All posts tagged: ecology

Human Dignity Can’t Be Separated from Ecological Awareness

In the Mojave Desert, palm trees flank Las Vegas’ Guardian Angel Cathedral, a smallish A-frame church that is almost all gray-brown segmented roof, reminiscent of a common backyard armor-plated roly-poly sow bug (actually an isopod terrestrial crustacean of the Armadillidiidae family) found in the dark moist environment underneath rocks. The cathedral is almost as inconspicuous, just a block east of The Strip of Las Vegas Boulevard and low lying compared to its 25 story casino-hotel neighbor across the street to the south. Some people chuckle in surprise to learn that Las Vegas is a diocese with a cathedral, somehow thinking Sin City’s constitutional vices of gambling, prostitution, strip clubs, and easy marriage and divorce are no place for the holiness of the Church. But where else should the Gospel be proclaimed? It is not for the righteous but for sinners. The light of Christ is to shine in the darkened interior of hearts and casinos in the sun-soaked desert. It is to open the eyes of these citizens to a true vision of God, the …

Agrarian Insights on Ecological Conversion: Living Laudato Si’

Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ posed a tremendous challenge for the Church and the entire world. Although the encyclical letter was seen widely as an intervention on climate change negotiations, it in fact offered much more – including a radical critique of our entire societal status quo. In particular, Francis challenges the “dominant technocratic paradigm,” outlining its various damaging cultural and spiritual effects while also offering suggestions toward cultivating an alternative lifestyle: “A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal ” (Laudato Si’, §202).  The encyclical’s reception has been varied. Recent research indicates that the Pope’s teachings about global warming contributed to greater public engagement with the issue.[1] Still some, including American Catholics, continue to deny the full extent of our ecological problem. Others find themselves frustrated with institutional inaction or paralyzed by the immensity of the issue. The climate-change crisis, and our apparent inability to face it, is deeply distressing to the Church, since the roots of the problem …

Celebrating Easter, Part 6: The Redemption of Farming

Organic-biodynamic farming, though it possesses many practical benefits—such as raw milk, fresh vegetables, fresh meats and eggs—has always been for me a kind of sacred activity. This sacredness resides in one undeniable fact: the Blood of Christ saturated the earth on Golgotha. This is not some minor, locally interesting detail. Rather, it is a supernatural event of the highest importance for the entire planet, and, indeed, for the cosmos. He makes all things new. When I work the land, I am mindful that this soil has been redeemed along with all of Creation by Christ’s Blood. This is not some piece of abstract doctrine for me, but a scientific truth. However, this is a truth I must not fully understand: if I did, I’m afraid I’d be too awestruck to do anything. Nevertheless, his Blood saturated the soil and its power still enlivens it. My job, as I see it, is simply to help the vegetables and forage crops I plant find access to that power. This care implies tending: planning, planting, weeding, composting. In …

“Laudato Si’,” Personal Conversion, and Missionary Joy

Faced with an increasingly dechristianized West in his own time, the famous German Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, frequently warned against a “missionary defeatism” in the Church.[1] Today, at least in the United States, political polarization has undermined any common arena of discourse that may have once existed. Loud rhetoric (not even eloquent sophistry!) has replaced reasoned argument. Washington remains gridlocked, if not perpetually, meaning that even common-sense, compromise legislation cannot be approved. Any new sense of global solidarity brought on by an age of social media is shadowed by a reminder of just how challenging a real, embodied solidarity actually is. At the same time, findings in the social sciences have bordered on determinism, showing more and more just how formative systems—like the one described—are for the human person, calling into question human responsibility and agency to actually transcend, let alone shape, these societies and cultures. The chorus of a 1971 hit by the English band Ten Years After captures the sentiment of many: “I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what …

“Laudato Si'” and Environmental Works of Mercy

I am going to start at the section of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ that I found most troubling and work up from there. I must say that since there are a lot of troubling sections, it was hard to choose, but that being said, here is my pick: 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. (§55) This is troubling to me because it corresponds to me exactly. I think it is fair to say that I have a “growing ecological sensitivity,” yes, even me, and yet I feel absolutely addicted to air conditioning and my addiction “appears to be growing all the more” as I get older. No passage impressed itself on my reluctance to change as much as this one. It made me feel the “summons to [the] profound interior conversion” that the “ecological crisis” represents (§217), …