Laudato Si’ – The Logic (and Illogical) of Ecological Dialectics.

Laudato Si’ – The Logic (and Illogical) of Ecological Dialectics.

Everyone on the planet should be guaranteed a brighter future —irrespective of who they are or where they are— where we can all thrive within the resources of our one planet. Yet, our politicians, financiers and economists continue to preside over what I can only describe as a deceitful and unethical type of Ponzi scheme with our planet. Surely every single person on this planet is aware that we are consuming more and more natural resources faster than nature is able to replenish; currently we are stealing the Earth’s future resources from our children and their children just so that we can function here and now; we are dipping deeper and deeper into ecological piggy bank without making realistic and sustainable repayments. One day in the future our progeny may have to urgently dip into that piggy bank and find that their progenitor’s stole their future away from them and in effect causing humanity’s ecological account to be declared bankrupt and therefore it is us, today, who will be the cause humanities extinction in the future. Continue reading Laudato Si’ – The Logic (and Illogical) of Ecological Dialectics.

Bright Green Lies

Bright Green Lies

BRIGHT GREEN LIES dismantles the illusion of green technology in a bold and shocking exposé, revealing the lies and fantastical thinking behind the notion that solar, wind, electric cars, or green consumerism will save the planet. Almost every major environmental organization is pushing for so-called renewable energy. Claims are being made about “green” technologies that are frankly untrue. Words like “clean”, “free”, “safe”, and “sustainable” are often thrown around. But solar panels and wind turbines don’t grow on trees. The mass production of these technologies requires increased mining, industrial manufacturing, habitat destruction, massive greenhouse gas emissions, and the creation of toxic waste. So-called renewable energy does not even deliver on its most basic promise of reducing fossil fuel consumption. On a global scale, the energy is stacked on top of what is already being used. Continue reading Bright Green Lies

Sustainable Lifestyles*

Sustainable Lifestyles*

How to adopt a sustainable lifestyle & Tips to boost your ‘green‘ commitment

Note: All External Links Open in New Windows.

The planet’s resources are being depleted and a respectful and healthy model is urgently needed to ensure the future of the new generations. Leading a sustainable lifestyle is more than achieving responsible consumption, it is about living based on a commitment to the environment and it can be achieved by introducing small actions in our day to day life.
 
A sustainable lifestyle will preserve the planet for generations to come.

According to data from the United Nations (UN), in the world there are approximately 7,700 million people, and increasing. Each one of us eats, moves and consumes goods and services, and many of us do so in a way that is not environmentally responsible. The question is: does the sustainable action of a few serve any purpose? For most of the international organisations that try to preserve the planet, the answer is yes: “Every gesture counts”, they promote from Greenpeace.

In fact, a study from the University of Michigan in the United States affirms that the norms agreed by a population group guarantee the efficiency of a sustainable life strategy. The key? The reputation of each one serves as positive reinforcement in the others, that is, that a neighbour recycles correctly is an inspiration for the rest. For researchers, encouraging these small actions is as easy as following some advice and doing environmental pedagogy.

WHAT IS A SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE

In 1986 the World Health Organization (WHO) defined the concept of lifestyle as “a general way of life based on the interaction between living conditions in a broad sense and individual behaviour patterns determined by sociocultural factors and characteristics. personal.”. A year later, the Brundtland Report, produced by the World Commission on Environment and Development, began to align lifestyles with sustainability: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

From then until now, the negative impact of our way of life on the environment has continued to grow. The overexploitation of natural resources, water pollution, soil pollution and deforestation, the loss of biodiversity, among others, have exasperated the environmental problems to be solved during this century. To face these great challenges, actions have been generated aimed at achieving a sustainable lifestyle at a global level that prevents the planet from deteriorating further. The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are good examples. And the youngest, worried about their future, seem to be taking good note.

FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE A SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE

Achieving a sustainable lifestyle does not depend exclusively on individual factors, there are also collective and external factors that can promote or hinder the achievement of this objective:

  • Individuals : The way we relate on a personal level with the environment in which we live determines our level of awareness of the need to protect the environment.
  • Collectives : In some societies the concept of the common good is more ingrained than in others, which tend towards individualism, and this is reflected in customs that affect the environment.
  • External : The legislation of each country or region, its geopolitical and economic situation or the degree of innovation, among others, can limit or promote the adoption of a sustainable lifestyle.

TIPS FOR ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES

The aforementioned Agenda 2030 is an ambitious plan that seeks to achieve prosperity that is respectful of the planet and its inhabitants. Its 17 Sustainable Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 12, which incorporates measures related to both responsible consumption and production and the sustainable management of natural resources, provide clues on what to do and how to act to lead a sustainable lifestyle.

In any case, the first step is to review our way of life and bet on introducing changes that generate sustainable habits. Next, we show the most relevant ones:

TIPS FOR LEADING A SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE

View the Infographic by ibedrola: Tips for leading a sustainable lifestyle [PDF]

In addition to those things related to responsible consumption — from a sustainable use of water to reducing your food waste — the circular economy, energy efficiency and the promotion of renewable energies, sustainable mobility, eco-design or biodegradable clothing, sustainable food, recycling and reducing the consumption of plastics, or environmental education already mentioned in the previous infographic, we also review some of the small actions we should avoid because, although it may not seem like it, they also add to our polluting the planet:

Using aerosol deodorants

Throwing chewing Gum on the ground

Throwing cigarette butts on the ground or on beaches

Flushing disposable wipes down the toilet

Releasing helium balloons into the air

Disposing batteries in your normal household waste bin

USEFUL LINKS

A/RES/70/1 – Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
[عربي] [中國人] [English] [Française] [русский] [Castellano]

Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Publication)

The 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development (.pdf format)

Humans impact the physical environment National Geographic

Humans are causing life on Earth to vanish Natural; The Natural History Museum, London

Continue reading “Sustainable Lifestyles*”
The world economic system, democracy, politics… Should we remain or should we be seeking alternatives?

The world economic system, democracy, politics… Should we remain or should we be seeking alternatives?

A democracy, in theory, will allow its people to choose what is right and what is not, for the good of the whole community.

But, upon closer inspection, we notice how even this system, as well as the economic one, do not actually seem to exist.
Continue reading The world economic system, democracy, politics… Should we remain or should we be seeking alternatives?

You don’t have to live like a hermit or monk to live sustainably!

You don’t have to live like a hermit or monk to live sustainably!

The hustle and bustle of working in the city, polluting traffic, schedules, overcrowded commuting, fast food restaurants, coffee bars and pubs, colossal buildings, blistering asphalt, these are our surroundings at work. It is easy to forget that once this city of London was a small town called Londinium with archaeology dating back to 4800 BC, and before that were you live now would all have been land, mountains or forests. We are more connected to nature than we thought. Celtic Christianity reminds us that this connection and the importance of caring for the environment go beyond recycling, stopping meat consumption and animal products. The ancient Celts honoured the force of nature; they were animists meaning they had a world view that non-human entities — such as animals, plants, mountains, rivers, lakes and believed that inanimate objects-possess a living soul. They also believed that humans could establish a rapport with these living souls. The Celts who were originally pagan, viewed the presence of the supernatural as central to, and interwoven with, the material world. Every mountain, river, spring, marsh, tree, and rocky outcrop contained a living and breathing spirit and therefore was considered to be alive. There is so much about our own planet that we do not know; for instance science has recently proven that trees are far more alert, social, sophisticated —and even intelligent— than we could ever have believed.

Trees of the same species are communal, and will often form alliances with trees of other species. Forest trees have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships, maintained by communication and a collective intelligence similar to an insect colony. These soaring columns of living wood draw the eye upward to their outspreading crowns, but the real action is taking place underground, just a few inches below our feet.

Celts and Nature

The Celts, Christianity and nature has been linked from the very beginning. The traditions and beliefs of the Irish Celts associated with nature played a strong part in shaping Irish mythology, surviving after Ireland’s conversion to Christianity and playing an important role in Ireland’s cultural identity. Considering this it’s easy to see how Ireland’s myths and legends are famous around the world. 

In order to live more sustainably you do not need to live as a hermit, but in imitating the early cultures such as the Celts, we can take steps to adapt our lives accordingly, we can do this and stop putting a strain on the planets natural resources. Go and meditate under the branches of a nearby tree. According to the Celtic worldview, nature is not something that is independent of humanity (after all we would not survive without it), it is an integral part of humanity and therefore must also be so within people’s spirituality and their commitments.

In 2009, a global poll found that the majority of people, including 77% of British people, wanted their governments to do much more about climate change. But in August of this year, another global poll found that in the biggest most-polluting economies, concern about climate change had fallen sharply in the last two years. Hearts and minds have not been won over. International climate talks have reached deadlock and, not unsurprisingly, carbon emissions continue to increase.

Mucknell Abbey, Worcs.

For the past year, the Guardian’s columnist Clare Bryden lived with the monks and nuns of the Anglican Abbey of Mucknell —The Society of the Salutation of Mary the Virgin— in Stoulton, Worcestershire, a contemplative Benedictine community in the Church of England. There are few more hidden lifestyles, but they have precious insights to offer the instinctive idealist.

Novices within religious orders follow the rule of life written by their founders. Over the centuries there have been many rules; the Rule of Saint Augustine, Anthony the Great, St Pachomius, the Rule of St Basil, the Rule of St Benedict. Benedict of Nursia (AD 480 – ca. 547) wrote his monastic rule in AD 516. Benedictines make vows of obedience, stability and conversion, let us take a closer look at their meaning:

  • Obedience comes from the Latin word to “listen”.
  • Stability refers to the importance of both community and commitment in life. The vow of stability also articulate our concerns with regard to the current environmental crisis — because if we remain steadfast to the earth we begin to learn how to become good stewards of all that was created.  
  • The third vow, conversatio morum is literally translated as “conversion of life,” Conversion has more of a sense of a “U-turn,” an inverting, and is not confined a single event in time.   This vow tells us that we must acknowledge that conversion and always remain attentive to it.  For those who are not within the confines of a monastery conversion continues to be an ongoing process as well, helping us to continually walk within the presence of God.

Conversatio Morum of life incorporates both poverty and celibacy, yet is more broadly understood as one’s orientation toward God. I truly believe that it is worth the effort to grasp the true nature of conversatio morum, because it is germane to the world today. It comes from the Latin word to “listen intently”. 

Through our Christian faith we know that God created the earth and all that it holds which He then entrusted to us as caretakers. Love for God must be reflected through our contributions to that environmental stewardship. The vow of stability roots an individual to their one common home and therefore we need to ensure that we take every possible step to protect and care of it. The vow of conversatio morum, or “conversion,” requires nothing more than simplicity of life and communal sharing of goods and resources, its quite easy. Humility, or fear of the God, calls us to be aware that God is within everything and that we are connected to God through nature. As Christians, as monks and nuns we have a shared moral imperative or duty with every other person on this planet to be the stewards of God’s creation.

God the Father shows Adam Paradise By Arnold Boecklin

The responsibility is upon all of us to listen to each other and to God attentively; we have an individual duty to comprehend what is being asked and what action is required of us. As a matter of fact, the copy of Rule of Benedict that I have, dated 1865, begins with the word “harken” listen. This is the word to which monastic communities often return to. Harken, listen and pay attention, to God and to His word; to our weaknesses and how they drive us; to other members of the community; to our neighbours near and far; to the place where we live and to the whole planet. We need to understand the impact that our attitudes and actions have upon others.

Saint Benedict had been extremely practical in his ordering of the life. Discerning the value of balance between prayer, manual work and study within the daily rhythm of monastic life. In a monastery one might live with the day-to-day practicalities of renewable energy and rainwater harvesting, mucking in and getting your hands dirty in the kitchen garden, learning about the diversity of nature. As a result, one is far more connected with the food and shelter and one’s environment.

Community life is often romanticised by novices and visitors, but they are very quickly set straight. Religious are real people, we live together at close quarters (unless you are a hermit) and we quickly get to know each other’s eccentricities. Benedict was well aware of everyone’s distinctive weaknesses, and imbued the rule with self-discipline and restraint. So this nostalgic quixotism needs to yield to a healthier idealism rooted within our present reality and oriented in hope to values such as hospitality, generosity, neighbourliness, compassion and cordiality toward all; growing into the image of God; and sustainability, both physical and spiritual. The Benedictine order founded its first monastery at Subiaco a commune in Rome circa AD 529 and has continued to flourished for 1,492 years, and I believe that it will be a sustaining presence for many years to come.

So how do we live sustainably 

During the Coronavirus pandemic we had an opportunity to rethink how we can live more sustainably. Many would have worked from home for the first time and found that you’re using far more electricity and water than you had before, you’ve probably had to cook a lot more than usual at home. In all probability you will have also noticed the impact it has had on your bank account and how much si actually consumed and wasted within your household every day. Did it make you become more careful or did you simply continued as normal?

What is meant by being sustainable?

Sustainability is a complex concept that can be somewhat difficult to define in just a few words. In short, sustainability is a term used to refer to humanity’s responsibility to care for our planet so that it can remain safe and habitable, and have the resources needed for all future generations to continue. We can achieve this for our world and future generations by implementing enforceable laws with severe fines (or loss of business licence) and better conservation and protection strategies.

Why should this be so important?

Our species has already caused irreparable and irreversible damage to our planet, filling the air and seas with toxic industrial waste which continues to this very day, —and in some cases completely unchecked—, technologies, irresponsible consumption and mountains of refuse and plastics. Plastic contains toxic chemicals which leach out and have now been found in the blood and tissue of most human beings causing cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments. Plastic is not biodegradable; it can only break down into smaller and smaller particles.  It’s estimated that between 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year. Despite our impotent efforts to address the global problems things are still getting worse, and before we know it, the earth’s temperature would have risen to a critical point from which there is no turning back and a reversal is no longer within the realms of possibility. This would make many areas of the planet completely uninhabitable. The air will be of such poor quality that it would become impossible to venture outdoors without wearing respirators and protective equipment. The oceans continue to rise, as flooding spread more land will be permanentlylost to the ocean, which will be so toxic that days on the beach will be a thing of the past and eating sea food will be a story relegated to myths and legends. We are at a tipping point. Simply put, the time to act is now despite what politicians and industry tell us. The objectives of Industry and by default politicians concern one thing only, their shareholders and their 30 pieces of silver to the detriment of all others.

Are we able to work from home in a sustainable manner?

Saving the planet is no easy feat and it certainly isn’t something that will occur over the course of one night. But you can do a lot of little things in everyday life to help reduce your carbon footprint. Imagine if everyone took the time to cultivate little habits and make small adjustments that prioritise sustainability. The long-term impact would change the earth! The preservation of this beautiful planet will begin to seem much more achievable. A good place to start therefore is in one’s own home, especially if your house or apartment also happens to be your place of work. Here are some simple pointers you can utilise in order to live a more sustainable and meaningful life whilst working from home. You can also use these pointers if your home is not your workplace.

Please note that the links we have provided below are for you to research the equipment yourself should you wish to purchase them. We cannot endorse products nor take responsibility for the content material, this is solely at your discretion, thank you for understanding. 

1. Adjust your thermostat

Growing up, most children quickly learn that the thermostat is hands-off. After all, Mum and Dad aren’t paying the heating bill to heat outdoors. Now that you are somewhat older, you would probably agree that paying an arm and a leg for electricity and gas is not a leisure expense. Not only does it hurt your pocket, but it also has negative environmental impacts.

Lowering the heating and boiler temperature slightly during the winter by just a few degrees can significantly lower your monthly bill and help fight global warming. You can also invest in a smart meter, like the Google Nest Heating & Hot Water Smart Thermostat or Hive Wireless Thermostats, which can learn your preferred temperatures and automatically adjusts to scheduled times in order to save energy.

2. Use energy efficient lighting

You can also save energy by choosing Eco-friendly lighting. For more information on lightbulbs please see Which? LED lights explained. Led lights tend to save 80% more energy than normal bulbs and last up to six times longer, so over time you will buy less. They also contain no toxic chemicals, so you don’t have to worry about polluting the environment once you dispose of them. If you want to conserve even more energy, consider buying smart bulbs for example the Veho Kasa Bluetooth smart LED light bulb. They are super affordable and compatible with smart devices that you may already have, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home. You can even get colour-changing bulbs that are great for creating ambiance lighting.

3. Unplug all household electronics when you are not using then

Electronic gadgets such as televisions, microwaves, computers, and even mobile phone chargers continue to draw power when not in use. These “energy vampires” (yes, that’s a real term! It surprised me too) are constantly consuming energy, even when completely turned off. The best way to kill energy vampires is to unplug electronic devices at the source when you are not using them. Alternatively, you could use smart power strips (see BestReviews) to conserve energy and contribute less to environmental degradation. The keyword here is smart. A normal power lead will still waste power when plugged in. A smart power strip can recognize when an electronic device is not in use and cut off the power.

4. Choosing Eco-friendly office supplies

There are a myriad of options to choose from when it comes to stocking your home and your office. Unfortunately, many of them are not made with the environment in mind and are often used once and then thrown away. You can make a positively impact upon the environment by being more aware of the products you buy. More companies are beginning to source their materials from single sustainable source to make all of their products. There are plenty of Eco-friendly suppliers who utilise bamboo, cotton-based acetate, recycled plastic, and other biodegradable alternatives. Everything from paper and pencils to phone cases and laptop sleeves can be made whilst remaining considerate to our environment and planet. You can even have Eco-friendly business cards printed on recycled paper! It just takes a little research to find the best green products suitable for you.

5. Buy less, whilst reusing more

When looking for your planet-friendly office supplies, look for products that are reusable, refillable or durable. If you need to use paper, buy a paperless notebook, such as the Rocketbook which has a system that connects traditional handwriting surfaces with the power of the cloud. It comes with a specially designed microfibre pen and cloth. Just write, scan your work and erase to use again! If your morning routine involves you stopping by your favourite Colombia Pastor with hints of red apple and caramel or the Seven Seeds-Guatemala Rosma espresso with notes of brown sugar and peach coffee at your local coffee bar, skip the paper cup they give you, after all you are just going to throw away. Get a reusable coffee mug instead and bring it with you. Another great way to reduce and reuse is to buy refurbished office equipment. There are many online marketplaces that list products for sale locally, such as office desks, chairs, and bookshelves, computers and other essential equipment. It does not have to be new. Checking online just now I found twenty-two different suppliers in my area.

6. Learn to recycle (the correct way)

People have good intentions when it comes to recycling. Still, many are not doing it effectively,  or even correctly. I made that mistake myself some years ago quite innocently, which is why most recyclables end up in landfill. Waste Management website describes these three general rules for recycling (these may change depending on your local authority, best to check their website):

  • Recycle clean cans, bottles, and flattened cardboard.
  • Leave food or liquids in your food recycling caddy (Yes to all food including meat and fish (cooked or raw) including bones, Tea bags and tea leaves and coffee grinds. No to Any fats solid or liquid, Pet poo (yes you’d be surprised), 
  • Do not recycle loose plastic bags or items that are bagged.

You can recycle food and drink bottles and containers, but the caps are often not recyclable, so be sure to throw them away in your non recyclable waste. You also cannot recycle plastic wrap, film, and cups with wax or plastic coating. Also, anything that can get tangled in recycling machines, like plastic bags, are non recyclable.

7. Food shopping

We all need to eat and drink its a fact of life, but how we do it sustainably and with zero waste, and achieving this without causing a major impact on your carbon footprint is important. You can search for a sustainable grocer near you online.Food needs to be nutritious, wholesome and safe for you and your family. Try if you can to find organic products, when getting started go small at first. Shopping sustainably starts where you shop at and encompass what you buy once you have arrived at the store. Whether you’re buying fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market or meat and fish at the supermarket, there are questions you should ask to learn more about how that food was grown or raised to make the most sustainable choice possible. There are tips and resources to help you steer a course of the market stands and grocery aisles and for making sense of food labels and what they claim.

  • Eat more plant based foods (I’m not saying go meat free but its a start)
  • Eat more variety, the WWF and Knorr we have identified the Future 50 Foods that can help reduce the environmental impact of our food system download their pdf report here.
  • When possible try to include seasonal produce from your local farm shop or greengrocer in your diet.
  • Buy fish responsibly. By eating climate friendly seafood you would make a difference.
  • Grow your own vegetables and fruits (if you have a garden)
  • Get Giki. Giki is a free mobile app that provides ethical and sustainability information for more than 250,000 products.
  • Buy Products that are Fair Trade
  • Look for Organic Produce
  • Choose Plastic Free Packaging
  • Buy Sustainably Sourced Ingredients
  • Always choose Free Range Meat & Eggs
  • Buy Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables (which reduces their carbon footprint)
  • Completely avoid all GMO’s
  • Only buy what you need and do not be tempted by buy one get one free unless you know you will use it or give it to someone else

Do your part to safeguard the Earth.

It cannot be said enough that we all have to collaborate and work together to save our planet. Small gestures like unplugging electronic devices and shopping for groceries or green office supplies are a good start to living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. Right now, the Amazon is burning and the products that we are buying are part of the system which drives this continued  and unchecked devastation. We don’t need to burn or cut down one more tree, there’s more than enough land to grow food to feed 2 billion more people by 2050. You should press your member of parliament (find them here) or join a group that lobbies Government on these issue by demanding deforestation free food. Use Ethical Supermarkets (bit hard to find in the UK but they are there), where products are sourced and processes are in place to ensure that there is no exploitation in the food chain — of people and animals.

As Christians we have a duty to be good stewards of the environment, which is God’s creation for us. We believe that there is a relation between ecological practices and christian spirituality.

The Hermit of Saint Bruno (Celtic Hermit) at St Mary’s Hermitage has made a Commitment to Sustainable Stewardship

Stewards of Creation

Sustainable stewardship is one way in which Hermits (and Monks) can participate in God’s intention and care for our world. To this end, the St. Mary’s Hermitage has consistently used ethical and sustainable grocery and utility suppliers. We use natural and traditional building methods for projects and adopted sustainable and energy efficient equipment for all of our utilities.

Our Sustainable Vision

  1. To use only sustainable materials and techniques to safeguard the environment and the beauty of the our rural location and the Kent countryside.
  2. The energy consumption at St. Mary’s Hermitage is clean, renewable, and cost effective
  3. All of the buildings St. Mary’s Hermitage meet the needs of this eremitic community, now and in the future.
  4. Externally obtained goods and supplies must meet sustainable and ethical criteria.
  5. We have a system of rules that promote replenishing and limit our depletion and pollution.

How does St. Mary’s Hermitage maintaining a viable quality of life, and sustainable practices

  1. We have a consistent and transparent worldview where both scriptures and scientific research defines our worldview;
  2. We have a strong social capital network of relationships among us enabling us to function far more effectively;
  3. We use critical reflective change based on values; and,
  4. and an appropriate and tested decision-making process.
Continue reading “You don’t have to live like a hermit or monk to live sustainably!”
The Canticle of Brother Sun

The Canticle of Brother Sun

St. Francis reaffirms the divine character of Creation also in its material aspects, against the Cathars, who in those same years claimed that God had created the spiritual reality, while the material reality was of demonic origin. St. Francis of Assisi also argues against the mercantile mentality that was rapidly spreading throughout the known world and for which nature was being exploited simply for economic purposes, while the saint from Assisi argues that nature provides man with everything he needs and therefore invites us not to worry about scrambling about continuously, seeking ever greater but useless material goods. Continue reading The Canticle of Brother Sun

Living Sustainably as a Christian

Living Sustainably as a Christian

— Blessings for Generations.

The saying: “God has no grandchildren” is an evergreen among Christians. To be the son or daughter of the most faithful Christian far and wide is not a ticket to heaven. Christian parents can, however, lay an important foundation through their example so that being a Christian appears to their children not only as an attractive possibility, but as the way, the truth and the life.

Oriented towards the future

With how much enthusiasm many of us as adolescents and young adults defended our faith and expressed our love for Jesus in different ways! Then when marriages began and children were born, we threw ourselves into the family adventure with enthusiasm. As soon as the first child was born, we read to him from the children’s Bible, sang and prayed with him. The longer, the more important other things became: kindergarten, school, house building, job and looking after ageing parents. The first enthusiasm had given way to everyday life: “The air was outside” and the courage evaporated. In this phase of life we become receptive to one or the other distraction from the outside, which is not fundamentally bad, but makes us forget our concern to keep God’s word alive in the lives of our children and in our lives.

Sustainability — A Catchphrase in our Times

The term sustainability has accompanied us in various areas of life for several years. “Sustainability” has its origins in the English adjective “sustainable” (= to keep something alive, to maintain). The term sustainability is used especially in the forestry sector, but also in the environmental sector in general. It is about using available resources well and responsibly. That means, in all actions and in all decisions, keeping an eye on both the present and the future.

However, sustainability also takes into account findings from the past. Resources, material and immaterial goods, economic and ecological units should be protected, especially if they are not renewable. In the economic area, one speaks of the sustainability triangle with the cornerstones of ecology, economy and social issues.

— Live sustainably

Living sustainably is not an invention of our time. God’s Word calls on us Christians to use our gifts, as well as our financial and spiritual gifts, responsibly and wisely in order to maintain the biblical faith in future generations. What a blessing it is when families love and live God’s word for generations!

Therefore, the “sustainability concept” is very important for Christian parents! Because we also want to keep something alive or, better said, maintain it for future generations: the living faith in our Saviour and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

But how do you do that? The basic principle is: It doesn’t matter what and how much we leave behind to our children, what matters is what we leave behind in their hearts!

This is exactly what contradicts the spirit of our time. We Christians run the risk of attaching more value to material goods or intellectual advancement than trying to win our children’s hearts to Jesus.

God has already given Moses an instruction for sustainability: «Thus, you will fear the Lord, your God, and observe the statutes and commandments that I give you — you, and your children, and your children’s children — all the days of your life, so that you might live a long time… and be careful to obey so that you might prosper and multiply greatly …» (Deuteronomy 6:2 f.)

Continue reading “Living Sustainably as a Christian”
Believing in sustainability — An interreligious approach to the environment

Believing in sustainability — An interreligious approach to the environment

For several years, the ecological crisis has gone beyond the boundaries of scientific debate to become a political question of primary importance, which involves states and supranational institutions and calls into question the conscience of citizens. But to motivate people and societies to opt for sustainability policies, we must also make use of their cultural resources, of which religious faith is a fundamental part. What are the ideas that religions can share to support an ecological culture?

The debate on climate change and sustainable development, precisely because of the global nature of the issues addressed, has involved international actors, such as states and supranational organisations. In this context, religions have not yet found space as interlocutors in the official offices. At first sight, this exclusion seems to depend on the strictly technical nature of the debates. However, there is an interest in involving religious representatives for at least two kinds of reasons: the moral implications of the issues on the table and the fact that the majority of the world population organises their lives on the basis of a religious worldview. In other words, religions are meaning-makers and can help motivate people to make choices of justice. Their public relevance is therefore based on the great symbolic and motivational heritage of which they are carriers.

The legacy of a controversy begun in 1967 by Lynn White, in an article of great resonance, in which the Princeton historian identified the cultural roots of the environmental crisis in the biblical vision of the relationship between human beings and nature weighs on the relationship between religions and ecology, which he accused of anthropocentrism (cf. White 1967). However, in the last thirty years, the reflection carried out by development studies has also stimulated interest in the positive contribution of religions. The studies have shown both the complex relationship still existing between politics and religion, and the fact that religions are global players with a strong local roots, capable of significantly influencing society (cf. Deneulin and Rakodi 2011).

In this article we will try to focus on the reasons that justify the religious contribution to the debate on sustainability. These are aspects that coincide, in a transversal way, with the structural dimensions of the spiritual experience and that allow us to lay the foundations of an interreligious environmental ethos.

Interfaith keys for the care of our common home

In this section we will highlight ten dimensions, common to the various spiritual traditions, which allow us to structure a common interpretation between religions of the relationship with the environment. It deals with the prophetic, ascetic, penitential, apocalyptic, sacramental, soteriological, mystical, communal, sapiential and eschatological dimension of the relationship between human being and nature.

  1. Prophetic dimension. The denunciation of social injustice linked to the processes of exploitation of nature was the gateway to the ecological debate for the great religious traditions (see Tucker 2003). In the case of biblical religions, this denunciation has an assonance with the prophetic tradition: just as the prophets of Israel exposed the lies and injustices in the social relations of their time, today this denunciation becomes current on a large scale, extending over time to the generations future and in space to that ‘distant neighbour’ that suffers the consequences of the indiscriminate use of resources. The changes that took place during the twentieth century, with the awareness of global threats, such as weapons of mass destruction, have extended the moral community to the whole of humanity. Our concepts of justice, duty and responsibility have changed: it is no longer possible to apply these categories, without taking into account the distant consequences, in time and space, of our choices. The prophetic denunciation therefore takes on a global dimension, indicating “the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet” (Laudato si’ № 16). The intersection between the social question and the ecological question is a strong point of the statements of the religious authorities. It is an approach that derives from the experience of accompanying marginal communities and which, on the other hand, corresponds to the central insights of political ecology. Religious traditions propose an exercise of ‘double listening’ — of the Earth and the poor, of the present and of the past, of the local context and global dynamics, of external signs and interior inspirations — which integrates technical analyses. This interdisciplinary approach today provides the structure of the prophetic denunciation that animates the encyclical Laudato si’ and other similar religious declarations. [1]
  2. Ascetic dimension. All spiritual traditions include practices of voluntary simplicity, such as fasting, aimed at purifying the relationship with God and with one’s neighbour. They acquire, in the current context, a new importance, in the light of the overexploitation of the planet’s resources. It is precisely in the contestation of consumerism and the “throwaway culture” that religions can make one of the most original contributions, calling the faithful to a sober lifestyle. The tendency to accumulate and consume without limits, typical of the richest societies, is not only scandalous in itself, in the face of the persistence of large swathes of misery, but it is also the cultural vector of environmental degradation. On the other hand, religious traditions have always seen the essentiality of life as a structural element of the spiritual experience. A particularly strong choice comes from the Hindu community, which comes to propose the renunciation of meat consumption as a means of combating global warming. [2] However, it is also necessary to avoid a purely ecological exploitation of practices that are aimed at freeing the believer from his disordered impulses and facilitating his relationship with others and with God. Therefore Pope Francis proposes the model of St. Francis of Assisi , for which ‘poverty and austerity […] were not only an external asceticism, but something more radical: a renunciation of making reality a mere object of use and domination’ (LS, № 11) . Ultimately, the main motivation that sustains asceticism is, for the believer, the spiritual search, which implies the fact of opposing the commodification of all areas of life and the instrumental use of relationships with others and with nature.
  3. Penitential dimension. Biblical prophets preached repentance and conversion of the heart to change behaviour. Without doubt, this invitation is not exclusive to monotheistic religions. Other traditions, in fact, have developed penitential practices to redeem the sins committed against others and against God. Can we include nature in the list of victims of human sin? The encyclical Laudato si’ offers an answer, articulating sin in the rupture of the three fundamental relationships: with one’s neighbour, with God and with the environment; relationships that have deteriorated ‘not only outside, but also within us’ (№ 66). The ecological crisis shows the full extent of the scope of sin, which involves those who are far away, those who have not yet been born, as in the case of future generations, and all living creation. It was the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I who used, for the first time, this harsh language when speaking of environmental degradation: “that human beings destroy biological diversity in divine creation; that deteriorate the integrity of the Earth and contribute to climate change, stripping the planet of its forests and destroying wetlands; that pollute the water, the soil, the air. All these are sins” (His All Holiness Bartholomew I Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. 1997). As the sense of sin widens, penitential practices must also be renewed, in order to develop in the faithful the sensitivity to feel involved in the suffering of other creatures.
  4. Apocalyptic dimension. Environmental movements have often evoked future scenarios of destruction: a communication strategy that has been criticised by many as ineffective. These narrative forms cross a genre widespread in all religious traditions: the apocalyptic. An example is the Letter of the Rabbis on the climate crisis of 2015, which warns: “in chapter 26 of Leviticus, the Torah warns us that if we prevent the Earth from resting ‘it will rest’ however, to our detriment, with drought, famine and exile that turns everyone into refugees.” It is interesting to note that the Jewish and Christian apocalyptic tales do not intend to convey pessimism or resignation, but above all point to the possibility of a transformed life, in the importance of giving a new value and a new meaning to existence. Buddhist and Hindu traditions also warn of the ‘karmic’ consequences of our actions, helping the believer to become aware of the consequences of his choices. In summary, apocalyptic narratives can help broaden the moral imagination and perceive the values ​​at stake.
  5. Sacramental dimension. The aptitude to grasp the signs of the divine presence in the material world distinguishes numerous religious traditions, including the Catholic one, which sees in the sacrament a visible sign of grace. A sacralisation of nature is thus made possible, which does not expire in pantheism, but grasps in the created world a mediation of supernatural life. Pope Francis expresses himself in this line: ‘the world is something more than a problem to be solved, it is a joyful mystery that we contemplate in joy and praise’ (LS, № 12). Destroying nature means eliminating this mediation of the mystery of God.
  6. Soteriological dimension. From its origins, the environmental movement has attributed a therapeutic function to the relationship with nature: wild or poorly man-made spaces have become new pilgrimage sites, where the urban population can find rest and restore their psycho-physical balance. Industrial society, which has left the struggle for survival behind it, has begun to perceive nature no longer as a threat but as a resource of meaning. This aesthetic and therapeutic function translates, in secular terms, that dimension that religious traditions call ‘salvific’: the ability to rebuild relationships — with God, with others — interrupted by sin, healing man’s inner disorder and restoring the right balances. However, the risk that nature ends up being seen only as an aesthetic resource for the human being is not excluded. This would re-propose a dualist and anthropocentric scheme. The Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change (2015) proposes a more balanced vision: ‘we must wake up and become aware that the Earth is our mother and our home, therefore we cannot cut the umbilical cord that unites us to her. When the Earth gets sick, we get sick, because we are part of it.’ The social dimension of environmental problems has not always been duly emphasised in environmental issues (see Northcott 2015). On this point, however, resides an aspect of great importance for religious traditions, which is the community character of salvation. Faced with individualistic tendencies, religions affirm that salvation is a collective task that leads to a relational vision of society, in which the believer lives as a member of a “sublime brotherhood with all creation” (LS, № 221).
  7. Mystical dimension. It is not easy to define what mysticism is. It is easier to investigate the writings and lives of mystics to sketch out the features of a type of spiritual experience, which is not the exclusive prerogative of a select few, but a real possibility for each person. This is the path that Pope Francis follows, when he indicates some figures of saints, especially of the Franciscan and Benedictine tradition, who embodied the model of a life reconciled with God, with humanity and with creation: Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure, Benedict of Nursia, etc. Even in the biographies of the great religious figures of history we often discover the role played by nature in their spiritual experiences, such as the enlightenment of the Buddha under a fig tree, or the lonely cave in which, according to Islamic tradition, Muhammad received the revelation of the Koran. In many cases, the mystical experience reveals, on the one hand, the harmony between the Creator and creation and, on the other, the way in which the world dominates humanity; thus the limited character of our existence is manifested, with the need to accept an ethical code (the Torah or the Koran) or a process of personal transformation (the eightfold Buddhist path). These intuitions — the awareness of interdependence and finitude, the discovery of a moral law, the need for a journey — are vital in a Promethean culture marked by the exaltation of individual autonomy and contempt for what is fragile. Above all, the spiritual sense of interconnection between living beings echoes the contemporary ecological discourse, which finds one of its pillars in the interrelation between organisms. The task of disseminating and assimilating the results of scientific research on sustainability requires ecological literacy; however, it also requires a profound spirituality, which supports socio-political commitment. The various dualisms introduced by modernity — between spirituality and work, science and religion, res extensa and res cogitans, etc., — have hindered the emergence of holistic visions of reality, as well as the dialogue between scientific knowledge and spirituality. The monastic tradition, which harmonises active life and contemplation, is then back to topicality. The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh proposed a synthesis, outlining the traits of a conscious, compassionate and committed way of life. By making the Buddhist monastic tradition dialogue with today’s environmental challenges, he proposes some ‘practices for a conscious life,’ which can help to live in a more balanced and respectful of nature (Nhat Hanh 2008).
  8. Community dimension. The centrality recognized in this dimension is another contribution of religions to the ecological debate. Today’s culture attaches great importance to individual choices to transform reality, less to the sense of coordinated action of a community. There are good reasons for valuing the community as a unit of analysis and practical action. First of all, a practical reason: to direct the effort of the individual, often disoriented by the complexity of the choices at stake. But there is also a spiritual reason: to interpret one’s life in relation to others; in this sense, the concrete community also mediates a vaster sense of belonging: ‘created by the same Father, we all beings of the universe are united by invisible bonds and form a sort of universal family’ (LS, № 89). It is a new way of seeing the world. Finally, feeling part of a network of relationships that goes beyond the limits of time and space and also the boundaries of species, helps to root an ethos of responsibility in the person. It is also a pedagogical challenge: perceiving oneself as part of a ‘universal fraternity’ (№ 228) is a moral and spiritual attitude that asks to be cultivated. In the social doctrine of the Church this sense of belonging flows into the care of the common good, that is, the set of conditions that allow a dignified life to flourish. Today this concept must be understood on a planetary scale. When Pope Francis says that ‘the climate is a common good’ (№ 23) he signals the fact that natural balances are a condition of possibility for any other human good.
  9. Wisdom dimension. The Greeks distinguished different forms of knowledge: τέχνη tékhnē (technical knowledge), φρόνησῐςphrónēsis (practical wisdom), ἐπιστήμη epistēmē (science or knowledge) and σοφία sophía (wisdom). Articulating these dimensions of knowledge is fundamental in an era characterised by academic fragmentation and information saturation that often result in the difficulty of establishing an effective social dialogue. The need emerges to reconstruct collective narratives capable of motivating people: in this, religions can make a contribution. Throughout history, they have offered world-views capable of creating social cohesion around a code of ethics and political institutions. Today it is clear that they cannot perform this function in the same way. However, a dialogue between science and religions is possible and desirable, leading to a global vision of a sapiential type, in which the scientific description of reality is compatible with religious interpretation.
  10. Eschatological dimension. One of the main criticisms that the ecological movement has addressed to biblical religions is the excessive trust of the latter in an unearthly salvation, which would be at the expense of commitment in the present world. This accusation is not entirely without foundation: there will always be the temptation of a religious ‘flight’ that removes responsibility for the believer with respect to his civil duties. It is no coincidence that some evangelical churches and other fundamentalist groups of other religions have skeptical or denial positions on environmental problems. For this reason Pope Francis said: ‘while we wait, we unite to take care of this house that has been entrusted to us, knowing that what is good in it will be taken on in the feast of heaven’ (LS, № 244). This ‘expectation’ characterises the condition of the believer, in the tension between future hope and the present task. According to the saying of the Jesuits, it is a question of living and working as if everything depended on us, knowing that everything depends on God. Hope is, for most religions, a constitutive element of faith. To support it, it is useful to rehabilitate the potential of religious rites, to ‘dramatise’ love for the poor and respect for creation. Indeed, the liturgy lives a double dimension: it symbolically tends towards the future through the signs of the present. It can ‘unmask the perverse logic that promises the future by consuming the present. An act that silences the poor and destroys other creatures, in the name of future growth, is a false sacrifice’ (Jenkins 2013, 47-48). The authentic hope that comes from faith does not distance us from the present: it seeks instead to encounter new paths of salvation.

Interreligious dialogue and ecological crisis

In the last fifty years, religious traditions have entered a relatively new area, that of sustainability, engaging in fruitful dialogue with civil society. A dialogue, we underline, with a strongly ecumenical and interreligious trait. Without having foreseen it, the ecological question has allowed one of the greatest public exercises of theology in recent history. Therefore, we conclude this reflection by affirming that the great spiritual traditions will not only be decisive in addressing the complexity of socio-environmental objectives, but these challenges will also condition the spiritual evolution of humanity: “the response of religion to the environmental crisis […] is the most important factor in determining whether religion will be a vital part of humanity’s future or whether it will sink into growing irrelevance ”(Gottlieb 2006, 18).

A more extensive version of the article was published with the title “Creer En La Sostenibilidad — Las Religiones Ante El Reto Medioambiental”, in Cristianisme i Justícia, 212 by Fr. Jaime Tatay Nieto S.J., (2019). [https://www.cristianismeijusticia.net/sites/default/files/pdf/es212.pdf] Translation and adaptation by Fr. Ugo-Maria Ginex ESB, Holy Celtic Church International. The Hermit of Saint Bruno St. Mary’s Hermitage Nr. Canterbury Kent.

Note

  1. On 17 and 18 August 2015, a meeting of about 60 representatives of the Islamic world from 20 countries was held in Istanbul. The meeting concluded with the publication of an Islamic declaration on climate change (cf. Howard 2015). [https://www.ifees.org.uk/about/islamic-declaration-on-global-climate-change/declaration-drafting-team/]
  2. ‘On a personal level, we can reduce this state of suffering by changing our lifestyles […]. Adopting a vegetarian diet is one of the most incisive acts a person can choose to reduce the environmental impact’ (Bhumi Devi Ki Jai! A Hindu Declaration on Climate Change, November 23, 2015). [http://www.hinduclimatedeclaration2015.org/english]

DECLARATIONS

A Rabbinic Letter on Climate Crisis, 29 October 2015, [https://theshalomcenter.org/RabbinicLetterClimate].

Bhumi Devi Ki Jai! A Hindu Declaration on Climate Change, 23 November 2015, <http://www.hinduclimatedeclaration2015.org/english>.

Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, 18 August 2015, [https://www.ifees.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/climate_declarationmmwb.pdf].

The Time to Act is Now: A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change, 14 May 2015,  [https://oneearthsangha.org/articles/buddhist-declaration-on-climate-change/].

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