Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 12, No. 5, May 2016
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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The Joy of Love in the Web of Life



Editorial Essay: The Joy of Love in the Web of Life

Pope Francis's Ecological Vision: A Sojourner's Guide to the Closed World, by Erik Lindberg

The Global Refugee Crisis: Humanity's last call for a culture of sharing and cooperation, by Rajesh Makwana

From Money Controlling People to People Controlling Money, by Carmine Gorga

Dancing Our Kinship with Animate Earth, by Rebecca Burrill

Humans an Invasive Species Heading for a 'Crash', by Nika Knight

The Physics of Energy and the Economy, by Gail Tverberg

Farming for a Small Planet: Agroecology Now, by Frances Moore Lappé

In Memoriam
Mostafa Kamal Tolba

The Ecology of Wellbeing, by Nirmala Nair

A Short History of the Sustainable Development Goals, by Paula Caballero

Human Development – the Way Ahead, by Selim Jahan

Who Will Break Down Patriarchy?, by Namita Bhandare

Faith and Gender Justice, by Helen Dennis


Advances in Sustainable Development

Directory of Sustainable Development Resources

Strategies for Solidarity and Sustainability

Best Practices for Solidarity and Sustainability

Fostering Gender Balance in Society

Fostering Gender Balance in Religion

Meditations on Man and Woman, Humanity and Nature

The Joy of Love in the Web of Life

"The family is the principal agent of an integral ecology, because it is the primary social subject which contains within it the two fundamental principles of human civilization on earth: the principle of communion and the principle of fruitfulness." Pope Francis, Amoris Latetitia, 19 March 2016

"Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false." Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays, Psychology Press, 1996

Amoris Latetitia is primarily about sharing the gift of love and the gift of life in nuclear families, but applies to extended families and to the entire human family; for neither love nor life can flourish in a vacuum, and the web of love and life can thrive if, and only if, people abide in synergy with the natural world. Everything on earth is connected to everything else; self-sufficiency is a delusion of the patriarchal paradigm.

Earth Day 2016 was observed April 22nd, and something good happened. At a meeting of the United Nations in New York, 175 nations signed the Paris Climate Accord. It is a nonbinding agreement with many "shoulds" and no "shalls" pertaining to physical deliverables, but 175 nations agreeing on something positive is undoubtedly a sign of hope for the future of humanity. It was certainly a fitting way to observe Earth Day.

However, while rejoicing that this accord is a positive signal for worldwide solidarity and sustainability, it should be kept in mind that the jury is still out about the reality of "climate change" (used to be "global warming") and the wisdom of currently emerging political agendas being pursued by all kinds of pundits. Scientifically, what we really know about "climate change" has been aptly summarized as follows:

"There is genuine scientific consensus on the following points:

  • Global temperatures have increased overall since 1880
  • Humans are contributing to a rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations
  • CO2 emits and absorbs infrared radiation

For the most consequential issues, there remains considerable debate:

  • Whether the warming since 1950 has been dominated by human causes
  • How much the planet will warm in the 21st century
  • Whether warming is ‘dangerous’
  • Whether radically reducing CO2 emissions will improve the climate and human well being

Leveraged by the consensus on the three points above that are not disputed, the climate ‘consensus’ is being sold as applying to all of the above, even the issues for which there remains considerable debate." Source: Judith Curry, The paradox of the climate change consensus, Climate Etc., 17 April 2016.

Note: On assessing degree of certainty based on consensus, see also The Paradox of Consensus, Ryan Brumberg and Matthew Brumberg, Iconoclast Papers, 21 May 2013, and Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming, John Cook et al, Environmental Research Letters, 13 April 2016.

So there is some scientific basis for concern, but another significant concern is that the "climate change" bandwagon may be used for dubious political agendas, usually coupled with vested financial interests, and distract us from dealing with the more urgent and undeniable realities of overpopulation and overconsumption. Empirical evidence abounds that the planet is becoming a garbage dump. Cleaning and environmental remediation projects, together with projects pursuant to mitigate the impact of natural disasters, are arguably more important than gimmicks such as carbon budgets. How much time and energy should we allocate to fight the elusive threat of "climate change"?

For a truly human ecology that integrates all dimensions of human life (biological, psychological, spiritual) in harmony with ecological dynamics, the elephant in the room is overpopulation. Even if consumption per capita is reduced to subsistence level, 7 billion people consume more, and release more waste, than 4 billion; and current demographic projections of 10 billion by 2050 are more worrisome than hypothetical "climate change." It would seem reasonable to infer that slowing down and even reversing population growth should be one of the high priorities, if not the highest.

But how? Given that attaining a good end does not justify unethical means, the reversal must be accomplished in a way compatible with human rights. Abortion is not an ethical solution. Irresponsible use of artificial birth control is not an ethical solution either, especially as new evidence is emerging that the pill kills. Any form of coercion, no matter how subtle, is not a solution. Mass starvation, pandemics, and wars are not pleasant alternatives.

Is there a sensible alternative? Unpopular as it may seem to say this, the one and only universally acceptable and certainly effective way to resolve the overpopulation issue is responsible parenthood. Criteria for making responsible reproductive decisions vary across cultural and religious traditions, but the bottom line is that the transition away from the dual materialism of capitalism and socialism will require humans to become responsible and self-disciplined.

This transition from homo economicus to homo ecologicus will require a massive educational effort and reconditioning away from the ancient patriarchal paradigm and toward a more natural egalitarian paradigm in which the conyugal act is an actus humanus (deliberate, responsibly intended) rather than just an actus hominis (instinctual, irresponsibly casual). This is the key for a civilized transition; for big business, big government, big money, and big data are problems, but the biggest of all problems, and the underpinning cause of all the others, is big populace.

Due diligence in providing weather services is critically needed; otherwise, let "climate change" unfold naturally. Mother Nature may provide some incentive by way of distress signals, but nature is not the problem. Irresponsible human reproduction is the problem. For those in the Christian tradition, the Theology of the Body, and more recent documents such as Laudato Si' and Amoris Laetitia, provide an incipient critique of patriarchy as well as sensibly egalitarian guidance.

The joy of love in the web of life must be experienced in a manner that is integrally human (humano modo), taking into account all dimensions of life in personal subjects, and in families as social subjects. No man or woman can give what he or she doesn't have (nemo dat quod non habet). To love is to will the good of another (amare est velle bonum alicui.). In the ultimate analysis, the men and women who share the gift of love and the gift of life must be willing to act, freely and responsibly, according to conscience.

What about resistance to change in staunchly patriarchal institutions? Unless such institutions evolve toward an egalitarian male and female paradigm, they are the most formidable obstacle for systemic evolution toward a new culture of solidarity and sustainability. This would seem to be true in the secular world, and even more so in the religious world. Preventing natural climate changes may be an exercise in futility, but changing the unnatural patriarchal climate in each family, and in all human institutions, is something that can and must be done.

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