful to see the struggle against hunger and malnutrition hindered by ‘market priorities’, the ‘primacy of profit’, which reduce foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation and financial speculation in particular,” Francis said.
“The hungry remain at the street corner… and ask for a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity,” he said.
The pope has in the past launched several scathing attacks on those who get rich through market speculation, particularly the practice of betting on the price of food commodities which can inflate prices and see poor families go hungry.
He urged the world’s population to have “mutual respect, instead of fighting between themselves, damaging and impoverishing the planet.”
While he praised the work of the FAO and WHO in getting the delegates to adopt a “Rome Declaration on Nutrition” and “Framework for Action”, he called on those drawing up “rules and technical measures” not to lose sight of the hungry man “fighting for survival”.
“Feed the hungry, save life on the planet,” Francis said at the end of his speech which was met with a standing ovation.
The declaration focuses on improving access to healthy food but also the growing problem of inactive over-eaters.
Two billion people suffer from deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamin A, iron and zinc — a condition known as “hidden hunger” by experts — while 42 million children and 500 million adults are overweight or obese.