Because taking care of the Earth isn't just for hippies!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Human Ecology vs. Anthropocentrism

Ok, I'm jumping in! Here's my first "real" post - my thoughts on Catholicism and environmental issues - non-Catholics and non-scientists, please let me know if this makes sense or if I lose you! I'll try not to use too much jargon.

In May, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, addressed the U.N. at a session of the Economic and Social Council's Commission on Sustainable Development. His address covered many issues, from clean water access to transportation to global warming, but what I found most interesting was one of his opening paragraphs:
In addition to the irrational destruction of the natural environment, there has been the more serious destruction of the human environment. Although people are rightly worried about preserving natural habitats, too little effort has been made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology. Such an ecology will place the human person at the center of environmental concerns, while simultaneously promoting an urgent sense of human responsibility for the earth, be it at the level of states, commerce or individuals. Happily, as the essential symbiosis of life on the planet becomes plain, there is already a growing acknowledgment that good environmental policies are by extension good people policies too.
Complete Text

Now, at first glance one might see this paragraph as dismissing environmental concerns as unimportant compared to other issues. I know many environmentalists who would probably pass this off as a typical anthropocentic view of the world - the typical "we are at the top of the food chain and can do whatever we please to make ourselves happy" idea. However, I see this as a much broader concept than merely doing what's best for man and forgetting the rest. I think the key to this is when he says "while simultaneously promoting an urgent sense of human responsibility for the earth, be it at the level of states, commerce or individuals." This is not an issue of either/or, of choosing to protect the environment or be happy, healthy humans. Both are necessary. So many times groups demonize the each other and assume their positions are mutually exclusive. I find the greatest polarization to be between pro-environment and pro-life groups. Why do you think this is the case? I'm interested to hear other's comments on this.

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