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Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 11, No. 6, June 2015
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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A Sacramental Ecology for the Anthropocene

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One Sacred Community by Mary Southard CSJ
"We have looked first at man with his vanities and greed and his problems of a day or a year; and then only, and from this biased point of view, we have looked outward at the earth he has inhabited so briefly and at the universe in which our earth is so minute a part. Yet these are the great realities, and against them we see our human problems in a different perspective. Perhaps if we reversed the telescope and looked at man down these long vistas, we should find less time and inclination to plan for our own destruction." Rachel Carson, acceptance speech of the National Book Award for Nonfiction, 1952

"We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one "less traveled by"—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth." Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962

ARTICLES

Editorial: A Sacramental Ecology for the Anthropocene
The Care-Centered Economy: A New Theory of Value, by David Bollier
Claim the Sky!, by Robert Costanza
War and Peace and the Steady-State Economy, by Herman Daly
A Thirst for Economic Change?, by Erik Alm
Ethics in Concordian Economics, by Carmine Gorga
Paradigm Junction - Envisioning, Part A: Those Who Envision, by Don Chisholm
Blueprint for Change, Part 5: Knowledge Clouds, by Carlos Cuellar Brown
Blueprint for Change, Part 6: From Consumers to Stewardship of the Commons / Reorganization of Industrial Production, by Carlos Cuellar Brown
Ecological Footprints and Lifestyle Archetypes: Exploring Dimensions of Consumption and the Transformation Needed to Achieve Urban Sustainability, by Jennie Moore
Rivershift, by Tim Fox
Anticipating Pope Francis’ Forthcoming Encyclical on the Human-Earth Relationship, by Jame Schaefer

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EDITORIAL: A Sacramental Ecology for the Anthropocene

Ecology is the study of interactions among organisms and their environment. Human ecology is the study of human relations, among humans and between humans and the human habitat. There is a sacramental dimension of human ecology. In the biblical tradition, the entire creation is like a sacrament, i.e., a sign of the sacred. Sacramental ecology is the study of the entire community of creation as an icon of the Creator.

Humans are unique as rational animals composed of body and soul, but there is an original unity between humans, other animals, and the entire cosmos. The first human being was made from dust (Genesis 2:7). Subsequent sexual differentiation, required to overcome the solitude of the first "man," does not cancel the original unity of man and woman. Likewise, the emergence of a rational soul does not cancel the fundamental continuity and mutuality between Homo sapiens and nature. After millennia of paying too much attention to the differences, and not enough attention to unity, humanity now seems headed toward an ecological crisis of potentially biblical proportions:

"Unsustainable consumption coupled with a record human population and the uses of inappropriate technologies are causally linked with the destruction of the world’s sustainability and resilience. Widening inequalities of wealth and income, the world-wide disruption of the physical climate system and the loss of millions of species that sustain life are the grossest manifestations of unsustainability. The continued extraction of coal, oil and gas following the “business-as-usual mode” will soon create grave existential risks for the poorest three billion, and for generations yet unborn. Climate change resulting largely from unsustainable consumption by about 15% of the world’s population has become a dominant moral and ethical issue for society. There is still time to mitigate unmanageable climate changes and repair ecosystem damages, provided we reorient our attitude toward nature and, thereby, toward ourselves. Climate change is a global problem whose solution will depend on our stepping beyond national affiliations and coming together for the common good. Such transformational changes in attitudes would help foster the necessary institutional reforms and technological innovations for providing the energy sources that have negligible effect on global climate, atmospheric pollution and eco-systems, thus protecting generations yet to be born. Religious institutions can and should take the lead in bringing about that change in attitude towards Creation." Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Humanity, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Vatican Workshop, 28 April 2015

Given the impossibility of infinite material growth in a finite planet, it is imperative to foster a sense of ecological solidarity between humans and nature. If humans have the authority to "dominate" nature (Genesis 1:28), they also have the responsibility to "take care of it" (Genesis 2:15). This requires solidarity between humans and, most fundamentally, between the two halves of humanity, male and female. There can be no integral human development, and no integral human ecology, as long as the patriarchal mindset of domination by brute force prevails as a norm of human behavior. The 2015 Millennium Development Goals are falling short of resolving the ecological crisis, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals will fall short, unless the patriarchal paradigm is replaced by gender solidarity. Such a paradigm shift may not be sufficient, but it is absolutely necessary.

In this regard, it must be noted that many religious institutions, by excluding women from roles of religious authority, fail to be icons of the Creator and contribute to perpetuate the patriarchal paradigm of power struggles and ecological abuse. This includes some of the Christian churches, especially the so-called "liturgical" churches where sacramental power is vested exclusively on baptized males. At a time when some progress in gender equality is being made in the secular arena, it is a disgrace that some religious institutions, such as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, continue to hide behind absurd doctrinal rationalizations about human nature and divine revelation in order to evade facing the music. Without gender equality, there can be no peace, no social justice, and no ecological sustainability. Thankfully, whether we like it or not, patriarchy is passing away. Patriarchy, requiescat in pace.


The Care-Centered Economy: A New Theory of Value

David Bollier


Originally published in
News and Perspectives on the Commons, 29 April 2015
under a Creative Commons License


This article is a synopsis of
The Care-Centered Economy:
Rediscovering what has been taken for granted

by Ina Praetorius, Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2015

"Why are all those means and measures for satisfying needs - which despite emancipation are provided for free by many more women than men in the so-called private sphere - customarily defined as pre- or non-economic? An Essay about the unjust consequences of this omission."


I recently encountered a brilliant new essay by German writer Ina Praetorius that revisits the feminist theme of “care work,” re-casting it onto a much larger philosophical canvas. “The Care-Centered Economy:  Rediscovering what has been taken for granted” suggests how the idea of “care” could be used to imagine new structural terms for the entire economy. 

By identifying “care” as an essential category of value-creation, Praetorius opens up a fresh, wider frame for how we should talk about a new economic order.  We can begin to see how care work is linked to other non-market realms that create value -- such as commons, gifts of nature and colonized peoples --all of which are vulnerable to market enclosure.

The basic problem today is that capitalist markets and economics routinely ignore the “care economy” -- the world of household life and social conviviality may be essential for a stable, sane, rewarding life.  Economics regards these things as essentially free, self-replenishing resources that exist outside of the market realm.  It sees them as “pre-economic” or “non-economic” resources, which therefore don’t have any standing at all.  They can be ignored or exploited at will.

In this sense, the victimization of women in doing care work is remarkably akin to the victimization suffered by commoners, colonized persons and nature.  They all generate important non-market value that capitalists depend on – yet market economics refuses to recognize this value.  It is no surprise that market enclosures of care work and commons proliferate.

A 1980 report by the UN stated the situation with savage clarity:  “Women represent 50 percent of the world adult population and one third of the official labor force, they perform nearly two thirds of all working hours, receive only one tenth of the world income and own less than 1 percent of world property.”

But here’s the odd thing:  The stated purpose of economics is the satisfaction of human needs.  And yet standard economics don’t have the honesty to acknowledge that it doesn’t really care about the satisfaction of human needs; it’s focused on consumer demand and the “higher” sphere of monetized transactions and capital accumulation.  No wonder gender inequalities remain intractable, and proposals for serious change go nowhere.     

"The Care-Centered Economy" asks us to re-imagine “the economy” as an enterprise focused on care. While Praetorius’ primary focus is on the “care work” that women so often do – raising children, managing households, taking care of the elderly – she is clearly inviting us to consider “care” in its broadest, most generic sense.  The implications for the commons and systemic change are exciting to consider.

I think immediately of the Indian geographer Neera Singh, who has written about the importance of “affective labor” in managing forest commons. Singh notes that people’s sense of self and subjectivity are intertwined with their biophysical environment, such that they take pride and pleasure in becoming stewards of resources that matter to them and their community. 

Such affective labor – care – that occurs within a commons becomes a force in developing new types of subjective identities. It changes how we perceive ourselves, our relationships to others, and our connection to the environment. In Singh’s words:  “Affective labor transforms local subjectivities.” In this sense, commoning is an important form of care work. 

By setting forth an expansive philosophical framework, Praetorius’ essay provokes many transdisciplinary, open-ended questions about how we might reframe our thinking about “the economy.” The 77-page essay, downloadable here, was recently published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin as part of its “Economy + Social Issues” series of monographs. 

Praetorius begins by situating the origins of “women’s work – children, cooking and church – in the original “dichotomization of humanity” into “man” and “nature.” This artificial division of the world into realms of man and nature lies at the heart of the problem.  Once this “dichotomous order” is established, the public realm of monetized market transactions is elevated as the “real economy” and given gendered meaning.  Men acquire the moral justification to subordinate and exploit all those resources of the pre-economic world – nature, care work, commons, colonized people.  Their intrinsic needs and dignity can be denied.

What’s fascinating in today’s world is how the many elements of the “pre-economic lifeworld” are now starting to assert their undeniable importance.  As Praetorius puts it, “Without fertile soil, breathable air, food and potable water, human beings cannot survive; without active care, humanity does not reproduce itself; and without meaning, people descend into depression, aggression and suicide.” 

As the pre-economic lifeworld becomes more visible, it is exposing the dichotomous order as unsustainable or absurd.  Climate change is insisting upon limits to economic growth.  Modern work life is becoming ridiculously frenetic.  Questions of meaning arise that “free markets” are unequipped to address.  “Why work at all if working amounts to nothing more than functioning for absurd, other-directed purposes?” writes Praetorius.  “Why keep living or even conceiving and bearing children if there is no future in sight worth living?”

As the private search for meaning intensifies, the formal political system has little to say.  It is too indentured to amoral markets to speak credibly to real human needs; it is ultimately answerable to the highest bidders. This also helps explain why politics, as the helpmate of the market order, also has so little to say about people’s yearnings for meaning. 

But new meaning are nonetheless arising as the credibility and efficacy of the old order begin to fall apart. Praetorius argues that the anomaly of a black man as US President and a woman as Germany’s chancellor makes it increasingly possible for people to entertain ideas of subversive new types of order. “The supposedly natural order of the hierarchical, complementary binary conception of gender is inexorably disintegrating,” writes Praetorius.  Other dualisms are blurring or becoming problematic as well:  “belief and knowledge, subject and object, res cogitans and res extensa, colonizer and colony, center and periphery, God and the world, culture and nature, public and private spheres.” 

What’s exciting about this time, she suggests, is that the “dichotomous order” is opening up new spaces for new narratives that re-integrate the world. People can begin to “collectively dis-identify” with and deconstruct the prevailing order, and launch new stories that speak to elemental human and ecosystem needs.  If there is confusion and disorientation in going through this transition, well, that’s what a paradigm shift is all about. In any case, people are beginning to recognize the distinct limits of working within archaic political frameworks – and the great potential of a “care-centered economy.”

What exactly does “care” mean?  It means the capacity for human agency, individual initiative yoked to collective practice, shared identity and meaning-making.  It means “being mindful, looking after, attending to needs, and being considerate.”  It refers to “awareness of dependency, possession of needs, and relatedness as basic elements of human constitution.”

While some might regard the elevation as “care” as vague, I agree with Praetorius:  “Care” helps break down the dichotomous order and emphasize the “pre-economic” order of human need.  “The illusion of an independent human existence becomes obsolete,” she writes.  Relationships outside of markets become more important.

Introducing “care” into discussions about “the economy” can also have the effect of transforming ourselves.  We can begin to name the pre- and non-economic activities -- care, commoning, eco-stewardship – that create value.  We can develop a vocabulary to identify those things that mainstream economics deliberately does not name.  In this sense, talking in a new way becomes a political act.  It begins to change the cultural reality, one conversation at a time. 

Praetorius’ essay is a fairly long read, but a rewarding one.  I came away from it with a fresh, more hopeful perspective.  I also realized how care work and commoning are part of a larger enterprise of honoring, and creating, new types of value.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Bollier is an author, activist, blogger and consultant who spends a lot of time exploring the commons as a new paradigm of economics, politics and culture. He has been on this trail for about fifteen years, working with a variety of international and domestic partners. In 2010, I co-founded the Commons Strategies Group, a consulting project that works to promote the commons internationally. For more information about his work, click here.


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"The first law of ecology
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Barry Commoner (1917-2012)

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