The Three Stories of Our Time

Joanna Macy on:  The Tree Stories of our Time

1. Business as usual

One way of thinking about our times is that we are enacting a wonderful success story. Economic and technological development has made many aspects of our lives easier. If we ‘re looking at how to move forward, the path this story suggests is “more of the sameplease.” We ‘re calling this story Business as Usual This is the story told by most mainstream policy makers and corporate leaders. Their view is that economies can, and must, continue to grow. Even in the face of economic downturns and periods of recession, the dominant assumption is that it won’t be long before things pick up again.

Expressing his trust in the path of economic growthin November 2010 President Obama said, “The single most important thing we can do to reduce our debt and deficits is to grow.”

For a market economy to grow, it needs to increase sales. That means encouraging us to buy, and consume, more than we already do. Advertising plays a key role in stimulating consumption, and increasingly children are targeted as a way of boosting each household’s  appetite for goods. Estimates suggest that the average American child watches between twenty-five thousand and forty thousand television commercials a year. In the United Kingdom, it is about ten thousand.’

As we grow up, we learn by watching ethers. Our views about whats normal and necessary are shaped by what we see. When you’re living in the middle of this story, it’s easy to think of it as just the way things are. Young people may be told there is no alternative but to find their place in this scheme of things. Getting ahead is presented as the main plot, supported by the subplots of finding a partner, fending for your family, looking good, and buying stuff. In this view of life, the problems of the world are seen as far away and irrelevant to the dramas of our personal lives.


Economic growth is essential for prosperity

Nature is a commodity to be used for human purposes

Promoting consumption is good for the economy

The central plot is about getting ahead

The problems of other peoples, nations, species are not our concern.






In 2010 polls for both CBS8 and Fox News9 showed that a majority believed the conditions for the next generation would be worse than for people living today. Two years earlier, an international poll of more than 6I,600 people in sixty countries yielded similar results. With so many people losing confidence that things will be okay, a very different account of events is emerging. Since it involves a perception that our world is in serious decline, we take a term used by social thinker David Korten and call this story the Great Unraveling.”

In our work with people addressing their concerns about the world, were struck by how many issues are triggering alarm.

Five common areas of concern, and most likely you have some others you would add to this list. Facing these problems can feel uncomfortable, even overwhelming, but in order to get to where we want to go, we need tstart from where we are. The story of the Great Unraveling offers a disturbing picture of where that is.

The Great Unraveling of the Early TwentyFirst Century

Economic decline

Resource depletion

Climate change

Social division and war

Mass extinction of species



Amazone, S. America, free picture internet

3. The Third Dimension: Shift in Consciousness

What inspires people to embark on projects or support campaigns  that are not of immediate personal benefit? At the core of our consciousness is a wellspring of caring and compassion; this aspect of ourselveswhich we might think of as our connected se/f- can be nurtured and deve1oped. We can deepen our sense of belonging in the world. Like trees extending their root system, we can grow in connection, thus allowing ourselves to draw from a deeper pool of strength accessing the courage and intelligence we so greatly need now. This dimension of the Great Turning arises from shifts taking place in our hearts, our minds, and our views of reality involves insights and practices that resonate with venerable spiritual traditions while in alignment with revolutionary new understanding from science.

A significant event in this part of the story is the Apollo 8 space flight of December 1968. Because of this mission to the moon, and the photos it produced, humanity had its first sighting of Earth as a whole. Twenty years earlier, the astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle  had said, “Once a photograph of the Earth taken from the outside is available, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” Bill Anders, the astronaut who took those first photos commented, “We came all this way to explore the moon and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.

We are among the first in human history to have had this remarkable view. It came at the same time as the development in science of a radical new understanding of how our world works. Looking at our planet as a whole, Gaia theory proposes that the Earth functions as a self-regulating living system.

During the past forty years, those Earth photos, along with Gaia theory and environmental challenges, have provoked the emergence of a new way of thinking about ourselves. No longer just citizens of this country or that, we are discovering a deeper collective identity,

As many indigenous traditions have taught for generations, we are part of the Earth.  A shift in consciousness is taking place, as we move into a larger landscape of what we are. With this evolutionary jump comes a beautiful convergence of two areas previously thought to clash: science and spirituality. The awareness of a deeper unity connecting us lies at the heart of many spiritual traditions; insights from modern science point in a similar direction. We live at a time when a new view of reality is emerging, where spiritual insight and scientific discovery both contribute to our understanding of ourselves as intimately interwoven with our world.

We take part in this third dimension of the Great Turning when we pay attention to the inner frontier of change, to the personal and spiritual development that enhances our capacity and desire to act for our world. By strengthening our compassion, we give fuel to our courage and determination. By refreshing our sense of belonging in the world, we widen the web of relationships that nourishes us and protects us from burnout. In the past, changing the self and changing the world were often regarded as separate endeavours and viewed in eitheror terms. But in the story of the Great Turning, they are recognized as mutually reinforcing and essential to one another.

free picture NASA


Future generations will look back at the time we are living in nowThe kind of future they look from, and the story they tell about our period, will be shaped by choices we make in our lifetimes. The most telling choice of all may well be the story we live from and see ourselves participating in. It sets the context of our lives in a way  that influences all our other decisions. In choosing our story, we not only cast our vote of influence over the kind of world future generations inherit, but we also affect our own lives in the here and now. When we find a good story and fully give ourselves to it, that story can act through us, breathing new life into everything we do. When we move in a direction that touches our heart, we add to the momentum of deeper purpose that makes us feel more alive. A great story and a satisfying life share a vital element: a compelling plot that .moves toward meaningful goals, where what is at stake is far larger than our personal gains and losses. The Great Turning is such a story.

  • J. Macy, Active Hope, Chapter One The Three Stories of Our Time. Page 13-33 ISBN 978 1577 319726
  •   Link to her website.please.


A Readers’ Guide to :”Laudato Si”

A volunteer picks up trash at Freedom Island, a marshland considered to be a sanctuary for birds, fish and mangroves in April in the Philippines. (CNS/Reuters/Romeo Ranoco)
This article appears in the Francis: The Environment Encyclical feature series. View the full series.


One of the many marvelous things about Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” is that it is written in a very accessible style. It does not read like an academic tome as did many encyclicals of the past. Anyone who can read a newspaper can read this encyclical and get something out of it.

True, it is 190 pages and about 40,000 words, but the six chapters flow nicely. It is not a hard read.

The encyclical is great for individual reading but even better for a book club, class, or discussion group. Reading and discussing the encyclical in a group is exactly what is called for because throughout the letter, there are calls to dialogue.

There is no need for people to wait while the bishops and pastors organize a response to the encyclical. Anyone can download the encyclical, call their friends and say, “Let’s read and discuss the encyclical.” Anyone part of a book club can recommend that the encyclical be their next read.

The impact of the encyclical is going to be significant even outside the Catholic church. Environmentalists and scientists have endorsed the document. Likewise, non-Catholic religious leaders are eager to discuss the encyclical, which will become a topic of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

So here is a readers’ guide with study questions to help in reading the encyclical. Because of the richness of the content, I would suggest taking one chapter at a time for reading and discussion. There are lots of questions. Use the ones you find helpful for discussion; don’t feel you have to answer them all.

The introduction

The pope begins the encyclical by summarizing his presentation and citing earlier popes and other religious leaders who have spoken about the environment. He says Sister Earth “cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”


  1. Where have you seen harm inflicted on Sister Earth (Paragraph 2)?
  2. Why do you think few people knew that Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI spoke out on environmental issues (4-6)?
  3. St. Francis of Assisi has been called the patron saint of the environment. What is attractive about him (10-12)?

Pope Francis concludes his introduction with an appeal (13-16). What is your response?


Chapter 1: What is happening to our common home

Pope Francis is a firm believer in the need to gather the facts in order to understand a problem. Chapter 1 presents the scientific consensus on climate change along with a description of other threats to the environment, including threats to water supplies and biodiversity. He also looks at how environmental degradation has affected human life and society. Finally, he writes about the global inequality of the environmental crisis.


  1. How has pollution affected you or your family personally?
  2. What does the pope mean by a “throwaway culture” (22)? Do you agree with him? Why?
  3. What does the pope mean when he says, “The climate is a common good” (23)?
  4. What is the evidence that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity (23)? What will be its effects?
  5. The pope says “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right,” yet many poor people do not have access to it (27-31). Why is this? What can be done?
  6. Why does the pope think biodiversity is important (32-42)? What are the threats to biodiversity?
  7. What are the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development, and the throwaway culture (43-47)?
  8. Why does the pope believe “we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation” (48)?
  9. Why does the pope think that simply reducing birth rates of the poor is not a just or adequate response to the problem of poverty or environmental degradation (50)?
  10. “A true ‘ecological debt’ exists, particularly between the global north and south,” the pope writes (51). What does he mean?

Why does the pope think the response to the world’s environmental crisis has been weak (53)?

Chapter 2: The Gospel of creation

The pope argues that faith convictions can motivate Christians to care for nature and for the most vulnerable of their brothers and sisters. He begins with the biblical account of creation and then meditates on the mystery of the universe, which he sees as a continuing revelation of the divine. “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.” He concludes, “The earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone.”


  • According to Francis, the Bible teaches that the harmony between the creator, humanity, and creation was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations (66). What does it mean to presume to take the place of God?
  • How does Francis interpret Genesis 1:28, which grants humankind dominion over the earth (67)?
  • How does Francis use the Bible to support his view that the gift of the earth with its fruits belongs to everyone (71)?
  • In reflecting on the mystery of the universe, what does Francis mean by saying that “creation is of the order of love” (77)?
  • What is our role “in this universe, shaped by open and intercommunicating systems” where “we can discern countless forms of relationship and participation” (79)?
  • Francis says, “Creating a world in need of development, God in some way sought to limit himself in such a way that many of the things we think of as evils, dangers or sources of suffering, are in reality part of the pains of childbirth which he uses to draw us into the act of cooperation with the Creator” (80). How do you understand this?
  • If the ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us, how do we and other creatures fit into God’s plan (83)?
  • Alongside revelation contained in Scripture, “there is a divine manifestation in the blaze of the sun and the fall of night” (85). How have you experienced God in creation?
  • What is your reaction to the hymn of St. Francis of Assisi (87)?
  • “The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to pri­vate property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of pri­vate property” (93). When can the right to private property be subordinated to the common good?
  • What was the attitude of Jesus toward creation (96-100)?

Chapter 3: The human roots of the ecological crisis

Although science and technology “can produce important means of improving the quality of human life,” they have also “given those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world.” Francis says we are enthralled with a technocratic paradigm, which promises unlimited growth. But this paradigm “is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.” Those supporting this paradigm show “no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behaviour shows that for them maximizing profits is enough.”


  1. What is Francis’ attitude toward technology? What does he mean by the technocratic paradigm (101, 106-114)?
  2. How does Francis argue that “technological products are not neutral,” (107, 114) that “the technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life” (109)?
  3. Francis says, “We are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resourc­es” (109). What does he mean? Why does this happen?
  4. Francis asserts that “by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion” (109). Why does he say this? Do you agree?
  5. Francis argues, “To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system” (111). What are the true and deepest problems of the global system in Francis’ mind?
  6. Francis calls for a broadened vision (112), “a bold cultural revolution” (114). What would that look like?
  7. What does Francis mean by “modern anthropocentrism” (115)?
  8. For Francis, “the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity” (119). What does Francis mean by “practical relativism” (122) and cultural relativism (123)?
  9. Why does Francis argue that any approach to integrated ecology must also protect employment (124)?
  10. What does Francis see as the positive and negative aspects of biological technologies (130-136)?

Chapter 4: Integral ecology

Recognizing the reasons why a given area is polluted requires a study of the workings of society, its economy, its behavior, and the ways it grasps reality. We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis that is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.


  1. Why does Francis argue that “we are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental” (139)?
  2. What would it mean to have “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature (139)”?
  3. Why does Francis think it is important for us to understand ecosystems and our relationship to them (140)?
  4. Why do “we urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision” (141)?
  5. Francis speaks of an “integral ecology” that combines environmental (138-140), economic (141), social (142), and cultural (143) ecologies. What does that mean? How does it work?
  6. How does the environment of our homes, workplace, and neighborhoods affect our quality of life (147)?
  7. How does poverty, overcrowding, lack of open spaces, and poor housing affect the poor (149)? Why are these environmental issues?
  8. What does Francis mean by “the common good” (156)?
  9. What are the consequences of seeing the earth as a gift that we have freely received and must share with others and that also belongs to those who will follow us (159)?
  10. “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 need does the earth have of us” (160)?
  11. Why does Francis say, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain” (161)?
  12. What does Francis mean when he says, “An ethical and cultural decline … has accompanied the deterioration of the environment” (162)?

Chapter 5: Lines of approach and action

What is to be done? Francis calls for dialogue on environmental policy in the international, national and local communities. This dialogue must include transparent decision-making so that the politics serve human fulfillment and not just economic interests. It also involves dialogue between religions and science working together for the common good.


  1. The word “dialogue” is repeated throughout this chapter. What does it mean and why does Francis think it is important?
  2. Francis speaks of the need for a global consensus for confronting problems. Why is it needed, and how is it going to be achieved (164)?
  3. Why does he think that “the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history” (165)?
  4. What does Francis see as the successes and failures of the global response to environmental issues (166-169)?
  5. What international strategies does Francis oppose in responding to the environmental crisis (170-171), and which does he support (172-172)?
  6. Francis argues, “The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty” (175). What is this mindset?
  7. “Given the real potential for a misuse of human abilities,” Francis argues, “individual states can no longer ignore their responsibility for planning, coordination, oversight and enforcement within their respective borders” (177). What does that mean for the United States?
  8. “The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics,” Francis says. “But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good” (188). What is the proper role of the church in political, economic and environmental issues?
  9. Francis is critical of many business practices, has no faith in the marketplace to safeguard the environment, and sees a robust role for government in the regulation of the economy and protecting the environment. How will Americans respond to this? How do you?
  10. What does Francis mean when he says, “There is a need to change ‘models of global development’ ” (194)? What is wrong with the current models? What would the new models look like?
  11. What are the separate roles of religion and science, and how can they dialogue and work together (199-201)?

Chapter 6: Ecological education and spirituality

We need to change and develop new convictions, attitudes and forms of life, including a new lifestyle. This requires not only individual conversion, but also community networks to solve the complex situation facing our world today. Essential to this is a spirituality that can motivate us to a more passionate concern for the protection of our world. Christian spirituality proposes a growth and fulfillment marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world.


  1. Throughout this encyclical, Francis links concern for the poor with the environment. Why does he do that?
  2. Francis is critical of a consumerist lifestyle (204). Why? What would a new lifestyle look like?
  3. What could be the political and economic impact of a widespread change in lifestyles (206)?
  4. What does Francis see as the role of environmental education in increasing awareness and changing habits (210-211)?
  5. What does Francis mean by an ecological spirituality, and how can it motivate us to a passionate concern for the protection of our world (216)?
  6. Self-improvement on the part of individuals will not by itself remedy the extremely complex situation we face today, according to Francis. What is the role for community networks? Governments?
  7. What are the attitudes that foster a spirit of generous care (220-221)?
  8. Granted all of the problems we face, what gives Francis joy and peace (222-227)?
  9. Love must also be civic and political, according to Francis. “Social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a ‘culture of care’ which permeates all of society.” How can we encourage civic and political love in the United States?
  10. Francis proposes that the natural world is integral to our sacramental and spiritual lives (233-242). How have you experienced this?
  11. How is this encyclical going to change your life?

For additional reading on the encyclical, see Francis: The Environment Encyclical.Click here to download the PDF.

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

Article by Leonardo Boff on the Pope’s Encyclical


The Magna Carta of integral ecology: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the poor

By Leonardo Boff,  theologian and ecologist


Before making any comment it is worth highlighting some peculiarities of the Laudato Si’ encyclical of Pope Francis. It is the first time a Pope has addressed the issue of ecology in the sense of an integral ecology (as it goes beyond the environment) in such a complete way. Big surprise: he elaborates the subject on the new ecological paradigm, which no official document of the UN has done so far. He bases his writing on the safest data from the life sciences and Earth. He reads the data affectionately (with a sensitive or cordial intelligence), as he discerns that behind them hides human tragedy and suffering, and for Mother Earth as. The current situation is serious, but Pope Francis always finds reasons for hope and trust that human beings can find viable solutions. He links to the Popes who preceded him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, quoting them frequently. And something absolutely new: the text is part of collegiality, as it values the contributions of dozens of bishops’ conferences around the world, from the US to Germany, Brazil, Patagonia-Comahue, and Paraguay. He gathers the contributions of other thinkers, such as Catholics Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Romano Guardini, Dante Alighieri, the Argentinian maestro Juan Carlos Scannone, Protestant Paul Ricoeur and the Sufi Muslim Ali Al-Khawwas. The recipients are all of us human beings, we are all inhabitants of the same common home (commonly used term by the Pope) and suffer the same threats. Pope Francis does not write as a Master or Doctor of faith, but as a zealous pastor who cares for the common home of all beings, not just humans, that inhabit it. One element deserves to be highlighted, as it reveals the “forma mentis” (the way he organizes his thinking) of Pope Francis. This is a contribution of the pastoral and theological experience of Latin American churches in the light of the documents of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) in Medellin (1968), Puebla (1979) and Aparecida (2007), that were an option for the poor against poverty and in favor of liberation. The wording and tone of the encyclical are typical of Pope Francis, and the ecological culture that he has accumulated, but I also realize that many expressions and ways of speaking refer to what is being thought and written mainly in Latin America.

The themes of the “common home”, of “Mother Earth”, the “cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor”, the “care” of the “interdependence of all beings”, of the “poor and vulnerable”, the “paradigm shift,” the “human being as Earth” that feels, thinks, loves and reveres, the ” integral ecology” among others, are recurrent among us. The structure of the encyclical follows the methodological ritual used by our churches and theological reflection linked to the practice of liberation, now taken over and consecrated by the Pope: see, judge, act and celebrate.

First, he begins revealing his main source of inspiration: St. Francis of Assisi, whom he calls “the quintessential example of comprehensive care and ecology, who showed special concern for the poor and the abandoned” (n.10, n.66). Then he moves on to see “What is happening in our home” (nn.17-61). The Pope says, “just by looking at the reality with sincerity we can see that there is a deterioration of our common home” (n.61). This part incorporates the most consistent data on climate change (nn.20-22), the issue of water (n.27-31), erosion of biodiversity (nn.32-42), the deterioration of the quality of human life and the degradation of social life (nn.43-47), he denounces the high rate of planetary inequality, which affects all areas of life (nn.48-52), with the poor as its main victims (n. 48). In this part there is a phrase which refers to the reflection made in Latin America: “Today we cannot ignore that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach and should integrate justice in discussions on the environment to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor “(n.49). Then he adds: “the cries of the Earth join the cries of the abandoned of this world” (n.53). This is quite consistent since the beginning he has said that “we are Earth” (No. 2; cf. Gen 2.7.). Very much in line with the great singer and poet Argentine indigenous Atahualpa Yupanqui: “humans beings are the Earth walking, feeling, thinking and loving.” He condemns the proposed internationalization of the Amazon that “only serves the interests of multinationals” (n.38). There is a great statement of ethical force, “it is severely grave to obtain significant benefits making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay for the high costs of environmental degradation” (n.36). He acknowledges with sadness: “We had never mistreated and offended our common home as much as in the last two centuries” (n.53). Faced with this human offensive against Mother Earth that many scientists have denounced as the beginning of a new geological era -the anthropocene- he regrets the weakness of the powers of this world, that deceived, “believed that everything can continue as it is, as an alibi to “maintain its self-destructive habits” (n.59) with “a behavior that seems suicidal” (n.55). Prudently, he recognizes the diversity of opinions (nn.60-61) and that “there is no single way to solve the problem” (n.60). However, “it is true that the global system is unsustainable from many points of view because we have stopped thinking about the purpose of human action (n.61) and we get lost in the construction of means for unlimited accumulation at the expense of ecological injustice (degradation of ecosystems) and social injustice (impoverishment of populations). Mankind simply disappointed the divine hope”(n.61). The urgent challenge, then, is “to protect our common home” (n.13); and for that we need, quoting Pope John Paul II, “a global ecological conversion” (n.5); “A culture of caring that permeates all of society” (n.231). Once the seeing dimension is realized, the dimension of judgment prevails.

This judging is done in two aspects, the scientific and the theological. Let´s see the scientific. The encyclical devoted the entire third chapter to the analysis “of the human root of the ecological crisis” (nn.101-136). Here the Pope proposes to analyze techno-science, without prejudice, recognizing what it has brought such as “precious things to improve the quality of human life” (n. 103). But this is not the problem, it is independence submitted to the economy, politics and nature in view of the accumulation of material goods (cf.n.109). Techno-science nourishes a mistaken assumption that there is an “infinite availability of goods in the world” (n.106), when we know that we have surpassed the physical limits of the Earth and that much of the goods and services are not renewable. Techno-science has turned into technocracy, which has become a real dictatorship with a firm logic of domination over everything and everyone (n.108). The great illusion, dominant today, lies in believing that techno-science can solve all environmental problems. This is a misleading idea because it “involves isolating the things that are always connected” (n.111). In fact, “everything is connected” (n.117), “everything is related” (n.120), a claim that appears throughout the encyclical text as a refrain, as it is a key concept of the contemporary paradigm. The great limitation of technocracy is “knowledge fragmentation and losing the sense of wholeness” (n.110). The worst thing is “not to recognize the intrinsic value of every being and even denying a peculiar value to the human being” (n.118). The intrinsic value of each being, even if it is minuscule, is permanently highlighted in the encyclical (N.69), as it is in the Earth Charter. By denying the intrinsic value we are preventing “each being to communicate its message and to give glory to God” (n.33). The largest deviation of technocracy is anthropocentrism. This means an illusion that things have value only insofar as they are ordered to human use, forgetting that its existence is valuable by itself (n.33). If it is true that everything is related, then “we humans are united as brothers and sisters and join with tender affection to Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother river and Mother Earth” (n.92). How can we expect to dominate them and view them within the narrow perspective of domination by humans?

All these “ecological virtues” (n.88) are lost by the will of power and domination of others to nature. We live a distressing “loss of meaning of life and the desire to live together” (n.110). He sometimes quotes the Italian-German theologian Romano Guardini (1885-1968), one of the most read in the middle of last century, who wrote a critical book against the claims of the modernity (n.105 note 83: Das Ende der Neuzeit, The decline of the Modern Age, 1958). The other side of judgment is the theological. The encyclical reserves an important space for the “Gospel of Creation” (nos. 62-100). It begins justifying the contribution of religions and Christianity, as it is global crisis, each instance must, with its religious capital contribute to the care of the Earth (n.62). He does not insists in doctrines but on the wisdom in various spiritual paths. Christianity prefers to speak of creation rather than nature, because “creation is related to a project of love of God” (n.76). He quotes, more than once, a beautiful text of the Book of Wisdom (21.24) where it is clear that “the creation of the order of love” (n.77) and God emerges as “the Lord lover of life “(Wis 11:26). The text opens for an evolutionary view of the universe without using the word, but through a circumlocution referring to the universe “consisting of open systems that come into communion with each other” (n.79). It uses the main texts that link Christ incarnated and risen with the world and with the whole universe, making all matters of the Earth sacred (n.83). In this context he quotes Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955, n.83 note 53) as a precursor of this cosmic vision. The fact that Trinity-God is divine and it related with people means that all things are related resonances of the divine Trinity (n.240).

The Encyclical quotes the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church who “recognizes that sins against creation are sins against God” (n.7). Hence the urgency of a collective ecological conversion to repair the lost harmony. The encyclical concludes well with this part “The analysis showed the need for a change of course … we must escape the spiral of self-destruction in which we are sinking” (n.163). It is not a reform, but, citing the Earth Charter, to seek “a new beginning” (n.207). The interdependence of all with all leads us to believe “in one world with a common project” (n.164). Since reality has many aspects, all closely related, Pope Francis proposes an “integral ecology” that goes beyond the environmental ecology to which we are accustomed (n.137). It covers all areas, the environmental, economic, social, cultural and everyday life (n.147-148). Never forget the poor who also testify to the living human and social ecology ties of belonging and solidarity with each other (n.149). The third methodological step is to act. In this part, the Encyclical observes the major issues of the international, national and local politics (nn.164-181). It stresses the interdependence of social and educational aspects with the ecological and sadly states the difficulties that bring the prevalence of technocracy, creating difficulties for the changes needed to restrain the greed of accumulation and consumption, that can be re-opened (n.141). He mentions again the theme of economics and politics that should serve the common good and create conditions for a possible human fulfilment (n.189-198). He re-emphasizes the dialogue between science and religion, as it has been suggested by the great biologist Edward O. Wilson (cf. the book Creation: How to save life on Earth, 2008). All religions “should seek the care of nature and the defense of the poor” (n.201). Still in the aspect of acting, he challenges education in the sense of creating “ecological citizenship” (n.211) and a new lifestyle, based on caring, compassion, shared sobriety, the alliance between humanity and the environment, since both are umbilically linked, and the co-responsibility for everything that exists and lives and our common destiny (nn.203-208). Finally, the time to celebrate. The celebration takes place in a context of “ecological conversion” (n.216), it involves an “ecological spirituality” (n.216). This stems not so much from theological doctrines but the motivations that faith arises to take care of the common home and “nurture a passion for caring for the world” (216). Such a mystical experience is what mobilizes people to live in ecological balance, “to those who are solidary inside themselves, with others, with nature and with all living and spiritual beings and God” (n.210). It appears to be the truth that “less is more” and that we can be happy with little. In the sense of celebrating “the world is more than something to be solved, it is a joyous mystery to be contemplated in joy and with love” (n.12).

The tender and fraternal spirit of St. Francis of Assisi is present through the entire text of the encyclical Laudato Si’. The current situation does not mean an announced tragedy, but a challenge for us to care for the common home and for each other. The text highlights poetry and joy in the Spirit and indestructible hope that if the threat is big, greater is the opportunity for solving our environmental problems. The text poetically ends with the words “Beyond the Sun”, saying: “let’s walk singing. That our struggles and our concerns about this planet do not take away our joy of hope “(n.244). I would like to end with the final words of the Earth Charter which the Pope quotes himself (n.207): ” Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.¨



Reflection Pope Francis, April 2017



Good evening – or, good morning, I am not sure what time it is there.  Regardless of the hour, I am thrilled to be participating in your conference.  I very much like its title – “The Future You” – because, while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a “you.”  “The Future You:” the future is made of “yous,” it is made of encounters, because life flows through our relations with others.  Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.

As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: “Why them and not me?”  I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing.  I could have very well ended up among today’s “discarded” people.  And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: “Why them and not me?”

First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent “I,” separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone.  We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state.  Even the harsh judgment I hold in my heart against my brother or my sister, the open wound that was never cured, the offense that was never forgiven, the rancor that is only going to hurt me, are all instances of a fight that I carry within me, a flare deep in my heart that needs to be extinguished before it goes up in flames, leaving only ashes behind.

Many of us, nowadays, seem to believe that a happy future is something impossible to achieve.  While such concerns must be taken very seriously, they are not invincible.  They can be overcome when we don’t lock our door to the outside world.  Happiness can only be discovered as a gift of harmony between the whole and each single component.  Even science – and you know it better than I do – points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.

And this brings me to my second message.  How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion.  How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.  How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, was not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.  Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the “culture of waste,” which doesn’t concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.

Solidarity is a term that many wish to erase from the dictionary.  Solidarity, however, is not an automatic mechanism.  It cannot be programmed or controlled.  It is a free response born from the heart of each and every one.  Yes, a free response!  When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being?

In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity.  And I know that TED gathers many creative minds.  Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude.  Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough.  Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number.  The other has a face.  The “you” is always a real presence, a person to take care of.

There is a parable Jesus told to help us understand the difference between those who’d rather not be bothered and those who take care of the other.  I am sure you have heard it before.  It is the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  When Jesus was asked: “Who is my neighbor?” – namely, “Who should I take care of?” – he told this story, the story of a man who had been assaulted, robbed, beaten and abandoned along a dirt road.  Upon seeing him, a priest and a Levite, two very influential people of the time, walked past him without stopping to help.  After a while, a Samaritan, a very much despised ethnicity at the time, walked by.  Seeing the injured man lying on the ground, he did not ignore him as if he weren’t even there.  Instead, he felt compassion for this man, which compelled him to act in a very concrete manner.  He poured oil and wine on the wounds of the helpless man, brought him to a hostel and paid out of his pocket for him to be assisted.

The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of today’s humanity.  People’s paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people.  And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves “respectable,” of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road.  Fortunately, there are also those who are creating a new world by taking care of the other, even out of their own pockets.  Mother Teresa actually said: “One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense.”

We have so much to do, and we must do it together.  But how can we do that with all the evil we breathe every day?  Thank God, no system can nullify our desire to open up to the good, to compassion and to our capacity to react against evil, all of which stem from deep within our hearts.  Now you might tell me, “Sure, these are beautiful words, but I am not the Good Samaritan, nor Mother Teresa of Calcutta.”  On the contrary: we are precious, each and every one of us.  Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God.  Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.

To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope.  Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing.  Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow.  Hope is the door that opens onto the future.  Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree.  It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life.  And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness.  A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you.  And then there will be another “you,” and another “you,” and it turns into an “us.”  And so, does hope begin when we have an “us?”  No.  Hope began with one “you.”  When there is an “us,” there begins a revolution.

The third message I would like to share today is, indeed, about revolution: the revolution of tenderness.  And what is tenderness?  It is the love that comes close and becomes real.  It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands.  Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future.  To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth.  Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.

Tenderness is the language of the young children, of those who need the other.  A child’s love for Mom and Dad grows through their touch, their gaze, their voice, their tenderness.  I like when I hear parents talk to their babies, adapting to the little child, sharing the same level of communication.  This is tenderness: being on the same level as the other.  God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level.  This is the same path the Good Samaritan took.  This is the path that Jesus himself took.  He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.

Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women.  Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude.  It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility.  Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly.  If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.  There is a saying in Argentina: “Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.”  You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness.  Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.

The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies.  Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility.  But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a “you” and themselves as part of an “us.”  We all need each other.  And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us.  Thank you.

This is from the TED Talk of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church, and filmed in April 2017 at the Vatican.

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Laudato Si: Call for Ecological Conversion


A Call for ‘Call for Ecological Conversion’



A summary of Pope Francis’ plea for humanity, as expressed in his new encyclical, Laudato Si.


VATICAN CITY — In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis has issued a lengthy warning on the “destruction of the human environment” that draws on theology and “the best scientific research available today” to challenge all people to be better stewards of creation.

The six-chapter, 184-page document, whose subtitle is “The Care for Our Common Home,” also uses environmental concerns to provoke wider discussions on the deeper questions of human existence, as well as the need to safeguard all creation and all people, however poor, small or vulnerable.

“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” is the question at the heart of a document that the Pope directs at all people, not only Catholics.

The encyclical, which has a chapter dedicated to the “human roots of the ecological crisis,” clearly accepts the science of anthropogenic climate change — the first such papal document to so overtly endorse the science. But at the same time, it says the Church has “no reason to offer a definitive opinion,” knowing that “honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.”

The encyclical frequently speaks on behalf of the poor, while often chastising governments for poor governance and businesses for placing “speculation and the pursuit of financial gain” ahead of the common good.

As per tradition, the encyclical takes its title from its opening words — “Laudato si, mi Signore” — (Praise be to you, my Lord). The words come from the canticle of St. Francis of Assisi that “reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us,” the Pope writes.

wildflowers beaty 1

He then cites further words of his namesake on creation, stressing that “rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”

The Pope often refers to teachings on the environment from his recent predecessors, as well as Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I. And, throughout, he draws on previous papal and Church documents, as well as the teachings of some of the doctors of the Church: Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Benedict, Thérèse of Lisieux and Bonaventure. The 20th-century theologian Romano Guardini, a favorite of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is frequently cited, as are statements from various bishops’ conferences.

Rejecting ‘A Throwaway Culture’

Calling on the “whole human family” to seek a sustainable and integral development, the Pope urgently appeals for a “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” In the face of this, Francis criticizes “obstructionist attitudes” and calls for a “new and universal solidarity.”

The encyclical’s first chapter presents the crisis affecting the environment, saying that the Earth “is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” and that its environmental problems are “closely linked to a throwaway culture.”

Climate change, it goes on to say, is a “global problem with serious implications” that represents “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” It notes other factors, such as volcanic activity, variations in the Earth’s orbit and axis and the solar cycle, but adds that “a number of scientific studies” show that “greenhouse gases” are released “mainly as a result of human activity.” This unsettled issue is shaping up as a main criticism by analysts.

“If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us,” the encyclical says, adding that the “worst impact” will probably be felt in developing countries. It goes on to call for the drastic reduction of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases, substituting fossil fuels and developing renewable energy.

It points to the “tragic rise in migrants,” escaping poverty caused by environmental degradation, and tackles shortages and the poor quality of water in many parts of the world, saying it is a “basic and universal human right” and that to deprive the poor of water denies them the “right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.” The loss of biodiversity and extinction of species are also mentioned.

It speaks of the decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society, citing the “unruly growth” of cities, the effects of technological innovations and the omnipresence of the media. The encyclical also focuses on global inequality and calls for a “true ecological approach” to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.

Lack of Leadership

The encyclical draws attention to “weak responses” and a lack of leadership, noting, “It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been.” It criticizes a “superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness.”

In Paragraph 60, Francis places the Church in between two ideological extremes: those who “doggedly uphold the myth of progress,” thinking that ecological problems will solve themselves, and those who view mankind as “no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem.”

Early on, Laudato Si also rejects population control as a means of helping the environment, saying demographic growth is “fully compatible” with an integral and shared development.

“To blame population growth, instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues,” the encyclical says.

The document then draws on the “wisdom of biblical accounts” in relation to the environment and rejects the notion that, having been created in God’s image and given dominion over the Earth, mankind is justified in having “absolute domination over other creatures.” Furthermore, it says that when we see God reflected in all that exists, “our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and to worship him in union with them.”

In a later section, the document criticizes those who show “more zeal” in protecting other species than in defending human dignity or addressing “enormous inequalities in our midst.” Every act of cruelty “towards any creature is contrary to human dignity,” the Pope writes.

The Gaze of Jesus

Under the title “The Gaze of Jesus,” the document notes that Jesus lived in “full harmony with creation” and that the destiny of all creation is “bound up with the mystery of Christ.”

Chapter 3 is given over to what the encyclical calls technocracy — the dominance of technology over everyday life — and economic and political life. The Pope says this is reflected in architecture that “reflects the spirit of an age.”

He argues for a “bold cultural revolution,” in which society needs to slow down and look at reality in a different way.

Also in the chapter, it says modernity has been “marked by an excessive anthropocentricism” that actually obstructs ways of strengthening social bonds. It calls instead for “responsible stewardship” and says failure to acknowledge the worth of “a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities” makes it difficult to recognize that “everything is connected.”

Failure to protect the human embryo, it says, makes it impossible to teach concern for the vulnerable.

The document further decries a culture of relativism that objectifies others, and Francis stresses the need to protect employment, saying it is “essential” to “prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.”

Laudato Si steps back from issuing a definitive statement on genetic modification, but it does say that a “number of significant difficulties” should not be “underestimated.” It also criticizes those who wish to impose limits on such research, while failing to “apply those same principles” to issues, specifically citing experimentation on human embryos.

Human Ecology

Chapter 4 is given over to “human ecology” and stresses the importance of “relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.” It says it is “not a healthy attitude” to “cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home,” it says, “whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.”

Chapter 5 concerns “lines of approach and action,” in which the Pope proposes dialogue to achieve a “broad consensus” on action. He says there is an “urgent need of a true world political authority” to deal with these global problems and that the environment cannot be “adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces.”

The final chapter discusses education and spirituality and invites everyone to “ecological conversion” and a “new lifestyle,” even through small actions, such as carpooling and turning off unnecessary lights.

“Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction,” it says. “If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society.”

It also calls for “sobriety and humility.” And towards the end, it says the Eucharist is a “source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.”

Closing Marian Reflection

Ending with a reflection on Mary, the Queen of All Creation, he says that “we can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom,” as well as implore St. Joseph to “teach us how to show care” for the world.

The Pope ends with two prayers, one from Basil the Great and the other by Pope Francis himself, to close what he calls his lengthy, “joyful and troubling” encyclical.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.


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