St Barnabas Anglican Church, Warrington
Caring for our Common Home
Notes for Session 3
These notes are based on chapter 4 of the encyclical Laudato Si', Integral Ecology.
"Since everything is closely interrelated, and today's problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions."
1. Environmental, economic and social ecology.
"...fragmentation of knowledge and the isolation of bits of information can actually become a form of ignorance, unless they are integrated into a broader vision of reality."
"Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it... We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis in which both social and environmental strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature."
"Economic growth, for its part, tends to produce predictable reactions and a certain standardisation with the aim of simplifying procedures and reducing costs. This suggests the need for an 'economic ecology' capable of appealing to a broader vision of reality. The protection of the environment is in fact an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it."
2. Cultural ecology.
"Together with the patrimony of nature, there is also an historic, artistic and cultural patrimony which is likewise under threat. This patrimony is part of the shared identity of each place and a foundation upon which to build a habitable city. It is not a matter of tearing down and building new cities, supposedly more respectful of the environment yet not always more attractive to live in. Rather, there is a need to incorporate the history, culture and architecture of each place, preserving its original identity."
"A consumerist vision of human beings, encouraged by the mechanisms of today's globalised economy, has a levelling effect on cultures, diminishing the immense variety which is the heritage of all humanity. Attempts to resolve all problems through uniform regulations or technical inventions can lead to overlooking the complexities of local problems which demand the active participation of all members of the community."
"Many intensive forms of environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the local structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community. The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal. The imposition of a dominant lifestyle linked to a single form of production can be just as harmful as the altering of ecosystems."
"It is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions... For them land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best."
3. Ecology of daily life.
"The extreme poverty experienced in areas lacking harmony, open spaces or potential for integration, can lead to incidents of brutality and to exploitation of criminal organisations. In the unstable neighbourhoods of mega-cities, the daily experience of overcrowding and social anonymity can create a sense of uprootedness which spawns anti-social behaviour and violence. Nonetheless, I wish to insist that love always proves more powerful. Many people in these conditions are able to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness which convert overcrowding into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome. This experience of a communitarian salvation often generates ideas for the improvement of a building or a neighbourhood."
"There is also a need to protect those common areas, visual landmarks and urban landscapes which increase our sense of belonging, of rootedness, of feeling 'at home' within a city which includes us and brings us together.... Others will then no longer be seen as stranger but as part of the 'we' which all of us are working to create. For this same reason, in both rural and urban settings, it is helpful to set aside some places which can be preserved and protected from constant changes brought by human intervention."
"Lack of housing is a grave problem in many parts of the world... Not only the poor, but many other members of society as well, find it difficult to own a home. Having a home has much to do with a sense of personal dignity and the growth of families."
"The quality of life in cities has much to do with systems of transport, which are often a source of much suffering for those who use them. Many cars, used by one or more people, circulate in cities, causing traffic congestion, raising the level of pollution, and consuming enormous quantities or non-renewable energy."
"Respect for our dignity as human being often jars with the chaotic realities that people have to endure in city life. Yet this should not make us overlook the abandonment and neglect also experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services and where some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or even the hope of a more dignified life."
"Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment."
"The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.
4. The principle of the common good.
"The common good is the sum of those conditions of social life which allows social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment."
"...the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good."
5. Justice between generations.
"The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity."
"What kind of world do we want to leave those who come after us... its general direction, its meaning and its values? ... What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?"
"Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth."
"Men and women of our post-modern world run the risk of rampant individualism, and many problems of society are connected with today's self-centred culture of instant gratification."
"...our inability to think seriously about future generations is linked to our inability to broaden the scope of our present interests and to give consideration to those who remain excluded from development. Let us not only keep the poor of the future in mind, but also today's poor, whose life on earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting."