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Deep Ecology and De-growth

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I think Saint Augustine is the author of the maxim, “no great thing is created suddenly.” In any case, it is very wise and applies not only to good things but also to harmful ones. Thus, a serious illness normally begins with small symptoms that become increasingly harmful over time.

The reader of this page on the Pan-Amazon Synod will wonder if all the theses contrary to Church teaching on the primacy of man over Creation now posited by the highest ranks of the hierarchy began “all of a sudden” or were part of a long growth process.

To answer this question we are providing below a few selected excerpts from the book, From Liberation Theology to Ecofeminist Theology—a Revolution Entrenched in the Church, which I published in 2011.

I think the reader will find here sufficient arguments to verify that also in this domain “nothing great is created suddenly.”

“Deep Ecology”, another Aspect of Ecofeminism¹

The consequences of this neo-theology in the civil order are not limited to pressures to legalize abortion, homosexual unions, “reproductive rights,” and the destruction of the Christian concept of the family in general. They also affect economic life and national development.

Indeed, ecofeminist theology, as a continuation of Liberation Theology, retains its longstanding detestation of business, free initiative, and everything that seeks or generates profit. These are its enemies of yesterday and today.

In the liberationist perspective, as in the Marxist one, the origin of private property is selfishness. Were it not for that vice, men would distribute all the goods of the earth in complete equality. This is what led liberation theologians, in the 1970s, to join the struggles of leftist politicians and guerrilla terrorists in Latin America. According to them, to the extent that guerrillas fought against owners they were fighting against selfishness and therefore creating conditions conducive to the implementation of the “Kingdom.”

The new theology, while keeping intact this antipathy to owners adds yet another reason that its earlier versions had not fully explained. The owner is not only an exploiter of the poor but worse still, an exploiter of the cosmos and of the immanent wisdom of nature. Consequently, he must be fought on these two counts.

According to this logic, if the earth is the “sacred belly” where “deep wisdom” comes from, with what right do humans, who do not go beyond being a strand in the fabric of this worldview, intervene in rivers and mountains, build dams, plant fruit trees, etc.?[2]

World Social Forum and Local Forum of Atacama

The article titled “Social Forum of Atacama,” published in the magazine Testimonio, illustrates the theses on deep ecology and how they coincide with the new formulas of the world left. Its author, Sara Arenas, a psychologist currently with a scholarship from the Ford Foundation, reports on the trip made by a group from Copiapó to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in January 2003.[3]

As is known, the so-called “Porto Alegre Forums” have been alternative meetings to international summits of developed countries. They began to be held in 2001 with the name “WSF World Social Forum” in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil. Such forums aim to sustain a different and not entirely clear model of development. They are united by the rejection of private property and free initiative, and periodically congregate groups of leftists from around the world.

Sara Arenas says that after participating in the Porto Alegre Forum, “meetings began to be organized to tell about what they experienced in Brazilian lands. The meetings were held at the Chancery of Copiapó, an enclosure that also served to coordinate the trip to the III Forum and that was being prepared to host the Pastoral of Temporary Workers (and thus) gave rise the challenge of establishing a local Social Forum, like a small replica of the World Social Forum … called “Atacama, another world is possible.” … With the conclusions and challenges of the First Local Social Forum, at the end of the year it was decided to make a thematic Forum on the environment … Also in October 2004, a Forum was held to criticize the neo-liberal model with Manuel Riesco and Hugo Fazio,[4] who made a detailed analysis of the country’s economic strategy … ”

They went on to take action based on this analysis of the above-mentioned Communist Party economists: “Until November 2004, the organizations that had participated in the different experiences were numerous: … College of Teachers, Ethical Commission against Torture … ATTAC Chile,[5] Provincial CUT, Copiapó Peace and Justice Service, Copiapó Communist Party … Pastoral of Social Action of the Chancery of Copiapó … we had unwittingly become the first experiment of social forums in Chile, later imitated in the regions of Coquimbo, Valparaíso and Valdivia. Through ATTAC Chile … we receive financial support to cover part of the bus tickets for 40 people, in addition to coordinating solidarity accommodation and support to guide us. … The Forum took a regional character and so from that moment we took the name Social Forum of Atacama. With the support of the Chancery, the free First Regional Development Diploma Program was launched and is still ongoing.”[6]

Comment: This activist fails to say that despite the many organizations that contributed to the formation of the Atacama Forum, there was no variety among them. All were linked to the extreme left sector of the nation’s political landscape. To him this seems so normal that he has no qualms about showing a clearly ecclesiastical organization such as a Catholic Chancery receiving economists of the Communist Party and making a united front with this Party in the region.

Logically, the constant protest demonstrations in Copiapó organized by religious organizations against the initiatives of agricultural and mining entrepreneurs cannot fail to attract attention. As we will see later, they are the natural fruit of this “Local Forum”.

“Ecological criticisms of the Bible”

The aforementioned magazine Pastoral Popular, mouthpiece for the Ecumenical Center Diego de Medellin (a kind of think tank of the religious left), publishes articles aligned with the most advanced current and provides a religious “basis” for questioning the Bible from the ecological point of view.[7]

In an editorial in its special issue dedicated to “ecology and environment,” the magazine affirms the need to “change the paradigm” in the way we inhabit the Earth. To do this, it points out the need for “a conversion of mind and heart so the universe stops being regarded as an object available for our use but rather as a delicate and fragile whole endowed with unsuspected energies and potentialities independent of our action; that the human being stops placing himself as the center or evolutionary edge of the universe, but rather as a subordinate part of it.”[8]

In order to achieve such a “conversion,” men must stop considering themselves the “center” of creation and become a “subordinate part” of the whole. Therefore, they need to re-read or re-interpret Genesis, particularly verse 1.28: “Fill the earth, and subdue it.”

In another article in the same Pastoral Popular magazine, titled “For an Ecological Reading of the Bible,” it notes, “In the sixties there appeared a series of new models of biblical readings, the ‘hermeneutics of the genitive’. They were liberating readings… That is why the new hermeneutics proposed re-reading the Bible … with the eyes of the poor, indigenous, women, excluded, discriminated.”[9]

Consistent with these “liberating readings” of Genesis, the magazine proposes making a “re-reading” inspired by Eastern Gnostic religions: “The order that God establishes is not the authoritarian or rationalist order of modernity. The order of creation is unpredictable, random, changing, relative … it is an order in chaos, it is not an order without chaos … Therefore, it is not arbitrary to say that the Earth behaves like a living being whose organs are the oceans, animals, bacteria, forests or atmosphere … We can recall the wise men of India who said that whoever fully understands his own body and his own being will have understood everything. Which is that, in the order-chaos of nature, the ‘part’ is also ‘the whole.’”[10]

Comment: Always in the logic of denying “dualities,” the “part” (men) are “also the whole” (the cosmos). There is no difference in substance, and since there is no difference, there can be no hierarchy. Therefore, God’s command “let him have dominion over the Earth” (Gen 1:26), if “dominion” is understood as “exercising lordship,” is a very serious mistake. Now, since this has been precisely the reading of all time, what is needed is a “conversion” according to pantheistic Gnosticism.[11]

Ecofeminism and Indigenous Theology

According to this publication, not only the pagan peoples of India have the secret of the right relationship with the cosmos. Closer to us, the indigenous peoples of America also possess that wisdom insofar as they did not let themselves be contaminated with Christian preaching and remained untouched by the concept of progress and civilization.

“We are lucky that there are still cultures and peoples that preserve this vision (the holistic worldview that considers human life as part of, and in relation with, nature and the cosmos)… A current within feminism has joined the indigenous movement. Ecofeminists find something in common in the struggle of indigenous people and in women’s struggle. … Christian ecofeminists… propose to live the processes instead of living in anticipation of the results.”[12]

Comment: What differentiates a rational being from an irrational one is precisely his ability to predict. Man does not feed himself just to satisfy his immediate appetite; he thinks about his needs in the medium and long term. From this forecast, a line of action emerges that will solve the needs of many and over a long period. This is the basics of a progressing civilization. What this woman theologian proposes is the opposite: to transform ourselves into passive beings who “live the processes” without thinking about their results.

Based on this ecofeminist logic, any material progress results from a “manipulation” of the forces of nature and is an evil.

We will continue with this topic in the next article

Juan Antonio Montes Varas

Author of Desde la Teología de la Liberación a la Teología Ecofeminista, una revolución enquistada en la Iglesia.  Santiago, Chile, 2011

[1] “Think like a mountain”: this a delicate program for some of us. However, it is really in these terms that Aldo Leopold, whom many consider the father of deep ecology, invites us to turn around the paradigms that dominate Western societies. Cited a thousand times in American literature, the preface to his essay on the Ethics of the Earth develops the major theme of this strange revolution:  … Even today, there is no ethic that deals with the earth as well as animals and the plants that grow in it. … The relationship with the land is still strictly economic: it includes privileges but no obligation. The conclusion imposes itself: having rejected the institution of slavery, we need to go one step further, finally take nature seriously, and consider it as endowed with an intrinsic value that imposes respect. This conversion – the religious metaphor is not out of place here – supposes a true deconstruction of the human chauvinism in which is rooted the anthropocentric prejudice par excellence: the one that leads us to consider the universe as the theater of our actions, a simple periphery of a center established as the only subject of value and law” Cf. https://www.calameo.com/books/002777470e2e63c54987f

[2] “According to ‘deep ecology’, the definition of ‘biocentric equality’ means that everything that exists has the same right to live, transform and achieve its own individual forms of development and self-realization in the framework of a broader self-realization. The underlying idea of this theory is that all organisms and entities in the ecosystem are equal in their intrinsic value as parts of an interconnected whole Cf. op. cit. De l’utopie du progrès au règne du caos, p. 63.

 

[3] To learn about the clearly leftist character of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, see: “Class Struggle Is Reborn On the Pretext of Fighting Globalization—The World Social Forum of Porto Alegre, Cradle of an Anarchic Neo-revolution” (Gregorio Vivanco and José Antonio Ureta. Brazil, 2002. Cf. http://www.neoliberalismo.com/portoalegre.htm

 

[4] Manuel Riesco Larraín, a well-known member of the Communist Party, obtained a PhD in political economy at the Institute of Social Sciences of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. He directed the economic project of the candidate of Juntos Podemos [Together We Can], in 2009 and was a candidate for senator for that same block of united lefts. Hugo Fazio teaches at the ARCIS University, Academy of Christian Humanism, and at the University of Chile. During Allende’s Popular Union (U.P.) government, he served as vice president of the Central Bank and representative of Chile to the IDB.

 

[5] “In June 1998, with a slightly altered named, but retaining the ATTAC acronym, the “Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and for Citizens’s Action” was established in Paris. Founding entities were known trade unions, alternative movements and newspapers of the radical French left. Le Monde Diplomatique was totally committed to assure the unity of this group. ATTAC took up the mission of producing information (“from book to pamphlet”) and promoting local, national and international meetings to make itself known to the general public. It uses the Internet as the main means to spread studies and maintain links with its adherents with a view to action” (Cf. op.cit. “Class Struggle Is Reborn On the Pretext of Fighting Globalization—The World Social Forum of Porto Alegre, Cradle of an Anarchic Neo-revolution.”

 

[6] Cf. http://www.programabecas.org/becarios-regionales/foto-biografia-chile07-08.htm), Testimonio, n° 212, November 2005, pp. 82-86.

 

[7] “In 2005, the Ecumenical Center Diego de Medellin starts the School of Gender and Theology, which develops based on the modality of reflection and formation on topics such as: Biblical Rereading from the Perspective of Gender, Sex / Gender System, Feminist Theology and Power and Fair Relationships. Teaching unfolds at different levels: open workshops, training circles and study circles. This experience generated the ‘Gender and Theology’ diploma (which, to date, has been developed in three versions in 2007 and 2008, in Santiago, and 2009, in Concepción).” Cf. “Espacios abiertos: Caminos de la Teología feminista”, Ute Seibert, August 2010, p. 46.

 

[8] Cf. Pastoral Popular, year 52, no. 289, May/June 2008, p. 3.

 

[9] Cf. Ibid. p. 6, “Para una lectura ecologista de la Biblia”, Alvaro Ramis.

 

[10] Cf. Ibid. “Biblia y ecología: Una relectura del Génesis 1,2 a 2,4”, p. 8.

 

[11] “According to this vision, in the proper sense of the term, spirit and matter do not exist in ‘real beings’ but one speaks only of material pole and mental pole. … Mental activity would be a ‘way of being’ of matter, and matter a ‘way of being’ of consciousness. The ‘spirit’, says Bateson, ‘is immanent to the larger system: man plus environment’” (Cf. Op. Cit. De l’utopie du progrès au règne du caos, p. 48).

 

[12] Cf. Op. cit. Pastoral Popular, p. 23, “Y los poderosos…”, by Anna Kok, emphasis ours.

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