By Carlos Ayala Ramírez *
Thus, the negative anthropocentrism that assumes that beings have value only to the extent that they are subordinate to the human being is overcome. In this sense, one of the main ideas of the encyclical is the following: “Many things have to reorient their course, but above all humanity needs to change. We need the awareness of a common origin, of a mutual belonging and of a future shared by all ”. Now, what are the convictions, attitudes and ways of life that this type of consciousness implies? Let's see what the pope proposes in this encyclical.
First, it exhorts us to face what is happening to our common home. In this sense, the letter indicates as the main problems pollution and climate change (which affect people, peoples and nature on a daily basis and progressively), the question of water (an aspect of first importance, because it is essential for human life and to sustain terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems), the loss of biodiversity (of jungles, forests and species), the deterioration of the quality of human life and social degradation (due to the effects of the current development model and the culture of disposal), inequity planetary (disproportionate use of natural resources by some rich countries, to the detriment of the poor majorities) and the weakness of reactions to this reality (due to the prevalence of economic interest over the common good).
These realities, according to the Pope, "provoke the groan of Sister Earth, which joins the groan of the world's abandoned, with a cry that demands another direction from us." Despite the human insanity expressed in the scandalous inequality, plunder, exacerbated violence, unlimited predation and irrational consumption, Francisco affirms that not all is lost, “because human beings, capable of degrading themselves to the extreme, also they can overcome, re-opt for the good and regenerate, beyond all the mental and social conditioning that is imposed on them ”. Hence, he proposes another way of inhabiting the common home, which must be translated into new convictions, habits and ways of life.
In this line, the so-called "ecological citizenship" has the duty to care for creation; in principle, with small daily actions that have a direct and important impact on the protection of the environment. There is talk of “avoiding the use of plastic and paper material, reducing water consumption, separating waste, cooking only what can reasonably be eaten, treating other living beings with care, using public transport or sharing the same vehicle between several people, plant trees, turn off unnecessary lights ”. For the Bishop of Rome, “do not think that these efforts will not change the world. These actions spill a good in society that always produces fruits beyond what can be verified ”.
From the perspective of Christian inspiration, Francis proposes some lines of ecological spirituality. In the first place, it emphasizes the behaviors of gratitude and gratuity, "that is, the recognition of the world as a gift received from the Father's love, which consequently provokes gratuitous attitudes of renunciation and generous gestures." It speaks of a new way of being in the world, no longer about things, but next to them. For this reason, ecological spirituality "implies the loving awareness of not being disconnected from other creatures, of forming a precious universal communion with the other beings of the universe." Consequently, the human being "no longer understands his superiority as a reason for personal glory or irresponsible dominance, but as a different capacity, which in turn imposes on him a grave responsibility that springs from his faith."
And in line with what Gandhi proposed at the time (“we need to live simply so that others can simply live”), the encyclical is emphatic in stating the urgency of a return to simplicity, sobriety and humility, which allows “ stopping to value what is small, to be grateful for the possibilities that life offers without clinging to what we have or being sad about what we do not have.
In the ecology scenario of everyday life, the pope recognizes the central role that the family can have. In this sense, he remembers that in it “the first habits of love and care of life are cultivated, such as the correct use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and the protection of all beings. created. […] In the family we learn to ask for permission without overbearing, to say thanks as an expression of a heartfelt appreciation of the things we receive, to dominate aggressiveness or voracity, and to ask for forgiveness when we do harm ”.
Betting on a different lifestyle, on an “ecological conversion”, is the key to the encyclical so that we rethink our way of being in reality and realize that “we need to feel again that we need each other, that we have a responsibility for others and for the world ”.
* Professor of Theology at the Hispanic Institute of the Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University, USA.