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Similarities between the encyclical “Caring for the Common Home” and “the Earthcharter, on our Home”

02/08/2015

The encyclical, Laudato sí’, Caring for the Common Home, and The Earthcharter, are perhaps the only two documents of worldwide relevance that have so much in common. They deal with the degraded situation of the Earth and of life in its many dimensions, departing from the conventional vision that is limited to environmentalism. They subscribe to the new relational and holistic paradigm, the only one, it seems to us, that is still capable of giving us hope.

The encyclical echoes The Earthcharter, that in one of its most fundamental passages proclaims: «I dare to propose again this precious challenge: as never before in history, the common destiny calls on us to seek a new beginning» (nº 207). That new beginning is undertaken by Pope Francis.

Let us enumerate, among others, some of those similarities.

In the first place, one sees the same spirit running through the two texts: in its analytical form, gathering the best scientific data; in its critical form, denouncing the present system that puts the Earth out of balance, and in its hopeful form, offering solutions. They do not surrender to resignation. But trust in the human capacity to create a new lifestyle and in the renewing actions of the Creator, “the sovereign lover of life” (Sab 11,26).

They have the same starting point. The Earthcharter says: «The dominant masters of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, exhaustion of resources and a massive extinction of species» (Preamble, 2). The encyclical repeats: «it is enough to see reality with sincerity to see that there is a great deterioration of our Common Home… the present world system is unsustainable from many points of view» (n. 61).

They make the same proposals. The Earthcharter affirms: «Fundamental changes in our values, institutions and life styles are needed» (Preamble, 3). The encyclical emphasizes: «All pretension of caring for and improving the world presupposes profound changes in the lifestyles, means of production and consumption, and the consolidated power structures that now rule society» (n. 5).

A great novelty, central to the new cosmologic and ecological paradigm, is this affirmation of the Earthcharter: «Our environmental, economic, political, social and spiritual challenges are interrelated, and together we can forge solutions that are inclusive» (Preamble, 3). The encyclical echoes this assertion: there are some threads that run all through that document: «the intimate relationship between the poor and the frailty of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the invitation to seek other ways of understanding economics and progress, the intrinsic value of each creature, the human meaning of ecology and the suggestion of a new lifestyle» (n. 16). Here solidarity among all, shared sobriety and «moving from greed to generosity and knowing how to share» is valued, (n. 9).

The Earthcharter says that «there is a spirit of kinship with all life» (Preamble 4). Similarly, the encyclical affirms: «Everything is related, and all human beings are together as brothers and sisters… and we are united, with tenderness, to brother Sun, to sister Moon, to brother River and to Mother Earth» (n. 92). That is the universal Franciscan fraternity.

The Earthcharter emphasizes that it is our duty «to respect and care for the community of life… respect the Earth in all her diversity» (I,1). The entire encyclical, starting with its title, “Caring for the Common Home”, makes a sort of ritornello from this mandate. It proposes «to nourish a passion for caring of the world» (n. 216) and «a culture of caring that permeates all of society» (n.231). Here caring emerges not as mere perfunctual benevolence but as a new paradigm, a loving friend of life and of all that exists and lives.

Another important affinity is the value assigned to social justice. The Earthcharter maintains that there is a strong relationship between ecology and «social and economic justice» that «protects the vulnerable and serves those who suffer» (n.III,9 c). The encyclical reaches one of its highest points when it affirms that «a true ecological proposal must integrate justice, in order to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor» (n.49; 53).

Both The Earthcharter and the encyclical go against current common vision in emphasizing that «each form of life has value, independent of its human use» (I, 1, a). Pope Francis reaffirms that «all creatures are connected; each one must be valued with affection and admiration, and all beings need each other» (n.42). In the name of this understanding the Pope strongly criticizes anthropocentrism (nn.115-120), because it views humanity’s relationship with nature as using and devastating her and not otherwise, forgetting that human beings are part of nature and that humanity’s mission is to be her guardian and protector.

The Earthcharter devised one of the best definitions of peace that has come from human reflection: «the plenitude that results from the correct relationships with one’s self, with other persons, other cultures, other lives, with the Earth and with the All of which we are part» (16, f). If peace, according to Pope Paul VI, is «the equilibrium of movement» then the encyclical says that the «natural ecological equilibrium has to be the one within one’s own self, the solidarian one with others, the natural one with all living beings, the spiritual one with God» (n.210). The result of that process is the perennial peace so desired by all peoples.

These two documents are beacons that guide us in these somber times, and are capable of returning to us the much needed hope that we still can save the Common Home, and ourselves.

Leonardo Boff is ecotheogian and writer,author of the book: Ecogogy:cry of Earth-cry of Poors,Orbis 2002.

 

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