Cultures shape human minds and give us an insight into humanity's readiness or not to accept changing its attitude in dealing with its natural environment. The purpose of omarcafini.info . So in dealing with the relationship between humans and nature there appears a. Encyclopedia of environmental ethics and philosophy / J. Baird Callicott, Robert. Frodeman reconceive nature, human nature, and the proper relationship between humans and nature. pdf. Nzongola-Ntalaja, Georges. ''The Crisis in the Great Lakes The conversion to forage crops and the elimination of.  Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion. had been made to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology”. The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, It follows that “the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which.
As certain elements come to the foreground, however, others must necessarily recede from our awareness. Hence, there will always be some aspects of an experience that exceed the attempted objectification. Thus, in emphasizing the narrative aspect of our experience at the expense of the ambient, theorists such as Carlson are oversimplifying our aesthetic experience of and re- lationship to the natural world. This structure of foregrounding and backgrounding is of particular importance when considering a response to the question with which Foster concludes her essay, namely, how do we allow such ineffable and difficult to communicate experiences of aesthetic value to contribute to our social norms and discourses on value?
What I argue in the next section is that we can provide one response to this question by examining the role that artistic works play in shaping our perceptions of the natural world. They educate our perceptions not in terms of specific categories through which we will come to understand the world around us, but in accentuating salient relationships that alter and expand our means of categorization. In this context, the artwork embodies the sensuous materiality of experience through the communal and historical categories we inherit and cre- ate.
The appeal of this idea for the current discussion is that maps, in establishing relations between the bodies represented, are normative.
That is, in the work of art considered as an Earth-map we find a particular series of relations established that, if allowed to educate our perceptions, guide our behaviors toward the material world. Scarry never thought much of palm trees, even questioning their status as a tree and categorically dis- qualifying them from ever being beautiful.
One winter when I was bereft because my garden was underground, I put Matisse prints all over the walls—thirteen in a single room. All winter long I applied the paintings to my staring eyes, and now they are, in retrospect, one of the things that make my former disregard of palm trees so startling.
The precedent behind each Nice painting is the frond of a palm; or, to be more precise, each Nice painting is a perfect cross between an anemone flower and a palm frond. The presence of the anemone I had always seen. But I completely missed what resided behind these surfaces, what Odysseus would have seen, the young slip of a palm springing into the light.
As she notes throughout the description of her conversion, Matisse seldom gives the palm tree itself a prominent position in the painting, and yet they are what define the paintings. Essays in Environ- mental Philosophy, ed.
Foltz and Robert Frodeman Bloomington: Indiana University Press,p. Princeton University Press,pp. The perceiver is led to a more capacious regard for the world.
Because the invocation of other worlds is fairly common in aesthetics, I here refine in what sense I understand the work of art to embody and present another world. Although there are individual differences between their accounts, there is a con- sensus among these thinkers that a world is an essentially relational phenomenon. To be in a world is both to reside within a particular system of relationships and to participate in the creation of that system.
What the work of art accomplishes in presenting a world is both to call attention to the current world we inhabit and to do so by indicating ways in which that world could be different. Draw attention away from some factor within it in order to accentuate others, etc.? In this respect, artworks will always possess the potential to inform and transform our perception, especially when they express the ambient. While he presents an extensive taxonomy for the various forms mappings can take, I focus on one artist, the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, in order to give a more specific and con- crete example of how artworks can serve as a non-scientific source of perceptual norms friendly to the Earth.
Frequently they are 39 Ibid. Hackett Publishing,chap. Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery New York: Knopf,pp. To this point, he says the following: My intention is not to improve nature but to know it—not as a spectator but as a participant, I do not wish to mimic nature, but to draw on the energy that drives it so that it drives my work also.
My art is unmistakably the work of a person—I would not want it otherwise—it celebrates my human nature and a need to be physically and spiritually bound to the earth.
Like a scientist, Goldsworthy situates his art as an attempt to understand the land and know nature. Unlike a scientist, he does so as an active participant in nature rather than as an objective observer. He denies that his work helps to categorize nature, but rather embodies the understanding of those who have an intimate relation to it. Abrams,pp. This effect of the work, of course, is identical to the one Eaton describes science as having on our perception.
Abrams,p. The question we must pose is how the particular understanding of the relations mapped in his work presents a world distinct from our current Western industrialized one.
There are two themes in his work that speak to these concerns, namely, temporal finitude and non-dominating collaboration. Goldsworthy empha- sizes both of these as central themes in his work at various points. Nature, and more specifically its inorganic configurations such as stone, is not typically thought of as something that possesses finitude. As Carolyn Merchant and Pierre Hadot describe it so well, the modern period comes to understand nature as dead, inert material to be exploited even as nature is personified.
Challenging this sense of nature as dead material is part of what thinkers such as Callicott and Rolston think is valuable about the current scientific understanding of nature. Since science brings us before the evolutionary history of the landscape, nature is re-enlivened; it becomes animated and is given a history.
One might won- der, however, the extent to which the scientific world achieves sufficient separation from the view of nature found to be problematic.
To the extent that many forms of science continue to maintain a very classical, linear conception of space and time, the systems it describes will still appear to be functional in an engineering sense. This reliance on classical understandings of nature as the Great Object is what I referred to above as the cultural assumptions that science has such difficulty relinquishing.
What we per- ceive as a single, linear time is actually the perception of these various temporali- ties from the perspective of a human duration. An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature, trans. Harvard University Press, For example, in one series of works depicted most vividly in the documentary Rivers and Tides, Goldsworthy collects small, red, iron-infused stones from a river and grinds them into a fine powder.
The river eventually carries the red away, returning to its clear state with the red becoming increasingly diffuse as it flows away from the site of impact. Speaking of this process, Goldsworthy describes the stone itself as fluid insofar as it is en- gaged in a cyclical process of solidification, being worn away and reduced to dust, and then recompressed back into stone.
A relationship in the current world is thereby perceptually subverted through the aesthetic work that presents an alternative to that world. Reflecting more closely upon the temporal finitude of nature establishes different perceptual norms.
Rather than regarding a mountain solely as a monolithic presence in the landscape, we can learn to see it as a vulnerable and changing presence. Here we have another way to think like a mountain: Presenting that which we take to be permanent as fragile and mutable leads into the second theme of non-dominating collaboration. As many have noted, nature is not always beautiful and inviting. Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism, p. But, as we have already seen, Goldsworthy calls our atten- tion to this mystery in such a way that we are inextricably intertwined with natural places rather than alienated and removed from them.
Godlovitch is right, though, that our entanglement with nature is not always a pleasant thing, as Goldsworthy himself recognizes. So when Goldsworthy was commissioned for a site specific installation, he drew upon the history of the building, placing several slabs of Appleton Greenmoore stone in the museum courtyard and creating a run- ning crack that wends from this inner area along the floor, through the slabs, and out into the sidewalk in Golden Gate Park.
Such a work cannot help but also be a comment on how to respond to the indifference of nature, and the message is surely not one of alienation and withdrawal. It makes tangible the ambient danger of the city and at- tempts to express it in a way that addresses perception directly.
When attuned to see the finitude of nature and ourselves, we can reflect more directly on how we respond to this finitude. The process of working in unstable or unfamiliar conditions challenges currently held understandings of materials and nature and compels a different relationship to them. In order to produce his works, he necessarily must assume this open relationship to what happens. When Goldsworthy travelled to Japan to work in a very different landscape from the one to which he was accustomed, he initially struggled to create anything successful.
Eventually, however, he did create a number of works. I realized that here is a situation where I have got to change as an artist, as a person, to cope with the landscape. What was at first an aloof and foreign landscape becomes familiar not by transforming it, but by entering into it in an engaged and sensitive manner, by learning from its internal aesthetic norms. When pressed concerning the fact that his work does, in fact, rework nature, Goldsworthy replies as follows: It is the way of nature to be used, worked and touched.
We all touch nature and we are a part of this process of interaction and change, we rely on each other. His sculpture calls our attention to the ambient processes through which other beings, animate and inanimate, have adapted themselves to a place, but this adaptation still occurs through interacting with and altering the starting conditions. In other words, niches are created, not found, and humanity, as a process that con- tributes to the broader processes of nature, cannot help but have an impact on the world around it.
The challenge, then, is not to withdraw from the world but to adapt means to collaborate with existing structures and determine the kind of impact one has. After all, if there is something inherent to land art itself that would contribute to forming perceptual norms that would promote the further domination of nature, then the argument of the previous section would be at odds with itself.
While both Parsons and Carlson offer slightly different definitions of what an aesthetic affront to nature might be, both agree that environmental art insults nature not humans concerned with nature by inducing a metaphysical change within it from something natural to something artifactual. Continuum,p. As I showed above, they both agree that a natural setting will always be beautiful in virtue of the causal functional roles at play within it.
Once an artist arrives and alters the aesthetic properties of the place, such functions are removed and the place is transformed into a work. At the foundation of their argument is a specific perceptual norm, one that identifies human presence as somehow molesting or altering the very nature of nature. This emphasis results in simultaneously dismissing what is important about many environmental artworks and weakening the force of their criticism of others. It is not the case that he is trying to replace nature or improve upon it in the way Parsons and Carlson claim.
In fact, the effort to accentuate new possibilities for collaborating with nature takes for granted the falsity of their dualistic assumption without which there simply is no affront. In arguing this point, I am in no way defending all environmental artworks. Surely, as Brady notes, many of these works display a dispiriting disregard for the natural world that is their medium.
What is disheartening about the specific works Carlson describes is not their ecological effect on nature necessarily, but the kind of human relationship to nature that they embody.
To defend this point would take us too far afield and so I leave it as a question for the reader to decide. It is simpler because without the dualistic assumption we need not worry which works or which activities enact metaphysical changes in the landscape, more complex insofar as we can no longer lump all such works together in a single category. It is hard for us to accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary: But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products.
We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.
A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard. Climate as a common good The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.
In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.
The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes. Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. The melting in the polar ice caps and in high altitude plains can lead to the dangerous release of methane gas, while the decomposition of frozen organic material can further increase the emission of carbon dioxide.
Things are made worse by the loss of tropical forests which would otherwise help to mitigate climate change. Carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans and compromises the marine food chain.
If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.
Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited.
For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever.
Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.5. Approach 2: Respect for Life: A Biocentric Ethic [Environmental Ethics]
Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.
Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop adequate storage technologies. Some countries have made considerable progress, although it is far from constituting a significant proportion. Investments have also been made in means of production and transportation which consume less energy and require fewer raw materials, as well as in methods of construction and renovating buildings which improve their energy efficiency.
But these good practices are still far from widespread. Other indicators of the present situation have to do with the depletion of natural resources. We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society, where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.
Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Sources of fresh water are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry. Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences in the short and long term.
Large cities dependent on significant supplies of water have experienced periods of shortage, and at critical moments these have not always been administered with sufficient oversight and impartiality. Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production.
Some countries have areas rich in water while others endure drastic scarcity. One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor.
Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality.
Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.
Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.
Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.
This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality. Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use.
Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century. The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses.
Different species contain genes which could be key resources in years ahead for meeting human needs and regulating environmental problems.
Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever.
The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us.
We have no such right. It may well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. But the good functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place. Human beings must intervene when a geosystem reaches a critical state.
But nowadays, such intervention in nature has become more and more frequent. As a consequence, serious problems arise, leading to further interventions; human activity becomes ubiquitous, with all the risks which this entails. Often a vicious circle results, as human intervention to resolve a problem further aggravates the situation.
For example, many birds and insects which disappear due to synthetic agrotoxins are helpful for agriculture: We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems.
But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.
In assessing the environmental impact of any project, concern is usually shown for its effects on soil, water and air, yet few careful studies are made of its impact on biodiversity, as if the loss of species or animals and plant groups were of little importance. Highways, new plantations, the fencing-off of certain areas, the damming of water sources, and similar developments, crowd out natural habitats and, at times, break them up in such a way that animal populations can no longer migrate or roam freely.
As a result, some species face extinction. Alternatives exist which at least lessen the impact of these projects, like the creation of biological corridors, but few countries demonstrate such concern and foresight. Frequently, when certain species are exploited commercially, little attention is paid to studying their reproductive patterns in order to prevent their depletion and the consequent imbalance of the ecosystem.
Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. But the cost of the damage caused by such selfish lack of concern is much greater than the economic benefits to be obtained. Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values involved are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration.
Some countries have made significant progress in establishing sanctuaries on land and in the oceans where any human intervention is prohibited which might modify their features or alter their original structures. In the protection of biodiversity, specialists insist on the need for particular attention to be shown to areas richer both in the number of species and in endemic, rare or less protected species.
Certain places need greater protection because of their immense importance for the global ecosystem, or because they represent important water reserves and thus safeguard other forms of life.
Let us mention, for example, those richly biodiverse lungs of our planet which are the Amazon and the Congo basins, or the great aquifers and glaciers. We know how important these are for the entire earth and for the future of humanity.
The ecosystems of tropical forests possess an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when these forests are burned down or levelled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands. A delicate balance has to be maintained when speaking about these places, for we cannot overlook the huge global economic interests which, under the guise of protecting them, can undermine the sovereignty of individual nations.
The replacement of virgin forest with plantations of trees, usually monocultures, is rarely adequately analyzed. Yet this can seriously compromise a biodiversity which the new species being introduced does not accommodate.
Similarly, wetlands converted into cultivated land lose the enormous biodiversity which they formerly hosted. In some coastal areas the disappearance of ecosystems sustained by mangrove swamps is a source of serious concern. Selective forms of fishing which discard much of what they collect continue unabated. Particularly threatened are marine organisms which we tend to overlook, like some forms of plankton; they represent a significant element in the ocean food chain, and species used for our food ultimately depend on them.
In tropical and subtropical seas, we find coral reefs comparable to the great forests on dry land, for they shelter approximately a million species, including fish, crabs, molluscs, sponges and algae. It is aggravated by the rise in temperature of the oceans. All of this helps us to see that every intervention in nature can have consequences which are not immediately evident, and that certain ways of exploiting resources prove costly in terms of degradation which ultimately reaches the ocean bed itself.
Greater investment needs to be made in research aimed at understanding more fully the functioning of ecosystems and adequately analyzing the different variables associated with any significant modification of the environment. Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family. This will require undertaking a careful inventory of the species which it hosts, with a view to developing programmes and strategies of protection with particular care for safeguarding species heading towards extinction.
Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity. Nowadays, for example, we are conscious of the disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise.
Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water. Neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature. The social dimensions of global change include the effects of technological innovations on employment, social exclusion, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services, social breakdown, increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, and the loss of identity.
These are signs that the growth of the past two centuries has not always led to an integral development and an improvement in the quality of life. Some of these signs are also symptomatic of real social decline, the silent rupture of the bonds of integration and social cohesion. Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously.
In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches.
True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.
Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences.
For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise.
The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems which are insufficiently represented on global agendas.
It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage.
Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality.
Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate.
Laudato si' (24 May ) | Francis
It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption. Inequity affects not only individuals but entire countries; it compels us to consider an ethics of international relations.
The export of raw materials to satisfy markets in the industrialized north has caused harm locally, as for example in mercury pollution in gold mining or sulphur dioxide pollution in copper mining. There is a pressing need to calculate the use of environmental space throughout the world for depositing gas residues which have been accumulating for two centuries and have created a situation which currently affects all the countries of the world.
The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.
There is also the damage caused by the export of solid waste and toxic liquids to developing countries, and by the pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home, in the countries in which they raise their capital: They do here what they would never do in developed countries or the so-called first world.
The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.
The land of the southern poor is rich and mostly unpolluted, yet access to ownership of goods and resources for meeting vital needs is inhibited by a system of commercial relations and ownership which is structurally perverse. The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.
The poorest areas and countries are less capable of adopting new models for reducing environmental impact because they lack the wherewithal to develop the necessary processes and to cover their costs. We must continue to be aware that, regarding climate change, there are differentiated responsibilities.
There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference. These situations have caused sister earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.
The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations. The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable; otherwise, the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.
It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.
Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented. Some countries are gradually making significant progress, developing more effective controls and working to combat corruption. People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.
A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning. The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears self-destructive.
In the meantime, economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment. Here we see how environmental deterioration and human and ethical degradation are closely linked.
Many people will deny doing anything wrong because distractions constantly dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is. It is foreseeable that, once certain resources have been depleted, the scene will be set for new wars, albeit under the guise of noble claims.
War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons. But powerful financial interests prove most resistant to this effort, and political planning tends to lack breadth of vision.
What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so? In some countries, there are positive examples of environmental improvement: These achievements do not solve global problems, but they do show that men and women are still capable of intervening positively. For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.
At the same time we can note the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear.
Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time.
Such evasiveness serves as a licence to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: Finally, we need to acknowledge that different approaches and lines of thought have emerged regarding this situation and its possible solutions. At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change.
At the other extreme are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited. Viable future scenarios will have to be generated between these extremes, since there is no one path to a solution. This makes a variety of proposals possible, all capable of entering into dialogue with a view to developing comprehensive solutions.
On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. But we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair. Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems.
There are regions now at high risk and, aside from all doomsday predictions, the present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view, for we have stopped thinking about the goals of human activity. Why should this document, addressed to all people of good will, include a chapter dealing with the convictions of believers?
I am well aware that in the areas of politics and philosophy there are those who firmly reject the idea of a Creator, or consider it irrelevant, and consequently dismiss as irrational the rich contribution which religions can make towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity.
Others view religions simply as a subculture to be tolerated. Nonetheless, science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both. Given the complexity of the ecological crisis and its multiple causes, we need to realize that the solutions will not emerge from just one way of interpreting and transforming reality. Respect must also be shown for the various cultural riches of different peoples, their art and poetry, their interior life and spirituality.
If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it.
The Catholic Church is open to dialogue with philosophical thought; this has enabled her to produce various syntheses between faith and reason. Furthermore, although this Encyclical welcomes dialogue with everyone so that together we can seek paths of liberation, I would like from the outset to show how faith convictions can offer Christians, and some other believers as well, ample motivation to care for nature and for the most vulnerable of their brothers and sisters.
Without repeating the entire theology of creation, we can ask what the great biblical narratives say about the relationship of human beings with the world.
How wonderful is the certainty that each human life is not adrift in the midst of hopeless chaos, in a world ruled by pure chance or endlessly recurring cycles!