Catholic Social Teaching (CST) teaches us that we must care for God’s creation. The foundation of this principle is that creation is God’s gift, and so we should honour the gift in the same way we honour the giver.
What kind of worldview can help us to care for God’s creation? Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, calls for an integral ecology. “Eco” in “ecology” comes from the Greek word oikos, which means “house”. To think about ecology, therefore, is to think about relationship between living creatures and their environment. What we do to our environment also influences other creatures, whether human or animal, living in the same location.
Due to globalisation and digital communication technology, these interactions are increasingly widespread; now, what happens in one place can affect other societies and environments in distant locations. For example, the goods we buy can have an impact on the workers who produce them and the societies they belong to, as well as the environments from which the materials are taken, even if they are halfway across the world from us.
This great complexity of intertwined networks means that, as the Holy Father repeatedly says, everything is interconnected. When we consider the environment and human societies, we must therefore see them in an integrated way. There is no separation between human culture and nature. All are part of the beautiful creation that God has given to us all.
When our worldview is shaped by an integral ecology, we are more likely to think more carefully about the impact of our decisions on the rest of creation – what potential harm we might do to the environment, the human cost of such damage, and how it dishonours the One who has made all these. In other words, integral ecology helps us to live out the CST Principle of Caring for God’s Creation.
To do so, we may need to change our lifestyles to be more mindful of whether we are wasting natural resources. This is difficult. But Christian spirituality is conducive to such lifestyle changes.
The Gospels tell us that the Holy Family was poor. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself lived a very simple life and Scripture, in many places, warns against the distraction of worldly riches. This is why many holy men and women throughout the centuries cherished poverty, not because being poor is good in itself, but because it helped them become closer to God. There is something about a simple lifestyle and its detachment from material goods that help us deepen our relationship with God.
Today, many people are embarking on a simpler lifestyle for the sake of the environment. The care of our common home could perhaps be a starting point to talk about the values of the Gospel and proclaim the Good News beyond the boundaries of the Church.
First published in Catholic News. Reprinted with permission.