Dignified and sustainable work for the common good

by Antonella Visintin last modified 17 September 2015 03:50 PM
Dignified and sustainable work for the common good

Photo: Maria Elena Lacquaniti

11 September 2015

The environmental crisis and climate change are part of a more general economic, socio-political and spiritual crisis. The topic of work plays a central role in this connection.

"The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it,” declares the psalmist (Psalm 24:1). And again "You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use; to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart (...). People go out to their work and to their labour until the evening” (Psalm 104:14f. 23).

According to the Bible, work is the activity that all men and women perform in order to satisfy their material needs and fulfil their own individual aspirations. Moreover, the Bible understands work in the context of God’s good creation. It can therefore no longer be characterized by dominion. On the contrary, it calls for stewardship and care, in order not to threaten the reproduction of the conditions vital for natural resources and other living species (Hebrews 13:2).

The Caravan for Dignified Work that is crossing Italy from South to North in 2015 aims to collect the ideas and connect the stories of many citizens of this country, which is afflicted by degrading work and pressure of work on health.

Economic and climatic justice go hand in hand.

In this stage of the Caravan, the topic of sustainable development is emphasized in view of the COP 21 conference in December in Paris, which is an opportunity to renew the commitment of the countries to stop climate change. This conference will mark a crucial stage in negotiating future international agreement for the post-2020 period, with the adoption of general guidelines as decided at COP 17 in Durban. The following scenario is appearing: that all states, including the major greenhouse gas emitters – both developed and developing countries – commit to a binding and measurable agreement on climate.

An indicator of the crisis towards which humanity is moving because of global warming is the state of fresh water reserves. Estimates say that in 2030 60% of the world’s population (which will number 8.4 billion) will have problems with their water supply.

In our region, these problems will be caused by the state of the “alpine ice resource” which could disappear almost totally by the end of this century. The trend shown by the over 900 Italian glaciers is, with rare exceptions, common to those all over the planet, according to data provided by the World Glacier Monitoring Service. It demonstrates the progressive loss of thickness and area of glaciers. Examining a sample of 125 of the world’s glaciers, scientists observed “a strong glacier loss” between 1980 and 2013 equal to 17.3 cubic metres of water equivalent.

The hardest hit region is Piedmont (-48% in terms of area), that has lost 8 of its 123 glaciers since the mid-20th century.

It is possible to stop!

The documents of the last few years seem to have given up trying to stop climate change in favour of mitigating the damage and adapting to the change in the water and carbon cycles, the growing number of extreme weather events and rising temperatures.

Let us remember that the CO2 concentration in 2013 was 395 ppm, the highest concentration ever reached in the last 800 thousand years, not to say the highest since the early 1750s and the industrial revolution, when it amounted to 277 ppm. In 2013 deforestation contributed to 8% of global emissions.

Declarations of intent

The participants in the Study Day that will be organized on Sunday, 13 September, by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) in collaboration with the Waldensian and Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran and Adventist Churches of Turin will share the dramatic data on the economic, social and environmental situation in Italy and in Piedmont. They are expected to declare their own intention to:

  • involve their own congregations in harvesting and developing the results of this Study Day on the link between “dignified work" and "commitment to sustainability" in Turin, in a country afflicted by degrading work and the pressure of work on health;
  • call on the congregations to care for creation by joining the network of eco-congregations launched in 2009 by the Commission on Globalization and the Environment (GLAM) of the FCEI;
  • give moral support to the Pilgrimage for Climate Justice  co-organized in Europe by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) in the run-up to the UN’s conference of the parties COP 21, which will bring together the representatives of the world’s governments in Paris next December in order to renew their commitment to stopping climate change. And stopping climate change means rethinking the meaning of work as a social activity through which human beings enters into relation with the rest of creation.

Translated from Italian by the WCC language service. Download the original text in Italian (pdf).


The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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