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In the Catholic tradition, the universal common good is specified by the duty of solidarity, “a firm and preserving determination to commit oneself to the common good,” a willingness “to ‘lose oneself’ for the sake of the other[s] instead of exploiting [them]” (Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socilis[=SRS],no.38). In the face of “the structures of sin,” moreover, solidarity requires sacrifices of our own self-interest for the good of others and of the earth we share. Solidarity places special obligations upon the industrial democracies, including the United States.

“The ecological crisis,” Pope John Paul II has written, “reveals the urgent moral need for a new solidarity, especially in relations between the developing nations and those that are highly industrialized” (EC, no,10). Only with equitable and sustainable development can poor nations curb continuing environmental degradation and avoid the destructive effects of the kind of overdevelopment that has used natural resources irresponsibly.