“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (Laudato Si’ 139)
Integral Ecology is a vision of the global crisis recognizing the connection between all of creation (environment and humanity) together with culture, politics, faith, and ethics. It is a framework for addressing these issues and moving forward. Everything is interconnected and interdependent. No thing is unimportant. No one is unimportant.
The Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology offers the following description of Integral Ecology as presented in Laudato Si’:
The term “integral ecology” is mentioned several times throughout the encyclical, and it is the title of the encyclical’s fourth chapter. Ecology is the study of relationships between the organisms and environmental conditions. Integral ecology brings together multiple perspectives on those relationships, including perspectives from sciences, economics, culture, religion, and the experiences of daily life. Its approach and lines of action are oriented around facilitating dialogue and transparent decision-making across multiple domains of society, from local to international. Integral ecology recognizes connections between environmental destruction and unjust social systems. Alluding to the Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, who wrote Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor (Orbis Books, 1997), the Pope says: “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Laudato Si’ 49).
Living Ecological Virtues
In Laudato Si’, we are invited to cultivate ecological virtues on our journey to caring for the Earth and for one another. Individuals and communities can replace consumption, greed, and wastefulness with sacrifice, generosity, and a spirit of sharing (Laudato Si’, 9).
Recognition that the world is God’s love gift and that we are called to imitate God’s generosity in self-sacrifice and good works (220).
Loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures but joined in a splendid universal communion (220). We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world (229).
To be serenely present to each reality, however small, opens us to greater understanding and fulfilment (222). Being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full (226). Appreciating each person and each thing, learning familiarity with the simplest things and how to enjoy them (223).
Going beyond ourselves towards the other; caring for things for the sake of others; setting limits on ourselves in order to avoid the suffering of others or the deterioration of our surroundings. Trading self-centeredness and self-absorption for concern for others is essential to care for our brothers and sisters and for the natural environment (209).
Allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack (222). A lifestyle capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption (222).
Both inner peace and harmony with creation are integral to caring for ecology and for the common good. When lived out authentically, inner peace is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life. A slower pace can recover a serene harmony with creation, as we reflect on our lifestyle and our ideals so to live out the ecological virtues (225).
Experiencing Ecological Conversion
Ecological conversion is defined by Laudato Si’ Movement as the “transformation of hearts and minds toward greater love of God, each other, and creation. It is a process of acknowledging our contribution to the social and ecological crisis and acting in ways that nurture communion: healing and renewing our common home.” In ecological conversion, an awareness of the gravity of today’s cultural and ecological crisis pairs with “ecological sensitivity” and a “generous spirit” leading to a change of heart and new habits.