Mayors discuss ways to promote equality, environmental protection in their cities

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Many of the mayors who met July 21 with Pope Francis stayed at the Vatican for a second day of discussions focused on city planning that promotes economic growth, equality and environmental protection simultaneously.

Jeffrey Sachs, a U.S. economist and head of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, told the mayors that Pope Francis’ call for “integral human development” matches the United Nations’ definition of sustainable development, which promotes “economic growth that is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.”

In such an approach, he said, there is a “triple bottom line: the economic, social and environmental are on a par.”

However, he said, “as Pope Francis constantly reminds us, that is not how the world works today.” Financial profit, the pope has said, seems to be the only goal and that, Sachs said, “doesn’t work for human well-being.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio asked the mayors why people are still so committed to outdated models of economic growth when that “model of development is slowly killing us.”

Creating a “sustainable city,” he said, means helping people out of poverty with jobs and affordable housing, but also reducing carbon emissions and other forms of pollution.

Argentinie model Valeria Mazza, serving as master of ceremonies, speaks during a workshop on climate change and human trafficking attended by mayors from around the world in the synod hall at the Vatican July 21. At right is Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Local government leaders were invited to the Vatican by the academy to sign a declaration recognizing that climate change and extreme poverty are influenced by human activity. They also pledged to pursue low impact development of cities. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Argentinie model Valeria Mazza, serving as master of ceremonies, speaks during a workshop on climate change and human trafficking attended by mayors from around the world in the synod hall at the Vatican July 21. At right is Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Local government leaders were invited to the Vatican by the academy to sign a declaration recognizing that climate change and extreme poverty are influenced by human activity. They also pledged to pursue low impact development of cities. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Working for change will take courage and will be uncomfortable at times, de Blasio said, but “by setting the high goal, we actually force ourselves day by day to take action related to it.”

All of the mayors from Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa who spoke July 22 mentioned the growing number of poor people in their cities and the increasing gap between their wealthiest and poorest residents, even in cities like Boston or Vancouver with thriving economies and low unemployment rates.

Sam Liccardo, who has served as mayor of San Jose, California, for just over six months, said his Silicon Valley city is “home to more U.S. patent holders than another city” and that “almost 40 percent of adult residents were born in another country, which is a richness.”

While it is home to some of the world’s biggest and fastest growing companies, San Jose also is home to strong social inequality and an “opportunity gap,” he said. “We live in one valley, but two worlds,” one of multimillion dollar homes and the other of large homeless encampments.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and mayors from around the world attend a workshop on climate change and human trafficking in the synod hall at the Vatican July 21. Local government leaders were invited to the Vatican by the pontifical academies of sciences and social sciences to sign a declaration recognizing that climate change and extreme poverty are influenced by human activity. They also pledged to pursue low impact development of cities. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
California Gov. Jerry Brown and mayors from around the world attend a workshop on climate change and human trafficking in the synod hall at the Vatican July 21. Local government leaders were invited to the Vatican by the pontifical academies of sciences and social sciences to sign a declaration recognizing that climate change and extreme poverty are influenced by human activity. They also pledged to pursue low impact development of cities. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Liccardo said the city is focusing on identifying, housing and providing other services to the most vulnerable homeless residents, rehabilitating old motels and turning them into transitional housing and expanding the construction of affordable homes.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said Vancouver’s goal is to “build a city and an economy that creates opportunity for everyone,” and in many ways, it is working: Vancouver has “the most successful economy of any city in Canada,” he said.

The big growth areas for Vancouver’s economy, he said, are “green jobs” and “creative jobs,” particularly in animation, visual effects and film production. At the same time, he said, because Vancouver is “the warmest city in Canada,” it has a significant homeless population.

— By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service.

5 COMMENTS

  1. If the world really listened to what the Holy Father had to say they would keep Christ’s Commandments. These people like Bill de Blasio despise the Catholic Church but want a photo op with the pope. They are using him. And every Catholic should be sickened by putting “climate change and human trafficking” in the same sentence. There is a Christian Holocaust in the Middle East happening this very moment and the Vatican is discussing CARBON DIOXIDE! Really??? Lord have mercy.

    • Exactly right, Juan. Like America, just when the Catholic Church needed a great leader, it got a radical Marxist instead.

      • Michael. I don’t believe Pope Francis to be a Marxist. I see him more as a humble priest that was thrust into the papacy and that doesn’t have the understanding of the world and it’s evils as previous popes.

  2. Sensitizing the mayors is a step in the right direction. Initiating these local leaders to think globally and act locally will do wonders. Wishing the mayors and their local teams much success in the very urgent mission of concern. God bless.

    • Dear Doctor, or is it Professor, I don’t understand what you have just said in your post. I have no meaningful letters after my name so you need to explain: “Sensitizing the mayors” and “Initiating these local leaders to think globally”.

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