A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability
Vol. 11, No. 3, March 2015|
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
The Harmonization of the Human Ecology
Peace By Piece
The world is getting smaller
and its breaking into bits.
Let’s put it back together.
Peace by piece
the puzzle fits.
Repairs can all be tended
by the tiniest of friends.
As working all together
peace by piece
the puzzle mends.
Science Rhymes by Celia Berrell
Editorial: The Harmonization of the Human Ecology
Pope Francis’s Ecology Encyclical – What Can We Expect?, by Henry Longbottom
Human Ecology as Philosophy, by Carleton Christensen
Suggestion for a Comprehensive Approach to Development Towards a Sustainable World, by Geurt van de Kerk
A New Economy for a Regenerative Society, by Carlos Cuellar Brown
Potential New Allies in the Effort to Achieve
a Sustainable True Cost Economy, by Brent Blackwelder
Four Economic Rights: Social Renewal Through Economic Justice for All, by Carmine Gorga
Paradigm Junction Project - Dynamic Systems, by Don Chisholm
Our Renewable Future, by Richard Heinberg
The Informal Economy as a Catalyst for Sustainability, by
The Rise and Fall of the Kyoto Protocol: Climate Change as a Political Process, by Eija-Riitta Korhola
Gender Equality and Sustainable Development as Human Rights, by Kiran Asher and Bimbika Sijapati Basnett
Cesspool of Misogyny and Patriarchy, by Taha Najeeb Khan
Advances in Sustainable Development (news, pubs, tools, data)
Directory of Sustainable Development Resources (1000+ links)
Strategies for Solidarity and Sustainability (mitigation/adaptation)
Best Practices for Solidarity and Sustainability (business/governance)
Fostering Gender Balance in Society (peace, food, health, energy)
Fostering Gender Balance in Religion (religious traditions, spirituality)
EDITORIAL: The Harmonization of the Human Ecology
The ecology of humanity, understood as humanity embedded in nature, is in crisis. The crisis is observable via physical symptoms such as air and water pollution, natural resource depletion, and gross inequalities in the distribution of goods and services. But these physical symptoms, driven to some extent by the "invisible hand" of the global market, make visible what is invisible and is both the root cause and net consequence of the crisis: the degradation of homo economicus to such degree of subjective bondage to money, power, and honors, that homo sapiens all but ceases to be human.
"Nature is like a woman who enjoys disguising herself, and whose different disguises, revealing now one part of her and now another, permit those who study her and assiduously to hope that one day they may know the whole of her person" (Diderot)
This piece is written in anticipation of Pope Francis' encyclical on human ecology. It is written from the perspective of a Catholic Christian. More specifically, it is an attempt to view the crisis through the lens of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body (TOB). Messing around with the symptoms will not cure the disease, which is the disproportionate objectification of body-persons at the expense of their subjectivity. Indeed, the human body is sacred, and the body is a "sacrament" of the entire person, but is not the entire person. The theology of the body, which is basically about the mystery of the incarnation and the redemption of the body, provides a basis for understanding the personal outer/inner integration that is lost money and the desires of the senses become the only things that matter.
In the article that follows below in this page, the author insightfully states that "the way humans treat the natural environment is symptomatic of the way humans treat each other." Surely this includes man-woman relations and, given that in most human languages humanity is "masculine" and nature is "feminine," it seems reasonable to think that the patriarchal mindset of male domination has something to do with all the major (and undoubtedly patriarchal) religious traditions, with the consequent emphasis on "dominating the earth" (Genesis 1:28) rather than "taking care of it" (Genesis 2:15). Add "original sin" (Genesis 3:16) mixed with the power of fossil fuels, and the stage is set for our current ecological predicament.
What should the response of "global citizens" of good will be, especially those who profess the Christian faith? This is where the TOB, which is basically a discourse on theological anthropology, may shed new light that penetrates to the root cause of the problem. The TOB endorses neither radical patriarchy nor radical feminism, and provides a vision of marriage, and gender relations in general, that can be summarized as unity in diversity ("original unity of man and woman"), individuality in community ("communion of persons") and equality in mutuality ("spousal meaning of the body"). The complementarity of man and woman is for reciprocity and mutual enrichment, not mutual exclusion or one-sided domination.
It is not insignificant that the same line of thinking applies to the interaction of humans with the human habitat. Going back to "the beginning," there is the original unity of humanity and nature (Genesis 2:7), the community of creation that enables unity in diversity (Genesis 1:24-25), and the nuptial reciprocity of mutual interdependence and mutual submission (Genesis 1:29-30). Christians may see in this a sign of the Christ-Church mystery (Ephesians 5:21, 32) whereby the Giver of Life longs to receive back the life bestowed, and Giver and Receiver attain mutual submission and become "one flesh" (Genesis 2:21-24). The analogy can be appropriated by all men and women of good will who long to give each other, and share with nature, the gift of love and the gift of life.
But these desires of the human heart remain sterile abstractions unless they translate into human agency. Words count, but actions speak louder than words, much louder. For this reason, Christians and Christian institutions, churches included, cannot remain in the relative safety of their patriarchal past. The patriarchal age is passing away, whether we like it or not. The future is not yet here, but solidarity with future generations requires an urgent harmonization of the human ecology, starting now. This requires harmonization of human relations, which necessarily includes gender relations, as a prerequisite for harmonization of human-nature relations. Harmony between the two halves of humanity must happen at all levels and in all dimensions: in families, secular institutions, religious institutions.
Every conceivable rationalization is being used to perpetuate religious patriarchy but, nonetheless, "a custom without truth is ancient error" (St. Cyprian, 3rd Century CE). A case in point is the persistent refusal, in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, to ordain women for sacramental ministry. The body is a sacrament of the whole person, but is not the whole person. The sacraments are what they are, but the churches do have the authority to choose the ministers of the sacraments (see, e.g., CCC 1598). Later on this year, a synod of bishops will gather in Rome to discuss family issues. It is hoped that the church as a family will be considered, including the patriarchal (not divine!) norm of an exclusively male church hierarchy. For the sake of human wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the entire human-nature system, it is time to liberate families, and churches, and all other human consortia, from the asphyxiating scaffolding of patriarchal ideology.
For more on religious patriarchy, see Ordination of Women in the Sacramental Churches.
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Pope Francis’s Ecology Encyclical – What Can We Expect?
This article was originally published in
The Jesuit Post, 10 December 2014
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
The word emanating from Vatican corridors is that we can expect to see the long awaited environment-themed encyclical at some point during 2015.
The exact date has not been disclosed, but it could coincide with Francis’ apostolic visit to the Philippines in January, a country where the Catholic Church has been something of a trailblazer on environmental issues. Alternative possibilities are April 22 (World Earth Day) or October 4, the Feast of St. Francis (patron saint of ecology).
Another key “unknown” relates to exactly what the encyclical will contain. Until the document is finally promulgated, anticipating its content can only be guesswork, and of course Pope Francis does like to surprise us… This is at once frustrating and tantalizing for people like myself who have a keen interest in the relationship between faith and ecology.
And yet there are perhaps a few clues about the tone and emphasis it will have. The following is my attempt at summarizing seven possible areas the encyclical may cover:
1) It will build on the foundation laid by the previous two popes
John Paul II often spoke out about the need to address issues related to pollution and global warming, and Benedict took this a step further in arguing for good environmental stewardship as a moral imperative during his World Day of Peace address in 2010. Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate made the case for protecting the natural environment for the sake of future generations. And let’s not forget Benedict installing solar panels galore and funding a small Hungarian forest to make the Vatican the world’s first carbon-neutral state!
2) It will focus on repairing our relationship with the natural world
Francis loved the animals / Lucas / Flickr CC
It could be said that Bergoglio’s choice of papal name really set his green agenda. Francis of Assisi loved nature and is said to have preached to birds and animals; no one could accuse him of theological “Speciesism”. And then there is his beautiful hymn, Canticle to the Sun, in which he calls the sun “brother” and the moon “sister”. Just after his election, the pope said he chose Francis of Assisi because “for me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation. These days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?”
3) It will have a strong South American feel
You can take the boy out of Buenos Aires, but you can’t take South America out of him. Commentators think that it’s highly likely the encyclical will be influenced by the insights of those working with people affected by environmental degradation, particularly in the Amazon region. Francis has apparently been corresponding with two prominent South American environmental advocates about the forthcoming encyclical. The first is Erwin Kräutler, Bishop of Xingu in the Brazilian rainforest. The second is the liberation theologian, and former Franciscan friar, Leonardo Boff.
4) It will make the link between care for creation and the preferential option for the poor
Francis has often emphasized the fact that the poorest in the world are the worst affected by environmental problems like climate change, desertification and contamination. This theme connects with the ministry of Bishop Kräutler. Inspired by liberation theology, Kräutler was originally from Austria but started work as a missionary in the late 1960s, becoming one of Brazil’s most formidable advocates for indigenous minorities.
5) It will examine the relationship between human and natural ecology
Francis is likely to emphasize that the way humans treat the natural environment (natural ecology) is symptomatic of the way humans treat each other (human ecology). Francis is well known for his criticism of our ‘throw-away’ society. The ‘use it and chuck it’ mentality infects not just the way we treat the world’s natural resources but also our human relationships.
In a fascinating article for Thinking Faith, the theologian Donal Dorr observes that pope Francis is likely to draw less of a distinction between human and natural ecology than his papal predecessors and give more weight to the view that humans are one element within the ecology of nature. In this regard, he may develop the thinking of Boff, who argues for a covenantal language of humanity’s relationship with nature.
6) It will emphasize that environmental destruction is a sin
This pope has not been afraid to speak about sin, and his statements about the environment are no exception! During a speech at the University of Molise in July 2014, Francis said that unacceptable exploitation of the earth is a sin.
7) It will view environmental advocacy as an opportunity for dialogue and evangelization
Like other aspects of the Church’s social teaching, environmental stewardship is fertile ground for forging partnerships with non-Catholic organizations and individuals. It’s interesting that in one of his recent speeches from Istanbul on the theme of interreligious dialogue, Francis cited the natural environment as one of the “pillars” on which there should be solidarity between believers. Is it possible that the encyclical will help formulate a common language of our responsibilities towards the natural world which is universal to people of all faiths and none?
In relation to the latter group, my own experience of working with those involved in environmental campaign groups is that although they are often suspicious of conventional forms of religion, they nevertheless possess a sense of awe and a belief in something transcendent that puts them at odds with the dominant materialistic consumerism of our day. Lumping them into a “new age spirituality” category overlooks a shared outlook with people of faith. My hope is that the encyclical will develop the possibilities for greater dialogue and exchange with all people who are passionate about the planet
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Henry Longbottom, SJ, was born and bred in Yorkshire, England. After undergraduate studies at Oxford University he went into law, specializing in environmental cases for an international commercial law firm based in the City of London. He's a scholastic for the British Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Currently studying Theology at Heythrop College in London, when he's not reading Aquinas (often) he enjoys hiking (sometimes), singing polyphony (not often enough) and indulging his nerdy interest in gothic architecture (too often!). He writes a blog, Green Jesuit, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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