The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is planning 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 and Linda Bordoni

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

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

The president of the academy, agricultural scientist Joachim von Braun, spoke to Vatican Radio about the busy week at the Vatican Gardens Casino Pio IV and the urgent need to plan for 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 this stemmed from the collaboration between the Pontifical Academy and the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples, a leading institute for ocean research.






Ocean Cleanup, a non-governmental organization, is testing a device in Guatemala to contain garbage that ends up in the Atlantic Ocean

During this event, which took place on June 8, “together with the institution based in Naples, we prepared the scientific community for the UN summit on the oceans, which will be held later this month,” he said.

The main focus of the conference was on how best to protect the ocean through appropriate measures to limit overfishing, eliminate pollution, “especially plastic and microplastic pollution”, and the culture of people living in coastal areas: communities to be protected.

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

The professor said that one of the main focuses of the conference was rooted in the teaching of Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si: “Caring for life in the ocean and caring for people connected with the ocean.”

Promising to continue this work in the future, in fact, the scientific program developed at the conference will require further follow-up.

Reconstruction of the future for people and the planet

A second conference was held in the Vatican on June 9-10, entitled “Reconstructing the future for people and the planet.

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

Large amount of garbage floats to houses in Sao Jorge district in Manaus, Brazil




Large amount of garbage floats to houses in Sao Jorge district in Manaus, Brazil

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

“The construction sector that builds these cities is unsustainable.”

Sustainability, beauty, inclusion

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

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

The construction sector is a major polluter in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, this is one of the leading polluters that needs to change and can change.

He explained that during the event beautiful examples were supported, in which alternative materials and construction methods were illustrated.

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

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

Construction workers stand on the scaffolding of an oil tank, Lagos, Nigeria




Construction workers stand on the scaffolding of an oil tank, Lagos, Nigeria

Von Braun explained that the seminar led to a program that envisages the development of all the problems solved in order to build a sustainable future.

“This is a very long-term agenda. Reconstruction of the future for people and the planet must continue in the coming decades, “he said, noting that urbanization is designed to grow.

“Urbanization will continue quickly as we move from 8 billion people to 10 billion people.

This, he said, is estimated at the number at which the world’s population is likely to stabilize. However, “the urban population, which is currently around 4 billion people, will certainly become much larger.”

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

“We have a program for this century, but we have to start now. And we need to invest in science to make cities habitable, sustainable and climate neutral very quickly.

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