Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 11, No. 7, July 2015
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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A Sacramental Ecology for the Human Family

Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN
Martyr of the Amazon, +2005
Artist: Sister Janet Mullen, SNDdeN
Courtesy of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
"Rather than being a barrier that distances us from the divine, this material world becomes a sacrament that can reveal divine presence. In place of spiritual contempt for the world, we ally ourselves with the living God by loving the whole natural world, part of the flesh that the Word became." Elizabeth Johnson, Earth in Transition, 2014

"Many traditional Christians feel a deep suspicion toward the ecology movement, particularly when it lays claim to theological and religious meaning. They see this as the rise of a new 'nature worship' to be regarded as totally contrary to 'Biblical faith'. What I wish to show in this talk is that the Church's mission of redemption of the world cannot be divorced from justice in society and the healing of the wounds of nature wrought by an exploitative human industrial system. Furthermore that this holistic perspective is central to the Biblical vision of redemption. It is a Christianity that divorces individual salvation from society and society from creation that is unbiblical." Rosemary Radford Ruether, National Justice and Peace Network, 2000

"Admittedly, Christians have not always appropriated and developed the spiritual treasures bestowed by God upon the Church, where the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature or from worldly realities, but lived in and with them, in communion with all that surrounds us." Pope Francis, Laudato Si, no. 216, 18 June 2015


Editorial: A Sacramental Ecology for the Human Family
To save the Earth, first we must love her, by Hugh Warwick
Laudato Si - a beautiful blend of science, faith and humanity, by Virginia Moffatt
The Theological Heart of Laudato Si', by David Cloutier
The Care-Centered Economy: Rediscovering what has been for granted, by Ina Praetorius
Economics for a Full World, by Herman Daly
Economics vs. the Economy, by William Rees
Towards the Permacene, by Andy Russell
Blueprint for Change, Part 7: Community Politics & Interactive Democracy, by Carlos Cuellar Brown
'Epic Fail': Feminism and Ecological Crises, by Robert Jensen
Arctic Oil vs. Carbon Tax? It's Not Even Close, by Charles Komanoff
The Renewable Revolution, by Michael Klare
Systemic Problems Require Systemic Solutions, by James Gustave Speth


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Fostering Gender Balance in Religion (religious traditions, spirituality)

EDITORIAL: A Sacramental Ecology for the Human Family

Last month's editorial was on a sacramental ecology for the Anthropocene. This month, following the publication of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si, it is opportune to start a careful analysis of this document. It provides a comprehensive exposition of current solidarity and sustainability issues as well as an appeal for constructive dialogue, and diligent action, pursuant to resolving those issues for the common good of the human family and the entire community of creation. One way to get started is to consider the outline of the document:

Encyclical Laudato Si' - On the Care of Our Common Home

Introduction and Appeal

Chapter 1. What is Happening to Our Common Home

Pollution and Climate Change
The Issue of Water
Loss of Biodiversity
Decline in the Quality of Human Life and the Breakdown of Society
Global Inequality
Weak Responses
A Variety of Opinions

Chapter 2. The Gospel of Creation

The Light Offered by Faith
The Wisdom of the Biblical Accounts
The Mystery of the Universe
The Message of Each Creature in the Harmony of Creation
A Universal Communion
The Common Destination of Goods
The Gaze of Jesus

Chapter 3. The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis

Technology: Creativity and Power
The Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm
The Crisis and Effects of Modern Anthropocentrism

Chapter 4. Integral Ecology

Environmental, Economic, and Social Ecology
Cultural Ecology
Ecology of Daily Life
The Principle of the Common Good
Justice Between the Generations

Chapter 5. Lines of Approach and Action

Dialogue on the Environment in the International Community
Dialogue for New National and Local Policies
Dialogue and Transparency in Decision-Making
Politics and Economy in Dialogue for Human Fulfilment
Religions in Dialogue with Science

Chapter 6. Ecological Education and Spirituality

Towards a New Lifestyle
Educating for the Covenant Between Humanity and the Environment
Ecological Conversion
Joy and Peace
Civic and Political Love
Sacramental Signs and the Celebration of Rest
The Trinity and the Relationship Between Creatures
Queen of all Creation
Beyond the Sun

Conclusion, Prayers, and References

The encyclical is a moral appeal for honest dialogue and urgent action to reverse current trends of environmental deterioration (including climate change) as a result of human activity. Chapter 1 describes the symptoms of the ecological crisis. Chapter 2 reconsiders the symptoms in light of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Chapter 3 is a painful diagnosis: the root-cause of our ecological predicament is the systematic pursuit of short-term financial gain and extravagant consumerism, regardless of social and ecological consequences. Chapter 4, on integral ecology, focuses on human development, and the principle of the common good, as the core of any viable remedy. Chapter 5 provides some guidelines for local, national, and international dialogue pursuant to defining solutions. Chapter 6 envisions a new covenant between humanity and the human habitat and reiterates that we are all in the same boat and will have to get through this together.

Terms such as "ecological conversion" and "cultural revolution" are used to make clear that the forthcoming transition will require more than minor adjustments in current policies and practices. Unbridled capitalism must go. People must moderate consumption habits and hold politicians accountable. Some form of global governance must be created, with "differentiated responsibilities" for developed and developing nations and proper checks and balances per the principle of subsidiarity. It will not be easy, but it is possible: "Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning." (205) It is essential: "Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience." (217) It is a collective project: "The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion." (219)

There is one huge gap: some key issues of human sexuality and gender relations, such as family planning and the role of women in sustainable development, are practically ignored. "While it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development." (50) This brings to mind Pope Francis' recent comment that "Catholics don't have to breed 'like rabbits'." As everyone knows, ecological impacts are the product of population and consumption. Even if consumption is minimized, unlimited population growth in a finite planet is a mathematical impossibility. Granted that, in the Catholic tradition, irresponsible recourse to artificial birth control and abortion are not morally permissible solutions, patriarchal gender ideology is also an obstacle to responsible parenthood in both the domestic church and the institutional church. This issue requires further clarification; else, the moral appeal of the encyclical may be compromised.

Reactions to the encyclical continue to proliferate throughout the world. It calls for dialogue and recognizes that there is a variety of approaches that should be considered, and everyone can contribute, rather than just proposing one perspective as the only one that is ethical, socially and ecologically. It may be a turning point in the transition from capitalism/communism to a better system of solidarity and sustainability. When enhanced by an "adequate anthropology" (118), and a recognition that "our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings" (155), it may become the inception of a new sacramental ecology for the human family.

To save the Earth, first we must love her

Hugh Warwick

Originally published in The Ecologist, 19 June 2015

Pope Francis's vision of mankind living in joyful harmony with God's creation has challenged the great powers of the modern world, writes Hugh Warwick - and made the Catholic Church a revolutionary force of love and compassion, empowering movements for social and environmental justice everywhere.

To judge by the reaction of some members of the far-right in America, it would seem that the Pope has hit a nerve. By daring to speak a truth, that many so dearly wish to remain hidden, he has potentially begun the revolution so long sought. For too long the Church has been comfortable to wallow in pomp and wealth while focusing displeasure on the activities of consenting adults in bed.

By ignoring, or worse still, condoning and taking part in some of the worst excesses of human existence, the church, as portrayed in history and the media, has not been an attractive proposition to me. The most persuasive argument came from a Catholic Worker friend who pointed out to me that Jesus was a nonviolent, revolutionary anarchist.

But then, Pope Francis …. He is doing a similarly good job at attracting me to the work of the church. Could he be the force that takes us over the tipping point? Moves the mass from ignorance to understanding? From passive acceptance to action?

The use of language that is bold is truly delightful – the acceptance that there is a real threat of the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” and that this is caused by us is something that I, and many many others, have been saying for years. Yet the upper reaches of most establishments, political or religious, have remained mute. Why? Because to accept this as a reality means to accept the need to set about a fundamental shift in the way we operate as a species. And that will require a shift of power away from those who currently hold it in their tight grip.

"While I may not share the Pope's religious motivation for doing good, I do share the relief of millions that he, and the powerful institution he leads, may have started a revolution that will see good done to life on Earth."
He talks about our ‘home’. This is the shared planet, the home of uncountable life. The use of that word, home, is important. In Greek the word for home is oikos from which we get ecology and economy. Ecology is the study of the home; economy is the management of the home. As was pointed out by the perceptive thinker Satish Kumar, to manage what you have not studied is absurd.

But there is a light that comes from these words that is more penetrating than the call for ecological consideration. It also presents an opportunity for all parties to reconsider how they communicate about what is really important.

For so long we in the environmental world, have relied upon logic to be the motivation for people to make the necessary changes in their lives; changes that will start the process of reducing our impact. And one of the reasons we have done that is, I believe, in a reaction against ‘faith’. It is faith that got us into the mess we are in – faith that there is going to be another world to frolic around in after we kill this one, faith that we can keep on growing economies forever on a finite planet.

But there is a common theme between essences of religion and environmentalism, and that is love. The late American writer, Stephen Jay Gould, captured this so beautifully when he said, “We will not fight to save what we do not love.” And Pope Francis is allowing us again to go back to what motivated everyone I know – not logic, but love. I was talking to a botanist about the beauty in nature and he said, "scientists do themselves a disservice if they deny the importance of the unquantifiable." And you don’t get much more unquantifiable than love.

I do not think that these wise words will be enough to beat me out of my atheism, but they do herald a moment when the Catholic Church becomes more relevant to us all. I may not share the belief in the motivation for doing good, but I do share the relief of millions that such a powerful body may start a revolution that will see good done to life on earth.


Hugh Warwick is an ecologist and writer with a particular fondness for hedgehogs. His first book, A Prickly Affair, remains the only book to have accolades from both Jeanette Winterson and Ann Widdecombe on the cover. The Beauty in the Beast is published in May 2012 and takes him on a journey in search of other animals. And recently he returned to hedgehogs with a book about the iconography of the animal.


Laudato Si - a beautiful blend of science, faith and humanity

Virginia Moffatt

Originally published in Ekklesia, 23 June 2015

I welcome it because it celebrates the wonder and beauty of nature that has inspired me all my life. I welcome it because it is produced by a man of faith but deeply rooted in the science that has always fascinated me. And I welcome it because it is a vital political document that tasks each one of us with the duty of protecting our planet, whilst enabling people of all faiths and none to unite in a common cause.

I have always been a Christian, raised in the Catholic tradition. I have also always been interested in the environment.

From an early age I was fascinated by the wildlife in the pond in the park behind our house – newts, frogs, sticklebacks, even the scary looking leeches were of interest. I used to love nature trails at school, and was first drawn to the concept of ecosystems on a camping trip with primary school. When I went to secondary school, I was very lucky to encounter the inspirational Judy Hudson, who taught me biology. Thanks to her gifted teaching and enthusiasm I ended up studying it at university.

I wasn’t the best of biology students and left with a mediocre degree. But during the three years I was at York, ecology and biodiversity were my favourite courses and I still continue to be passionate about the subjects. And it was as a student that I realised loving nature goes hand in hand with politics.

Thirty years ago, I learnt about vanishing species, the distortions of world food production that created more poverty than it resolved, how pollution was destroying important habitats. I became a vegetarian when I realised how much more land is required to rear cattle than to grow crops.I’m not one for joining parties but ever since I have supported many environmental campaigns, and been sympathetic to green ideals even if I've never been able to live up to them.

Back then, climate change was known about but barely discussed and I only really started paying attention to it in the last 10 years. I have to confess that whilst I want to stop global warming, I can’t claim to be the greenest person on the planet. I’m still a vegetarian, cycle a lot, and haven’t flown since 1997 (though that’s due to lack of funds rather than ideology). However, I feel the cold and so the heating is on far too much in our house, we drive too often and our default is to use supermarkets rather than search around for local produce. And, because the future scenarios being modelled by scientists are often terrifying, I often find myself ducking the issue because I don’t want to think about where our planet might be heading.

Which is why, as a Catholic, I welcome the Pope’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si’on care for God's earth. I welcome it because it celebrates the wonder and beauty of nature that has inspired me all my life. I welcome it because it is produced by a man of faith but deeply rooted in the science that has always fascinated me. And I welcome it because it is a vital political document that tasks each one of us with the duty of protecting our planet, whilst enabling people of all faiths and none to unite in a common cause. I think I need such a call to jerk me out of my complacency, reminding me to do more to keep this beautiful world safe for future generations.

I’m still delving into the paper, and will provide a more detailed review over the next couple of days. But in the meantime, I’m celebrating the publication of this beautiful blend of science, faith and humanity that recognises the links between caring for planet and people.


Virginia Moffatt is the Chief Operating Officer of Ekklesia, an independent, not-for-profit thinktank which orients its work around the changing role of beliefs, values and faith/non-faith in public life.

The following is a "short list" of substantive responses to Pope Francis' Laudato Si encyclical:

  • Pope calls for urgent rethink of man's relationship with the Earth, Catherine Pepinster, The Tablet, 18 June 2015
  • The Theological Heart of Laudato Si', David Cloutier, Commonweal, 18 June 2015
  • Why 'Laudato Si’' is the Perfect Encyclical for Millennials, Kerry Weber, America Magazine, 18 June 2015
  • Laudato Si: The Cheers and the Challenges, Raymond de Souza, National Catholic Register, 18 June 2015
  • Population and Women Under-Recognized in Pope's Encyclical. Applause Anyway., Carl Safina, The Huffington Post, 18 June 2015
  • The Magna Carta of Integral Ecology: Cry of the Earth - Cry of the Poor: An analysis of Pope Francis' encyclical, Leonardo Boff, Iglesia Descalza, 19 June 2015
  • Laudato Si' - Magistra No, Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, 19 June 2015
  • Can the Climate Pope Save the Planet?, Johan Rockström, The World Post, 22 June 2015
  • Thoughts on Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, Herman Daly, The Daly News, 23 June 2015
  • The Tragedy of Laudato Si’, William F. Byrne, Crisis Magazine, 24 June 2015
  • The Pope and Laudato Si’: Is the Ecology Encyclical a Moral Analysis or a Political Indictment?, Christiana Z. Peppard, Religion & Politics, 24 June 2015
  • A readers' guide to 'Laudato Si'', Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter, 26 June 2015
  • The Gift of Clear Mind: Laudato Si', Albert Bates, The Great Change, 28 June 2015
  • The Pope’s Ecological Vow, Paul Vallely, New York Times, 28 June 2015
  • ‘Laudato Si’: justice, peace and care of Creation, Gerard Timoner, Philippine Inquirer, 30 June 2015

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