Here’s a wise admonition from the Cree Indian prophecy: “Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught…only then will you find out that money cannot be eaten.”
Succinctly indeed, money cannot be eaten in favor of environmental exploitation. Our natural creation or environment is far more important than money.
From the theological perspective, the Holy Bible discloses that Adam, the first human, who was created to dwell in paradise, is told by God that he has “dominion over the animals of the earth, birds of the air and fish of the sea” (Gen. 1:28).
However, such “dominion or master over creation” cannot be falsely construed as humans having the unrestrained upper hand in harnessing or exploiting our natural creation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) unequivocally recognizes man as the apex of God’s creation, having been created according to the “image and likeness of God” (Gen. 1:27): “God created everything for man, but man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him: What is it that is about to be created, that enjoys such honor? It is man – that great and wonderful living creature, more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures! For him the heavens and earth, the sea and all the rest of creation exist. God attached so much importance to his salvation that he did not spare his own Son for the sake of man. [St. John Chrysostom, In Gen. Sermo II].” (CCC #358).
But the Church likewise teaches that the so-called “dominion or mastery” by the first man in paradise encompasses not only over creation but, more so, “mastery over himself.”
CCC #377 thus says: “The ‘mastery’ that God offered man from the beginning was realized above all within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.”
“Covetousness for earthly goods as human concupiscence,” the Church rightly nailed it. Not surprising therefore that Pope Francis, in one of his public pronouncements, hinted that environmental destruction is an “ecological sin” or offense against God. “It is a sin against future generations and is manifested in the acts and habits of pollution and destruction of the harmony of the environment,” said Pope Francis.
In addition, Pope Francis also spoke critically of how corporations approach the environment. “The principle of profit maximization, isolated from any other consideration, leads to a model of exclusion, which violently attacks those who now suffer its social and economic costs, while future generations are condemned to pay the environmental costs,” he said.
Whilst, in the field of philosophy, Martin Heidegger, German existentialist philosopher, describes man as a “being-in-the-world,” and this entails having the wholeness of vision that allows a “caring and responsible” relationship with the world and natural environment.
In sum, hence, the proper relationship between humans and nature should not be dualistic, but holistic – that is, human beings are an integral part of nature, and nature is an integral part of humans. So, instead of being a relationship of “survival of the fittest” or the domination of one species over the rest, the relationship ought to be reciprocal and holistic in which all aspects or part-members of creation are preserved, protected, and co-exist in harmony.
After all, we are all sailing in this only one and the same boat, called Earth.
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