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Jordi Puig Baguer, , Professor of assessment of Environmental Impact at the University of Navarra, Spain.

Everything is connected


Wed, 16 Mar 2016 15:25:00 +0000 Posted in Religion Confidential

Pope Francis' latest encyclical, Laudato Si, calls for an intertwined examination of the environment and society around us. These are two inseparable aspects of reality, in which everything is connected. We are part of a world that is originally beautiful, rich and interdependent, in which a single human family lives. The earth is sister and mother, and we all depend on her for our existence. The encyclical invites us to contemplate this beauty of the world and to face its evident problems with hope. The bad things that happen to the environment - or in it - affect us all, especially the poorest. Both realities call us to leave no moral space to the "globalization of indifference" [n. 52]: "The logic that makes it impossible to envisage a sincere concern for the environment is the same logic that makes it impossible to envisage a concern for integrating the most vulnerable", because "in the current 'exitist' and 'privatist' model it does not seem to make sense to invest so that those who are slow, weak or less gifted can make their way in life" [n. 196].

The search for an indissoluble environmental and social harmony is a duty that claims everyone. And the further the goal seems to be located to reach. Any culture or person who bows respectfully before the fragile value of the natural environment, or of the nature that resides in the human being, respects and cultivates itself. It does so by opening itself to care for, heal or restore the natural environment or the fragility of human nature, especially among the poor of the earth. Harm caused unjustifiably to the environment or to human nature in any person is automatically moral harm.

In order to provide adequate responses to the challenges facing the contemporary world, the encyclical proposes a dialogue open to all wisdom or readers, whether inside or outside the Catholic Church, believers or non-believers. For its part, it offers the knowledge of Christianity, with the conviction and confidence that "the ethical principles that reason is capable of perceiving can always reappear under different garb and expressed in different languages, including religious ones [n. 199]." The encyclical presents the coherence between these principles, the wisdom of other traditions and contemporary scientific reason. The aim is thus to foster effective alliances among those who live or think differently, towards a project of common good in the long term deadline and for all, which gives priority to the poorest and most defenseless before our decisions, including future generations and the earth itself: "... among the most abandoned and mistreated poor is our oppressed and devastated earth [n. 2]".

Environmental damage is presented as a sin against God, although culturally it is not valued as such, either because the notion of sin is not accepted, or because it is not accepted that it can exist in environmental subject . Francis, however, addresses himself with exigency to those committed and prayerful Christians who mock environmental concerns, or who are passive and do not want to change their habits, and thus fall into incoherence: "they need an ecological conversion, which implies allowing all the consequences of their meeting with Jesus Christ to flow forth in their relations with the world around them" [n. 217]. It will be necessary to return to the sources of their religion if necessary, because... "living the vocation of being protectors of God's work is an essential part of a virtuous existence; it is not something optional or a secondary aspect of the Christian experience" [n. 217]. The spirituality of the Christian "is not disconnected from one's own body or from nature or from the realities of this world, but is lived with them and in them, in communion with all that surrounds us" [n. 216].

Believers or not, Francis points out as a task an environmental Education critical of the myths of "individualism, indefinite progress, skill, consumerism, market without rules", open "to recover the different levels of ecological balance: the internal with oneself, the solidarity with others, the natural with all living beings, the spiritual with God [n. 210]".

We must, in short, rediscover that "everything is connected" [n. 240]. And act accordingly.