Archive for ecology

Hearing the ‘Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor’

Posted in Laudato Si with tags , , , , , on August 13, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

pope francis_1379610835810_944524_ver1.0_640_480_1386790829863_1635428_ver1.0_640_480In a paragraph of Pope Francis’s latest encyclical letter Laudato Si that strikingly echoes the work of the Brazilian theologian and former Franciscan friar Leonardo Boff, we are reminded of the ways in which the global poor disproportionately suffer the consequences of climate change and environmental degradation. Can we learn to draw near to those in our world otherwise systematically excluded from discussions of power and policy, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor?

“It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. 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. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. 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. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. 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” (no. 49)

Photo: File

The Cry of the Rest of Creation

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

earthWe live in a human-centered world. At least we think we do. Whether or not the perception of our species, that the world and the expansive universe to which it belongs revolves around us, is accurate or not (it isn’t), the behavior of our human family in light of this dispositional attitude has resulted in the destructive reality we find ourselves in today. Anthropocentrism is a systemic sin that far-too often goes unacknowledged because the victims of its reality rarely speak in a voice that we can — or wish — to recognize. Our fellow cosmic inhabiters, the non-human creatures of this world, cry out but not in the human verbal expression, the technological text message, or the shift in the stock market that would otherwise grab our attention. Their cries are muffled by the chatter of our own self-interest and occluded by the noise of our exploitative drive.

We have forgotten that God created all of us and did not, contrary to sometimes popular interpretations of scripture that render us sovereigns over the rest of creation, make us human beings free-reigning proprietors, but instead placed us within the garden from which we were molded and into which God’s own breath animated all of us. We are siblings of creation, bearing the elemental “DNA” of the most basic building blocks of life found in organic and inorganic created things alike. We share a deep interrelationship with the rest of the created order, but we have turned a blind eye toward our continued exercise of earthly domestic abuse.

Thomas Berry, in his essay in a recently published book titled, Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, has a very striking paragraph that highlights our collective human forgetfulness when it comes to our relationship to the rest of the created order and what very real havoc that wreaks, especially in North America.

We have lost our connection to this other deeper reality of things. Consequently, we not find ourselves on a devastated continent where nothing is holy, nothing is sacred. We no longer have a world of inherent value, no world of wonder, no untouched, unspoiled, unused world. We have used everything. By “developing” the planet, we have been reducing Earth to a new type of barrenness. Scientists are telling us that we are in the midst of the sixth extinction period in Earth’s history. No such extinction of living forms has occurred since the extinction of the dinosaurs some sixty-five mission years ago.

In destroying other species, in ruining non-sentient elements of creation such as water tables and mountaintops, in harming the air and the environment of those who are poorest among the human family, we are committing fratricide — killing not only our human sisters and brothers, but the kin we call creation; the kin of God’s creating.

What does it take for us to hear the cry of the rest of creation? How can we restore our connection to the deeper reality of things that Berry names?

Photo: Stock

Remember, You Are Dust: Lent and Creation

Posted in Lent with tags , , , , , , , on February 13, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Hugging EarthI’ve always been a little turned off by one of the two traditional sayings used during the distribution of ashes: “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.” It has, at first glance, seemed like quite a “downer” and a depressing sort of reflection. On the one hand, it makes sense that an expression and reminder of penance on the first day of the Season of Lent might have a depressing, or at least somber, quality. Yet on the other hand, a second look at this expression does indeed cause us to remember a deeply significant truth about our existence and humanity. We are dust, as Genesis 2:7 explains, because God formed humanity from the “dust of the earth.” This has some radical implications for how we understand ourselves and our relationship to the rest of creation.

As the second creation account expresses clearly, we are ha-adamah (“from the earth”). We are not something apart from the rest of creation or above the rest of creation or, in some particularly physiological or biological sense, any different from the rest of creation. As human beings we share the same elements and minerals as the stars and seas and lions and birds; we are made up of the very dust of the earth as the rest all of God’s creation.

Perhaps this Lent, amid these times of heightened awareness of the ecological crises of our age, we might make a concerted effort to be more aware of our intrinsic relationship to the rest of the created order. It can begin today as we mark ourselves with a sign of penance and recall that we are part of God’s creation and will return to the earth someday after our earthly lives have ended.

Maybe we could even shape our penitential practices to reflect a particularly attentive stance to the concerns of the rest of creation. Perhaps what we “give up” or “take on,” if this our tradition, might be aimed at doing precisely what this saying during the distribution of ashes beckons us to recall: remembering that we are earth and that to the earth we will return. What will do and how will we think in the meantime?

Photo: Stock
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