06/18/2015, 00.00
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Encyclical: ecological crisis is a human, social and ethical crisis (2)

In chapters. 3 and 4 of "Laudato sì" on the care of creation, Pope Francis indicates the root causes of the ecological crisis in a "misguided anthropocentrism". The claims of science and technology lead to presumptuous relativism and a "culture of waste" that produces rubbish and human waste. The environmental movement should also fight against abortion and manipulation of living human embryos. The solution is integral ecology that will redeem man and his relationship with nature, but also with others, culture, and with himself, his body, with masculinity and femininity. A proposal for GMOs.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The present ecolog­ical crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity " (n. 119). This is why environmental problems require more than short term or reductive solutions, they require a real "courageous cultural revolution" (n. 114), a "human ecology" which encompasses man’s relationship with himself, with nature, with society and with God, "we cannot pre­sume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamen­tal human relationships" (id.).

This summarizes the message at the heart of Chapters 3 and 4 of the encyclical " Laudato sì", those in which Francis looks deeper into the root causes of the ecological crisis and the destruction of the environment, proposing large scale, integral and long-term solutions, while at the same time correcting an idolatry of technology and power and an environmental idolatry. In this way he overcomes and corrects on the one hand the claim of science and market to organize the world and nature; on the other the utopianism of certain environmental movements who dream of a world without cars, and even without man: "Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur "(n. 114).

The Prometheanism of technology and science

The first thing to be called into question is technology, which has slipped toward "a Pro­methean vision of mastery over the world" (n. 116), unable to make good use of its power, if humanity "can­not claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint."(no. 105).

The attitude of the scientific world also called into question as it tends to look unilaterally at reality and life as an external object to master: " It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something form­less, completely open to manipulation (n. 106 ). Hence " the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit" (id.).

It should be noted that the Pope does not demonize neither technology nor science, indeed he appreciates their achievements (see. Nos 102-103), but he does not hide disturbing questions about the use of this all-encompassing power in the hands of "a small part of 'humanity "(n. 104). At the same time he shows that a limitless "mastery" creates the idolatry of the market and a world where there is a "a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing depri­vation" (n. 109) .

Referring to the philosopher and theologian Romano Guardini (mentioned six times in the space of a few pages), the Pope defines the disease of the modern world as a "misguided” or "excessive" “anthropocentrism" (Nos. 115-118), which "sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings"(n. 118). Such megalomania causes a widespread "culture of relativism" (n. 123), in which "the human being puts himself at the center", oblivious to everything except his "own immediate interests" (n. 122). This leads to a "culture of waste", a "throwaway" culture - often referred to by the Pope in his homilies - to the environment and people: consumerism, waste, but also "trafficking in human beings, organized crime, drug trafficking, the trade in blood diamonds and skins of animals in danger of extinction "; the sale of organs, "or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted" (n. 123).

Labour and GMOs

To correct this misguided anthropocentrism, the Pope gives two examples: labour and biotechnology. From the biblical point of view, man is called “not only to preserve it (“keep”) but also to make it fruitful (“till”)" (n. 124). This means that labour is also transformation, but also contemplation and respect. And because labour is  an expression of every man, is a priority to ensure "access to employment" for all (n. 128), in agriculture and in the production sector (cfr. N. 129).

The Pope does not exclude in principle the use of biotechnology and in particular genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but asks that there be "places of debate" and "extensive and reliable information," so that "farmers, consumers, authorities, scientists, seed producers, people close to the fumigated fields and others" can find common solutions (n. 135).

Abortion and embryos

Overcoming the "schizophrenia" in the "exaltation technocratic" does not mean endorsement of a naive environmentalism, but awareness that "there can be no renewal of our re­lationship with nature without a renewal of hu­manity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology "(n. 118). From this point of view, the pontiff also corrects the schizophrenia of specialized ecological movements that are fighting for "the defense of nature" and at the same time justify abortion (n. 120); that defend "the integrity of the environment", claiming "limits to scientific research", but do not apply the same principles to "human life" and to "experiments with living human embryos" (n. 136).

The integral ecology

The main idea that Pope Francis wants to propose is that "everything is interconnected" (n. 138), that "

living species are part of a network which we will never fully explore and understand" (id.). This requires an "integral ecology" (the title of chap. 4), in which he shows with many examples how "

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. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to com­bating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature"(n. 139).

This approach requires a reorganization of institutions: institutions that have a low level of efficiency and laws "that remain a dead letter," harm to the population and the environment (cf. n. 142).

A "cultural ecology" is also required, which does not level the differences between cultures in the name of a globalized and consumeristic economy, but protects "the immense cultural diversity, which is a treasure of humanity" (n. 144 ), in particular the culture of the indigenous, carriers of a balanced relationship with nature (no. 146).

There is also a fundamental need for an ecology "of everyday life," which implies the design of cities, green spaces, transport to support membership in a community, solidarity, participation overcoming "disorder", "chaos", " visual and acoustic pollution "(nn. 147-154).

Ecology of Man

With ample citations from "Caritas in Veritate" by Benedict XVI, Francis proposes an "ecology of man" which implies "the acceptance of one's body as a gift from God" and " valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary" as a basis needed to learn to accept nature and the other, in so we can “joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. " (n. 155).

In this integral vision of ecology, "the principle of the common good" is essential with special attention to the family and to the poor. This principle - that the state has an obligation to defend - ensures social peace and solidarity (nn. 157-158).

A "solidarity between generations" is particularly urgent: "Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely util­itarian way, in which efficiency and productivi­ty are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us"(n. 159).

For the Pope, the current lifestyle - consumption, waste, environmental changes - is "unsustainable" (n. 161). "Our difficulty in taking up this challenge seriously has much to do with an ethical and cul­tural decline which has accompanied the deteri­oration of the environment. Men and women of our postmodern world run the risk of rampant individualism, and many problems of society are connected with today’s self-centred culture of instant gratification. We see this in the crisis of family and social ties and the difficulties of recognizing the other"(n. 162).

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