An Integral Ecology; Spiritual pathways.

From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity”…. (Mk 7, 21–23).

Background and Terminology

The word ecology was first used by the German biologist E. Haeckel in 1866 in his work; Generelle Morphologie der Organismen[1] meaning the very complex interactions of beings and non-beings in their struggle for existence. However, ecology comes from two words Greek: Oikós meaning house, and logos, which means study. Ecology literally means the science of habitat. The science that studies the conditions of existence of beings and its interactions, of any nature, between these living beings and their environment. Ecology is a multidisciplinary science that involves plant and animal biology, taxonomy, physiology, genetics, behavior, meteorology, geology, sociology, anthropology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and electronics.

It almost difficult to delineate the border between ecology and any of these sciences, because all have influence on each other. The same situation exists within the ecology itself. Hence, everything is connected. Relationships take place at the atomic and molecular level, between plants and animals, and among species in ecological networks and systems.

This interconnectedness means that environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the social structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community.

source: twitter

Human ecology

This branch of ecology studies the relationships existing between individuals and between different communities of the human species, as well as their interactions with the environment. Human ecology has the challenge of helping to recognize the causes of imbalances environmental conditions in human society and propose alternative or minimizing solutions. This branch of ecology, associated with environmental awareness and education, can transform large cities in more livable and healthy places, where the use of natural resources is rational and sustained. For this, human and urban ecology needs to be integrated into the development of science and technology, as well as linked to priority governments.

An integral ecology

Faithful to his predecessors, Pope Francis extends the concept of ecology to human relations outside the economic and social sphere. Therefore, to mitigate and reduce the destruction of ecosystem, air pollution, and climate change as well as water scarcity needs real-deal solutions, not just a cosmetic and juridical change.

”In fact, it is not possible to engage in great things only with doctrines, without a mystic that animates us, without “an interior motion that impels, motivates, encourages and gives meaning to personal and community action”. [151] We must recognize that we Christians do not always collect and bear fruits given by God to the Church, in which spirituality is not disconnected from the body itself, nor from the nature or realities of this world, but lives with and in them, in communion with all that surrounds us”(LS, 216)..

To transform our economic system(s) deeply it is real a hard move, yet it is the only way we can effect changes enough to avoid the collapse of civilization and further damage to ecosystems and the biosphere. We need new economic rules and fundamental structural changes for our mother-earth. Integral ecology approach calls for a redesign of all human made systems based on values and methods that truly preserve the ecological and cultural diversity of natural systems.

Just as there is an external ecology, there is also an inner ecology made of solidarity, feeling of religare with the whole, care and love. Both ecologies are umbilical bound. Hence, exterior ecology alone is insufficient way for sustainable development. We must amalgamate it with interior ecology[2]. That is what Saint Francis of Assis did in a pragmatic way. Exterior ecology is that syntonic between the rhythms of nature and the cosmic process that is realized in the dialectic of order-disorder-interaction-new order.

This ecology assures the perpetuity of the process of evolution that includes the Earth and her biodiversity. But at the human level, it only occurs if there is a counter-weight from our side, one which derives from our interior ecology. Through that interior ecology, the universe and all its beings are within us, in the form of symbols that speak of the archetypes that guide us and of the images that inhabit our inwardness, and with which we must constantly dialogue and integrate. External violence is a sign of turbulence in our interior ecology, and vice versa.

We need that intimate, total change and renewal of the entire man — of all his opinions, judgments, and decisions — which takes place in him in the light of the sanctity and charity of God manifested in whole creation. A kind of spiritual revolution.

The spirituality as a key and transverse principle for integral ecology

What is spirituality? How is it connected with ecological concerns? Spirituality can be approached in various ways. Some approach it as the wholehearted living a transcendent experience, creed, moral code, and worship. Some consider spirituality as humanity’s innate reaching for self-transcendence and for ultimate meaning. Some insist that spirituality must include a God-centered struggle for justice. However, for almost everyone, spirituality implies a direct relationship with God and His creation.

Thus, the ethical and cultural decline, which accompanies the deterioration of the environment, forces us to ask fundamental questions about life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What purpose does the earth have of us?” Moreover, these a spiritual questions. To underline the force and motivation of our actions & behavior towards others and our universe. Therefore, spiritual perspectives of the world religions and ethical considerations are the turning point in addressing the loss of biodiversity, natural resource exhaustion, and transition to sustainable energy, the quality and availability of food and water, and global climate change.

“More than ever, a spiritual life is needed. Where human beings are called to develop a creaturely consciousness, in which creation ceases to be seen as the object of domination and exploitation, but as a gift of God that must be received with reverence, respect, and praise. Only living this relationship of the human being with creation will enable new social and environmental relations, the new time of peace and justice”[3].

The fact is that the social crisis and the ecological crisis that we are living come from the same neo-liberal model of productions. They are intrinsic to the current model of society. The so-called; free trade, free movement of goods, and for the free transit of capital, does not concern any kind of regulation, either protection of labor rights, protection of native and native cultures and peoples, or environmental protection . The current economic model for the reproduction of capital devolves both people and crops, both the forests and the rest of the natural-water heritage we ought to protect.

Scientific thoughts shifted during the past decades from cosmology, the study of the way nature works, to Cosmo-genesis, the study of the way every existing thing in the universe originates from the Big Bang. As those ideas grew familiar, we as Jesus’ disciples expanded our spirituality to include a new understanding of creation. Who made me? We asked as children, and answered, God made me. This is surely true but not the full truth. God is Creator of all things, but it is not true that God’s creating is just in the past. To realize that God is making me in the present is a transforming spiritual insight. We remember now that we know God as our ongoing Creator, One infinitely removed from chance, or fate, or the force. In this ecological spirituality, we perceive God working busily in all creatures. Hence, we experience the universe as personal, charged with the divine presence[4].

Now we know: Humankind’s problem is not the romantic one of nature bloody in tooth and claw. Our fault lies in that we pervert the very laws God is decreeing in the universe to our own harm and to the harm of our home the earth. Struggling with and overcoming sin means ending those disruptions.

This struggle, central to ecological spirituality, demands a radical asceticism. Now we must learn that we serve God by acknowledging and acquiescing in the stern requirements of the laws of nature. All creation works as God teaches it to work; all things follow those laws that God is etching in the depths of their being. In human beings, God’s spirit etches the desires to make all beautiful and equitable, safe and song-filled. We must, act great peril, attend to those desires.

How and whether we are to live tomorrow depends on how we live today. The threats of climate change and global warming are real and not fictitious. They are a wakeup call to every person on the planet. They demand a new solidarity and a common responsibility. They require moral solutions. They call for a true respect for life and the dignity of the human person. A value-based life view remains a sine qua non for a sustainable ethics of climate change and global warming in Tanzania. It necessarily goes beyond current politics and profit-based calculations.

source: Twitter

CONCLUSION

We need to reaffirm empirical and imperatively that, agapic love, as encapsulated in the great commandment (Matt. 22:37–39), offers guidance in our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with fellow humans and non-human creatures. From an African philosophical point of view, homo africanus considers life as a sum total of vitality, cosmic harmony and relationships including physical and metaphysical realities, soul, and mind[5]. Awe and reverence for life remain the basic principle determining human relationships with the environment and the world at large.

Climate change and global warming already pose ominous threats to life. Ironically, human beings are both the cause and the victims of this global crisis. This calls for conversion: a true, deep change of heart and conscience empowering a new culture of care and a preferential option for the poor. Homo industrialis needs to make a radical option for an alternative lifestyle that does not threaten the common good and well- being of human and non-human life. Homo conservator needs move from a culture of having to a culture of being, to consume less, share more, and live more simply so that the planet may simply live. A deep ecumenical-espirituality and true political will offer us a real motivation to carb the damaging effects wrought by climate change and global warming. Let us begin now.

[1] Frank N. Egerton, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, “History of Ecological Sciences in:https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1890/0012-9623-94.3.222.

[2] L.BOFF, in https://leonardoboff.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/francis-of-rome-and-the-ecology-of-saint-francis-of-assisi/, 19 de Outubro de 2018.

[3] VIEIRA, T. O nosso Deus — um Deus ecológico: por uma compreensão ético-teológica da ecologia, 87.

[4] Joseph A. T; in http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/an-ecological-spirituality.cfm, 27 de outubro de 2018.

[5] AIDANI. M, Globalization of concern, 108.

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