World leaders are now gathering in Paris for the Climate Summit. At a time when everyone is using "climate change" to rationalize all kinds of agendas, let us hope that, at the very least, some adequately funded agreements are reached for mitigation and adaptation projects to help those who are most vulnerable.
New Advent of Integral Development
At the inception of a piecemeal Third World War, with 7 billion people on board and human activity depleting natural resources and polluting the entire planet, what we really need is a new advent of integral development. The term "integral development" means development that takes into account all dimensions of human life and the concrete totality of the human habitat. In other words,
Integral Development = Integral Humanism + Integral Ecology
Integral humanism (or integral human development) entails helping each and every human person to fully become what they are in both the objective and subjective dimensions. In terms of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, it means helping in each person to successively satisfy physiological needs, safety needs,
belongingness, self-esteem, and self-actualization (full potential, which necessarily includes self-giving).
Integral ecology is the recognition of symbiosis between humans and nature. In the framework of integral theory, it is the "the mixed methods (i.e., qualitative and quantitative) study of the subjective and objective aspects of organisms in relationship to their intersubjective and interobjective environments at multiple levels of depth and complexity."
Given the impossibility of infinite material growth in a finite planet, the combination of integral humanism and integral ecology, or integral development, is the only sensible strategy for sustainable development. Else, with or without climate change, sustainable development is an oxymoron and not a path toward social and ecological justice.
And there can be no peace without justice. As long as social and ecological injustice prevail, acts of terrible violence such as "9/11" in New York (2001) and "11/13" in Paris (2015) will continue to proliferate worldwide. Justice is the remedy; there will always be bad guys, but most people are reasonable, and more so as they go up Maslow's hierarchy in a just and sustainable society.
Integral Development in the Christian Tradition
In the Christian tradition, the one and definitive model for integral human development is Jesus of Nazareth. Christmas is the celebration of his birthday in Bethlehem of Judea, ca. 4 BC. Born of a woman, he grew in body and wisdom, worked hard, then went around doing good, always seeking the renewal of both people and nature, challenging ancient cultural norms to the maximum extent that his contemporaries could absorb and without counting the cost. Pope Francis' recent encyclical on taking care of our common home (Laudato Si') is a call for integral development in response to the ecological crisis. The encyclical is written from within the Christian tradition but reaches out to all men and women of good will.
Egalitarian Complementarity of Man and Woman
For all men and women of good will to effectively contribute to integral development at any level (global, national, local) it is indispensable to sanitize human relations from all manner of rivalry, an inner disposition that is triggered by mimetic desire and induces domination/submission struggles. This means going all the way back to the emergence of Homo sapiens; for the Agricultural Revolution, and more recently the Industrial Revolution and the Information Revolution, have but exacerbated symptoms of human misbehavior that are rooted in primitive human culture but are not intrinsic to human nature. The root cause of social and ecological human dysfunction is cultural, and therefore artificial, made by human hands; not natural.
The Book of Genesis provides a mythical account of human origins that sheds light on human nature. Specifically, Genesis 3:16 points to domination/submission as the most universal form of human struggle, one that affects all men and women. All other forms of human misbehavior encapsulate, and make manifest in different ways, this fundamental corruption of human relations. It is significant that rupturing the original communion of man and woman is revealed as the primary and most universal consequence of the fall from original innocence.
At a time when religious intolerance and slave ownership are disappearing (slowly, but surely) from human civilization, gender equality is the new horizon for human development. This step forward, dimly envisioned by successive waves of feminism starting in the late 19th century, and more recently fostered by the 2015 Millennium Development Goals and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, requires a profound cultural transition from the "patriarchal binary" of male domination, and female subordination, to practical recognition, in families and all other human institutions, of the "egalitarian complementarity" of man and woman.
In the patriarchal culture, the male or female "incarnations" of human persons are understood as practically constituting two different human natures. In theory, both men and women fully share one and the same human nature but, in practice, the biblical curse of male rule and female submission prevails in most cultures worldwide. This is visibly manifested, via body language, in all dimensions of human relations. The "male gaze" and the "female gaze" are symptomatic of this reality, and not only in cinematography but in families and both social and religious institutions.
Surely, men and women are different. But it is a difference in equality, an equality that is not only a matter of equal dignity but a full equality in embodied human personhood, both men and women fundamentally being "body-persons." It is an "egalitarian complementarity" in which differences are for reciprocity and mutual enrichment, not arbitrary exclusion. Humanity is "male and female," not "male or female."
This has crucial repercussions for social and ecological justice, as evidenced by the feminization of poverty and the feminization of nature, both tightly coupled to the current ecological crisis. For more on the egalitarian complementarity of man and woman in light of the Judeo-Christian tradition, click here
Implications for Integral Human Development and Social-Ecological Justice
Reconstructing the natural mutuality of man and woman has enormous implications for integral human development and
social-ecological justice. There is by now an overwhelming consensus that "human development, if not engendered, is fatally endangered."
The ancient Old Testament exemplifies patriarchal bias in many ways, notably by the metaphor of woman coming out of man. This is corrected in the New Testament, notably by making the explicit statement that God became incarnate from a woman. Not insignificantly, this seemingly innocuous clarification follows the summary of the cultural progression that is now attainable, but yet to be fully attained, in human history: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Objective evidence confirms that the patriarchal binary is an oversimplification of reality. From reproductive biology we know that, at the instant of conception, the human body is one androgynous, sexually undifferentiated cell (zygote), and subsequent sexual differentiation happens via inactivation of one X chromosome, resulting in a cell with XX (female) or XY (male) chromosomes. From modern psychology we know that there is woman in man (anima) and man in woman (animus), so female and male polarities are invisible partners in every man and every woman during their entire life. Critical analysis of biblical texts reveals a progression from male dominance in the Old Testament to male-female partnership in the New Testament as the intended divine plan for human relations.
As long as the patriarchal binary prevails, subjective human development remains defective, with pervasive repercussions in human relations as well as human-nature relations. There can be no fully integral human development as long as both the objective and subjective dimensions of the body-person are not taken into account. There can be no fully integral ecology as long as humanity behaves as the dominant male and treats nature as a submissive female. There can be no lasting social justice, and there can be no lasting ecological justice, as long as human behavior is driven by the patriarchal mindset. For more on integral humanism and integral ecology in light of the Judeo-Christian tradition, click here
Implications for the Paris COP21 and the 2030 SDGs
Expectations for the Paris COP21 climate summit and the 2030 SDGs range from naive optimism to fatalist pessimism. This is a good summary outlook for the COP21 meeting. The jury is still out regarding anthropogenic climate change and the resilience of the planetary system. That the climate is always changing is a scientific certainty, but not so that human activity is currently driving global climate change outside the bounds of natural variability. Due to the long time (centuries) that it will take for the current accumulation of CO2 to be absorbed by vegetation, and uncertainty about the feasibility of carbon sequestration and other technological options, any agreements on short term emission budgets are of uncertain value.
Realistically, since "climate is what you expect and weather is what you get," it would be better to agree on how the rich nations can help the poor nations to have adequate climate services (i.e., weather information, infrastructure resilience, disaster relief, etc.) as soon as possible. The Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) may be the most helpful organizational entity, and is planning a Climate Services for Decision-Making and Effective Adaptation event (2 December 2015) that could be an opportunity to formulate actions of real social and ecological value. In the short term, an agreement that ensures adequate climate services for all nations should be the highest priority. The rich nations could help with funding and technical assistance. Institutionally, it may be politically feasible to create an "International Climate Fund" (ICF) or mutate the WB and the IMF to include the ICF mission.
In the long term, commitment to pursue the 2030 SDGs is more important than arguing about climate-related technicalities. It is becoming increasingly clear that "climate change" is being used and abused to rationalize many dubious agendas and distract attention from the real issues of ethical depopulation, ethical degrowth, integral humanism, and integral ecology. The long term resilience of Mother Nature is more trustworthy than any treaties based on political calculations of short term expediency. A better future for humanity is contingent on integral development that is ecologically sustainable (footprint = 1). Reducing the footprint (now about 1.5) by adding more feet, and/or more resource usage and waste generation per capita, hardly sounds like a reasonable proposition. Fostering a universal culture of solidarity and egalitarian complementarity (of cultural traditions, developed and developing nations, men and women), thereby enabling good care of nature, is the only reasonable option, and one that is fully compatible with natural law.
Christmas: A Sign of Social and Ecological Justice
Christians believe that a baby born in Bethlehem of Judea, ca. 4 BC, was no other than God made flesh. The Christian tradition is that God became flesh to be with us and to teach and guide us, by word and example, in the process of becoming everything we are meant to be and eventually reach theosis. This is the splendid challenge of the Christian faith, a challenge that awaits the response of every generation of Christians and is offered to all men and women of good will: to seek the glory of God and the good of humanity as an integral part of creation. At this time in human history, the challenge is to go beyond religious intolerance and irresponsible exploitation of humans by humans, with the concomitant exploitation of natural resources, to build a new civilization of solidarity and egalitarian complementarity in which all men and women of good will can live in communion with each other in the community of creation.