How to care for our Common Home
Today, caring for the Earth, as Pope Francis set forth in detail in his encyclical letter, “On Caring for our Common Home”, «a global ecological conversion», requires «profound changes in the life styles, in the models of production and consumption, in the consolidated structures of power» (nº 5). This objective will never be reached unless we effectively love the Earth as our Mother and know how to limit ourselves, and even suffer, in order to guarantee her vitality for our own sake, and that of the entire community of life (nº 223). Mother Earth is the base that sustains and nourishes everything. We cannot exist without her. The systematic aggression she has endured in recent centuries has destroyed her equilibrium. Ultimately, she could continue for centuries, but without us.
August 13 of this year wasThe Overshoot Day, the day when the biocapacity of the Earth to satisfy human demands had been exhausted. We need 1.6 planets to meet them. In other words, this proves that our life style is unsustainable. The demands of the rest of the community of life are not included in that calculation. This increases the urgency of our responsibility for the future of the Earth, the future of our comrades in this earthly journey, and of our goals for the planet.
How to care for the Earth? In the first place, the Earth must be seen as a living and systemic Whole, in which all the parts are inter-dependent and inter-related. As the papal text tirelessly affirms, very much in the line of the new ecologic paradigm, the Earth-Gaia is fundamentally comprised of her ecosystems as a whole, with the immense biodiversity that exists in them, and all the live and inert beings that coexist and always interrelate.
To care for the Earth as an organic whole is to maintain the conditions that have existed for millions and millions of years, that facilitate the continuity of the Earth, a living super-being, Gaia. To care for each eco-system is to understand the unique qualities of each, its resilience, its capacity for reproduction and to maintain the relationships of collaboration and mutuality with all the others, because everything is related and inclusive. To understand the ecosystem is to realize the imbalances that can result from irresponsible interferences by our culture, voracious for goods and services.
To care for the Earth is primarily to care for her integrity and vitality. It is to prevent an entire biomass or a whole vast region from being deforested and thereby degraded, thus altering the patterns of the rains. It is important to assure the integrity of her bio-capacity. This is true not only for the living and visible organic beings, but mainly for the micro-organisms. In reality, they are the unknown workers that sustain the life of the Planet. The eminent biologist Edward Wilson affirms that «in only one gram of earth, just under a fistful, there are around 10 billion bacteria, belonging to as many as 6 thousand different species» (La creación, 2008, p. 26). That empirically proves that the Earth is alive and really is Gaia, a living super organism, and that we are the conscious and thinking portion of the Earth.
To care for the Earth is to care for the “commons”, that is, for the common goods and services the Earth freely offers all living beings, such as water, nutrients, air, seeds, rivers, climates, etc. These common goods, precisely for being common, must not be privatized and converted to merchandise in the system of commerce, as is rapidly occurring everywhere. The Evaluation of the Ecosystems of the Millennium, an inventory requested by the U.N. a few years back, in which 1.360 specialists from 95 countries participated, and which was reviewed by another 800 scientists, produced terrifying results. Of the 24 environmental services essential for life, such as water, clean air, regulated climates, seeds, foods, energy, soils, nutrients and others, 15 are highly degraded. This clearly shows that the bases that sustain life are threatened.
Year after year, the indices are all worsening. We do not know when that destructive process will stop, or whether it will become a catastrophe. If there were a tipping point such as the feared “abrupt warming”, that raised temperatures from 4 to 6 degrees centigrades, as the Northamerican scientific community has warned, we would see apocalyptic destruction that would affect millions of persons. We trust that we shall still awaken. Above all, we believe that “God is the sovereign Lord, lover of life” (Sb 11,26), and will not let such an Armageddon happen.
To care for the Earth is to care for her beauty, her scenery, the splendor of her jungles, the enchantment of her flowers, and the exuberant diversity of her living beings, the fauna and the flora.
To care for the Earth is to care for her finest product, that is us, the human race, men and women, especially the most vulnerable. To care for the Earth is to care for that which she, through our genius, has produced in such diverse cultures, in so many languages, in art, science and religion, in cultural goods, especially in spirituality and religiosity, through which we realize the presence of the Supreme Reality that underlies all beings and that carries us in the palm of His hand. .
To care for the Earth is to care for the dreams that she elicits in us, which gives birth to the saints, the wise, the artists, the persons who are guided by the light, and everything that is sacred and loving that has arisen throughout history.
To care for the Earth, finally, is to care for the Sacred that burns within us and that convinces us that it is better to embrace the other than to reject him, and that life is worth more than all the wealth in this world.
Then, will she really be the Common Home of the Being.
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.