Today, all of us are rediscovering our fragility. We are rediscovering that inhabiting the Earth as a common home requires much more of us. It requires solidarity in accessing the goods of creation as a “common good”, and solidarity in applying the fruits of research and technology to make our “Home” healthier and more liveable for all.
In this, we rediscover God, who has entrusted us with a vocation of being in solidarity with others. We are rediscovering how much the destiny of each of us is linked to that of others. We are rediscovering the value of the things that matter, and the worthlessness of so many things that we once considered important.
We know that environmental degradation and the deterioration of people’s living conditions have the same root: a development model based on economic growth and consumerism, which causes over-exploitation of the planet and polarisation of inequalities.
Environmental degradation and poverty are two sides of the same coin: an unfair and predatory system that places the economic benefit and well-being of a minority above the rights and decent living conditions of the majority.
Time to change
Living ecologically is not a passing fad, rather, it is a matter of faith and justice. Of faith, because fidelity to God is also fidelity to his Creation. Of justice, because those who suffer the most from the consequences of the ecological crisis are the poor.
The root cause of the deep crisis we are suffering, Pope Francis points out, is within the human being. This crisis has a human root, in the fundamental orientation not only of the economy or of politics but of life and human action (Laudato Si’ #109). It is a crisis of what it means to live as human beings. Therefore, it is a spiritual crisis.
Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behaviour shows that for them maximizing profits is enough. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion. At the same time, we have “a sort of ‘super-development’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation”, while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth. (LS #109)
As integral ecology is based on the fact that ‘everything in the world is connected’ (LS #16), it requires a dialogue between different dimensions: environmental, economic, social and cultural. In addition, it considers the principles of the Common Good and Justice between current and future generations. The caring for nature and solidarity with the impoverished of the earth are closely connected (Amazon Synod Message #66).
Ecological conversion: a new way of life
A people’s ecological conversion means that ‘the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.’ God calls us to live the vocation of being protectors of Creation.
Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience. (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ #217)
Ecological conversion is a call to change our vision of ourselves, of our brothers and sisters and of the world. From this change of mind set a new way of being in the world and of acting is born (LS #215). The challenge we are facing is not only of doing, but also of being. It is not possible to change the way of life without an authentic spirituality.
The change of habits and patterns of behaviour, production and consumption will not start only by reading precise scientific reports, or by a better knowledge of the threats to our planet.
Prayer for Ecological Conversion
God of the sun and the moon,
of the mountains, deserts and plains,
God of the mighty oceans, of rivers, lakes and streams
God of all creatures that live in seas and fly in the air
of every living thing that grows and moves on this sacred Earth.
We are formed by Christ into Your People,
called to bring the world into Your marvelous light.
As the Body of Christ, we are messengers of ecological vocation.
We are entrusted with caring for this Earth which You have created.
Help us to love and respect it;
to repair what we have damaged;
to care for what You have made good and holy.
Give us the wisdom and the passion to change our minds,
our hearts and our ways.
Let us be mustard seeds in our world bringing about ecological conversion
which grows and spreads to every corner of the Earth.
For our sake now and for every generation which is to come.
We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.
(Catholic Earthcare Australia, 2002)*
Note: * Prayer is taken from 2021 Facilitator’s Guide: ‘Ecological Conversion – Called to Tend to a Flourishing Garden of Life’. See https://catholicclimatecovenant.org/resource/integral-ecology-pursuing-common-good-our-common-home-2022