by Peter Blaze Corcoran, TOGETHER – A Way Forward
And, as Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff would add, “Do you hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor?” Pandemic days have provided us long hours for reflection on many fundamental questions and concepts ranging from justice, to democracy, to nature. As the impacts of climate collapse effect us, it is well to consider our responsibility to the natural systems upon which we depend for life as we have known it. At whose expense comes the overconsumption of our lifestyle?
The inequities of our economic and political systems have become more clear in the current social and environmental crises. Even the spread of the coronavirus itself can be traced to our pushing nature’s limits. What can we learn individually and as a society from our COVID-19 timeout? What is our personal responsibility to the agony of the natural world and of the social world which we are witnessing?
Where can we look for guidance? Fortunately, inspiration is one resource that is still in abundance. What might we learn from the Calusa—the ancient keepers of what are now called Sanibel and Captiva Islands? What indigenous knowledge might be drawn from today’s land stewards, the Seminole and the Miccosukee? What inspiration regarding stewardship might we draw from the Judeo-Christian or other faith traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Isla?
In my own thinking lately, I continue to be profoundly impressed with the moral leadership of Pope Francis. I am not a Roman Catholic, but I am a student of Saint Francis and of his namesake. Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home takes its title from the exhortation of Saint Francis, “Praise be to you!” For his 2015 encyclical, the Pope seeks an audience of “every person living on the planet.” His critical insight is that of integral ecology which reimagines the relationship between humans and the natural world. It recognizes that humans are integral to nature, rather than that nature is subject to human domination. For Francis, integral ecology includes commitment to common good, to intergenerational equity, and to the preference for the poor. He might say we live in an integral ecology and therefore need an integral ecological approach to all of life. This perspective includes the understanding that problems and solutions must be approached with interdisciplinary thinking. If we are to care effectively for creation, we cannot deny the interrelatedness of all things in our efforts.
Francis writes, “Just as the different aspects of the planet – physical, chemical and biological – are interrelated, so too living species are part of a network which we will never fully explore and understand. A good part of our genetic code is shared by many living beings. It follows that the fragmentation of knowledge and the isolation of bits of information can actually become a form of ignorance, unless they are integrated into a broader vision of reality” (2015, Paragraph 138). This helps us to see ourselves and all we choose to do as part of God’s creation. Indeed, this helps us to see ourselves as part of our co-creation with God for the kind of world we seek.
And if we are called to care for creation, and if we do hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor, what can we do? I believe each of us will know in our hearts what actions we might wish to take on our own. And there are, of course, many worthy group initiatives, including here on the Islands, which we might wish to support. Some of these initiatives are within our local congregations. If you would like to become more involved, please ask your pastor, rabbi, or representative of TOGETHER—A Way Forward for information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Peter Blaze Corcoran is Professor Emeritus, Environmental Studies and Environmental Education, at FGCU, and is a Research Fellow at the Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development at the University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica. The views expressed in this article are his own. He is also a member of TOGETHER – A Way Forward, an interfaith organization comprised of religious congregations of Sanibel and Captiva including First Church of Christ, Scientist; Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church; the Unitarian Universalists of the Islands; and Captiva Chapel by the Sea. The organization’s purpose is to inspire people of faith and spirit to demonstrate leadership in responding to the global environmental crisis.