"Reality" is a term that appears dozens of times in Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’. The term is not directly defined, but appears to signal for Francis a mysterious, relational, created order that imposes limits on humans while also evoking positive feelings like wonder and peace. Francis contrasts this vision of reality with perspectives on the world that are human-centered, fragmented, or reductionist. In this way, his account of reality grounds his sharp critique of narrow, techno-scientific perspectives on life and the world that entail a will to mastery and control. Francis’s critique of reductive, fragmentary perspectives is also connected to his concern with a category of humans and nonhuman others whom Francis designates “the excluded” in Laudato Si’. Distorted views of reality perpetuate neglect of these excluded others and prevent us from grasping the integral functioning of human, ecological, and social realms. I conclude by contrasting Francis’s version of integral ecology with other forms of integral thought that express naïve enthusiasm for technology, and suggest a denial of human and natural limits.
When understood as anthropogenic phenomena, contemporary social and ecological crises can be framed as moral issues, arising from human action and neglect of duties to marginalized human and ecological neighbours. In so much as the roots of these problematic outcomes lie in worldview, ecological wisdom can help in fostering spaces for integrated ethical responses to associated challenges like global climate change, social injustice, and ecological delegation. The present article highlights select instances of thinkers who express convergences between social and ecological concern by exploring cross-cultural perspectives on ecological wisdom. Then, with the aid of a green theo-ecoethical viewpoint informed by those perspectives, it maps relevant teachings of Pope Francis that are expressed in two of his most important exercises of his magisterial office: Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’. As brought into view through dialogue with contemporary articulations of ecological wisdom, inclusive of overlapping Indigenous and academic insights, this approach helps discern a noteworthy measure of rhetorical support for socio-ecological flourishing found in the teaching of Pope Francis.
Writing in his encyclical Laudato Si’: Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis asserts that there is a “solid scientific consensus” on the reality of climate change and on its origins in human activities (#23). Unfortunately, much of the detailed scientific understanding that underlies this claim has not been made readily accessible to scholars in fields outside of the sciences. This paper aims to correct that omission by examining the science of climate change in the context of integral ecology. In this light, it will be demonstrated how human activities cause climate change, climate change has devastating effects on human lives and livelihoods, and human actions are necessary in order to mitigate climate change. Mitigating climate change requires societal actions that bring together technological, cultural, sociological, economic, and political considerations. The question is, do we have the wisdom to see that we are the cause of climate change, that climate change is rapidly making our planet unlivable for large numbers of human beings, and that we have to take strong and immediate actions if we are to avoid ever worsening future disasters? Hopefully, attention to integral ecology—to the interplay of human activities with natural ecosystems—can encourage us to do so.
This article brings Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, into conversation with the modern spiritual movement of Celtic Christian spirituality, arguing that its contribution to Francis’ concept of an “integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically” is its placing the imagination at the heart of interconnectivity. The paper will begin with a description of Francis’ concept of integral ecology, outlining its biblical foundations and spiritual import. Then it will introduce the recent movement in ‘Celtic’ Christian spirituality, arguing how, despite strong criticisms from Celtic scholars, it remains an important and influential spiritual movement that speaks to the concerns, aspirations, and insights of many people within contemporary Christian culture. One of those insights is in the role of the imagination in understanding humanity’s relation to its environment, which will be explored through the movement’s engagement with Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica. And finally, the article will conclude with how the emphasis on the imagination links to contemporary understandings of the religious imagination and how its liberating and concretizing function can serve as a psychological and theological precondition for the incarnational principle of social justice as found in Oscar Romero’s address, “The Political Dimension of the Faith from the Perspective of the Option for the Poor.”
This article examines a relatively unexplored aspect of integral ecology in Laudato Si’ called “the ecology of daily life” and considers how living a healthy ecology of daily life relates to the unique vocation of humans to care for creation. Specifically, what does the Pope intend by “the ecology of daily life”? What are some obstacles to living it? How can living the ecology of daily life help build a culture of care? Based upon the principles articulated in the encyclical, the article proposes an examen for assessing progress in living the ecology of daily life. This examen is applied to two case studies in order to discern a fruitful practice of the ecology of daily life. The case studies represent environmental situations that, while affected by larger scale industrial/commercial processes, are primarily driven by micro-scale decision-making and small daily actions of individuals and local communities. The first case study focuses on endocrine disrupting chemicals as an example of a polluted ecology of daily life, and the second highlights a zero waste initiative as an exemplar of an integral ecology of daily life. The article concludes with comments on lessons learned from the exercise of applying the examen to two concrete situations. This approach can help individuals and communities discern how to build a culture of care based upon the principles of the ecology of daily life as they are presented in Laudato Si’.
To counter the Anthropocene epoch marked by complex webs of exploitation, this paper elucidates an ethics of liberation that applies to all of creation replete with its concomitant relational complexities, which the author calls eco-tethered liberation. The paper delineates how we can both understand and actualize the liberation of the whole of creation, which is an invariably messy communal process of dialoguing and negotiating with many others. This paper further explores the concept of sumaq kawsay as an example of eco-tethered liberation being lived out by the largely Indigenous Bolivian population today. The paper culminates in suggesting that this new ethic of liberation for the Anthropocene is itself a new spirituality for the Anthropocene.
This paper uses my own personal journey toward a green home burial as a vehicle for exploring this emerging industry. A recent move across the country prompted me to reflect upon my own burial place. While I have known for years that I would prefer a green burial, the transition from my native Midwest to the Pacific Northwest was a catalyst for anxieties about leaving the familiar for a foreign (to me) landscape. Knowing that my body would one day return to the hills of my childhood provided a strange sense of calm, but a cursory look into the prospects of a home burial on my 18 acres in rural Indiana suggested the logistics were more complicated than I imagined. I learned that Indiana is one of only five states that do not allow home burial, or that have highly restrictive laws governing it. What had promised to be a simple and natural end of life decision spiraled into a bureaucratic labyrinth. Blending insights into the green burial movement with a navigation of my own experience, this paper seeks to demonstrate the environmental and personal benefits of natural burial practices while also unearthing factors that complicate its accessibility.
This intimate non-fiction essay traces a lineage of Western ecopoetics and ecological thought to its ancient Roman origins by calling upon David Ferry’s inspired translations of Horace’s Odes, and reading them in light of the philosophical imperatives described by David Orr, Wendell Berry, and other important thinkers, in order to formulate an understanding of how the ongoing environmental crisis is ultimately a crisis of the human spirit. Through creating a linguistic mosaic of Horace’s didactic wisdom enmeshed with current sustainability dialogues and personal experience, the essay lays bare the connections and contingencies between poetry, virtue, sustainability, and ecological existence.
We are caught just now between acting in the face of an overwhelming environmental collapse, and trying to understand where to begin. How do we educate for this new reality? What are the stories that need telling, now? The answer, of course, isn't found in technological marvels or bio-engineering. To know the world, this place - the northeast Avalon Peninsula, attached to Newfoundland proper by a narrow isthmus - we have to be in it. We’ll take the sleet and the rain, the howling winds and the sudden downpours. We’ll take the swirl of May fogs, with the mercury struggling to break five degrees Celsius, that last for days like weeks. We need the mundane. The mundane defines us. It brings people together. It grounds us in stories that speak back years and generations, all rooted here.