Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"A broader vision of reality": Laudato Si', 137-142

In the excerpts below, Francis shifts gears from critiquing what is wrong with current models to advocating new ways of thinking and acting. Francis uses the term "integral ecology," which harkens to the "integral Christian humanism" promoted by Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) and found throughout the social doctrine of the Church. Integral Christian humanism regards human beings in all their dimensions: political, economic, cultural, and spiritual. Francis asks that we think about ecological concerns with a similarly integrative vision.


137. 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.


138. Ecology studies the relationship between living organisms and the environment in which they develop. This necessarily entails reflection and debate about the conditions required for the life and survival of society, and the honesty needed to question certain models of development, production and consumption.... Just as the different aspects of the planet - physical, chemical and biological - are interrelated, so too living species are part of a network which we will never fully explore and understand.... The 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.

139. When we speak of the "environment", what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. 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. Recognizing the reasons why a given area is polluted requires a study of the workings of society, its economy, its behaviour patterns, and the ways it grasps reality. Given the scale of change, it is no longer possible to find a specific, discrete answer for each part of the problem.... We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental....

140. Due to the number and variety of factors to be taken into account when determining the environmental impact of a concrete undertaking, it is essential to give researchers their due role, to facilitate their interaction, and to ensure broad academic freedom. Ongoing research should also give us a better understanding of how different creatures relate to one another in making up the larger units which today we term "ecosystems". We take these systems into account not only to determine how best to use them, but also because they have an intrinsic value independent of their usefulness. Each organism, as a creature of God, is good and admirable in itself; the same is true of the harmonious ensemble of organisms existing in a defined space and functioning as a system....

141. ...The protection of the environment is in fact "an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it".[114] We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision....

142. If everything is related, then the health of a society's institutions has consequences for the environment and the quality of human life. "Every violation of solidarity and civic friendship harms the environment".[116] In this sense, social ecology is necessarily institutional, and gradually extends to the whole of society, from the primary social group, the family, to the wider local, national and international communities. Within each social stratum, and between them, institutions develop to regulate human relationships. Anything which weakens those institutions has negative consequences, such as injustice, violence and loss of freedom.... Whether in the administration of the state, the various levels of civil society, or relationships between individuals themselves, lack of respect for the law is becoming more common. Laws may be well framed yet remain a dead letter. Can we hope, then, that in such cases, legislation and regulations dealing with the environment will really prove effective?...


[114] Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (14 June 1992), Principle 4.

[116] BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 51.

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