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Integral Ecology

Environmental Concern or Integral Ecology?

The Catholic Social Teaching theme of integral ecology is becoming more urgent and important. Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’, on care for our common home, stresses that everything is connected. This means that our approach to ecology must be holistic. Ecology goes beyond care for the natural environment. It embraces the vast network of relationships between all that is. Integral ecology requires “an integrated approach to combatting poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (LS n 139)

“…genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, n 70)

Causes & Responsibility

Of course we must all take personal responsibility for our impact on the rest of creation. But the deeper causes of environmental problems usually lie beyond personal behaviour. These causes are connected to models of development, production and consumption.

The poorest people and most disadvantaged communities often suffer the most from the consequences of environmental problems. They may have fewer choices to avoid contributing to environmental problems. Poverty can be both a cause and a consequence of ecological problems. As the Australian Bishops say:

“Policies which deal equitably and effectively with how we develop our natural resources for economic and social development, while working to address land salination, the degradation of rivers, fair distribution of water, global warming and prudent management of fragile ecosystems are part of caring for God’s created world, including humanity. Australia’s future prosperity is closely linked with how well we care for our ecosystems and how effectively we transition to sustainable practices.” (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Vote for the Common Good: Election Statement 2013)

Human Creatures

“We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it. Recognizing the reasons why a given area is polluted requires a study of the workings of society, its economy, its behaviour patterns, the way it grasps reality.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, n 139)

Human beings are part of creation, not outside of it. The work of nurturing the human ecology of our communities is deeply linked with our thinking about development, and our relationship with the rest of creation. Social inclusion and economic sustainability are interrelated. Integral ecology calls us to understand our place as part of God’s creation and our responsibility for this planet, which is our common home.

Find out More

Visit this page for an introduction to Laudato Si’ a link to the full text of the encyclical, and to further resources.

Read Dr Sandie Cornish’s reflection on integral ecology in the spirituality of Catholic Social Teaching for the Catholic Earthcare Convocation 2020 here.