Pope Offers Prayers For Wisconsin VictimsPrevious Article
Pope Sends Condolences To Christmas Parade Attack VictimsNext Article
Breaking News

When The Ecologist Met Pope Francis

Line Spacing+- AFont Size+- Print This Article
When The Ecologist Met Pope Francis

When ecologist Gregory Asner found himself in an audience with Pope Francis earlier this year, he discovered a kindred spirit.

They talked about the Amazon forests and the Indigenous people who defend their territories, topics that Francis raised within the church with the 2019 special synod on the Amazon. They also discussed the importance of preserving the biological diversity of Earth’s ecosystems in the face of accelerating climate change.

Then Asner had a chance to tell the pope something personal. So he turned to coral reefs.

Coral reefs are indeed personal for Asner, who has seen the devastating impact of a warming ocean on them in his home state of Hawaii. He has been studying coral up close for the past half-dozen years, logging some 16,000 dives on reefs around the world.

Showing Francis a map from a newly released atlas of the world’s coral reefs, Asner zoomed in on one of the underwater structures, which are made up of a multitude of tiny aquatic animals.

“I said, ‘Look at these reefs. Look at how small of a surface area they cover in the ocean. But now imagine that they have at least 25% of all species of the ocean, and [of] the species that live out away from the reef, at least half depend on a reef sometime in their lifetime,’ ” he told EarthBeat.

Asner, who directs the Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science at Arizona State University, also showed Francis a map of ocean temperatures, pointing out to the pope that although there are hot spots and cold spots in the ocean, overall the temperatures show an upward trend.

“It was cool because he hadn’t ever seen the world that way,” the scientist said. “I hadn’t shown [that map to] anyone — he was the first person I ever showed.”

The encounter came in August during a meeting in which Francis talked with people involved in a film based on his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” The film, of which excerpts were premiered at a New York Times event during the COP26 United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, is expected to be released in the first half of next year.




Vatican Live Video Feed

Pope Francis on Twitter