One of the most prominent figures arguing for fundamental societal change is the charismatic religious leader Pope Francis. As detailed in his famous 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis is calling all humans (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) to care for the poor and the earth because the wellbeing of both are inseparable. To “Care for Our Common Home,” includes not only environmental wellbeing, but also social and economic wellbeing. As Pope Francis notes, “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 a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”
In May 2018, EcoCiv Executive Vice President, Andrew Schwartz, attended a gathering on spirituality and sustainability in Rome and Assisi. This included a visit with Cardinal Turkson and members of the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development at the Vatican, which is tasked with promoting the comprehensive vision of Laudato Si’. During that time, Andrew become increasingly aware of how the Vatican is a natural ally to those working toward ecological civilization. To this end, EcoCiv pursued connection with the Dicastery, who sent Fr. Joshstrom Kureethadam, head of the Sector on Ecology and Creation, to represent the interests of Pope Francis at the EcoCiv sessions of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Fr. Josh, who is a foremost expert on Laudato Si’, is also author of a book titled, The Philosophical Roots of the Ecological Crisis: Descartes and the Modern Worldview (2017). His work criticizes the anthropocentrism, dualism between humanity and the rest of nature, as well as a the thoroughly mechanistic conception of the natural world characterized by the modern worldview. His critique of Descartes is practically identical to that of John Cobb–criticisms that were a major part of groundbreaking ecological civilization conference held in 2015. Out of that conference emerged a book (edited by John Cobb and Andrew Schwartz) called, Putting Philosophy to Work: Toward an Ecological Civilization (2018) which could be seen as a constructive sequel to the critiques of Descartes put forth by Fr. Josh.
The complexity and interrelatedness of the crisis leads Pope Francis to conclude that simple or superficial changes are not radical enough to repair the broken systems of contemporary society. Rather, what is truly needed are fundamental changes in cognitive habits, patterns of thought, and systems of society. In this way, the integral ecology found in Laudato Si’ may serve as a foundation for the great transition toward ecological civilization. EcoCiv hopes to strengthen ties with Pope Francis so that those inspired by Laudato Si’ and those working toward ecological civilization may come together under a shared vision for a better world.