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AN ECOLOGICAL THEOLOGY OF LIBERATION IN A GLOCAL CONTEXT

롤토

 

Fr. Reynaldo D. Raluto

Introduction

 

Poverty and the ecological crisis are glocal realities that have impacts both on our immediate context and on the planet as a whole. Thus, it is imperative to take into account both the local and the global perspectives on poverty and the ecological crisis. This is the main direction of our theological reflection in this paper.

Our main dialogue partner in this paper is the Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff. With Boff, this paper attempts to reflect on the glocal issues of poverty and ecological crisis in light of Christian faith. It recognizes “poverty” both as a social and an ecological issue. It is inspiring to learn that most disciplines today are heading toward the direction of “greening” their fields. Theology, as a specific discipline, should consider this phenomenon as major “sign of the time” that “constitute a key locus theologicus, where an empowering and life giving encounter with God is revealed.”[1] As a specific “science,” there is a need for theology to establish an alliance with other sciences that try to understand the root causes of poverty and the ecological crisis. In this paper, we use the biblical notion of the Kingdom of God as hermeneutic mediation to judge and discern the challenges of poverty and the ecological crisis.

The structure of this paper follows the see-judge-act schema. It starts by paying attention to the glocal realities of poverty and the ecological crisis. It scrutinizes them in the light of Christian faith in order to come up with practical proposals for pastoral action.

  1. A Glocal Awareness of the Ecological Crisis

 

The term “ecology” came from the Greek word oikos, which literally means “household.”[2] In that sense, ecology is the “study of the house”—the Earth, which is the house of all earthly species. When ecology emerged as a science in the second-half of the 19th century, its main aim was to study the relations of the organism to the environment from a Darwinian perspective. This was quite evident in the mind of Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), whose study of the Darwinian notion of the “conditions of the struggle for existence” has led directly into ecology. Accordingly, it was Haeckel who coined the German term Ökologie that publicly appeared for the first time in the scientific scene in 1866. Today, it has been proposed that an ecological science, in order to be relevant, must not be concerned only with the balance of nature or of the fluctuating abundance of species but also with diagnosing the causes of the imbalance in nature and the ecological crisis in general.[3] Let us explore the glocal crisis from an ecological perspective.

1.1 Seeing the Lights and Shadows of the Earth

Seeing the beautiful face of the Earth is important for the growth of our ecological advocacy. We normally care for the things we love. We spontaneously love what is beautiful. Similarly, we care for the Earth mainly because we love this beautiful planet. In other words, we cannot love this whole planet—as it ought to be loved—unless we have seen and contemplated its beauty. But how can we possibly take a loving contemplative look at this beautiful planet since we are inside it? As the saying goes, “one can’t see the picture when one is standing inside the frame.” This seems to imply that we can never contemplate this beautiful planet “as it truly is.”

Fortunately, with the achievement of photography, we are able to explore the outer space and see our beautiful planet within the vast planetary community of the cosmos. At this juncture, let us highlight two significant contributions of photography to our ecological vision of the Earth. First, on the Christmas Eve of 1968, the astronauts of the Apollo 8 mission took the picture of the Earth and brought back to us the first photographs of the Earth from the moon. Accordingly, the widespread publication of this Earth photograph gave rise to “a worldwide environmental awareness movement,” which led to the launching of an annual Earth Day in 1970. It also dramatically pushed the governments all over the word to enact many environmental protection laws.[4] Second, in December of 1972, the Apollo 17 mission produced a fully illuminated picture of the Earth, which became the most commonly published photograph of the Earth in our time. Thanks to these available snapshots, our generation can now see the Earth as a planet in its full spherical contours. These celebrated photographs have made us realize that the interconnected ecosystems of the Earth and humankind make up a single entity. This new vision of the Earth as a single ecosystem clearly reveals that the survival of human beings essentially depends on the life-support systems of the planet.

After contemplating these beautiful pictures, we should not fail to turn our gaze back to the “real” face of the Earth with its sublime and terrifying realities. We have to experience the wildness of nature which can be threatening and dreadful. In fact, our intimacy with the natural world may not always be smooth or gentle. Sometimes we struggle to survive against the dangerous and violent forces of nature. The Earth has a wild and uncontrollable nature that “could render violence, storms, droughts, and general chaos.”[5] Today, more than ever, we realize the fragility and finitude of our planet in the face of the human-induced ecological crises, especially the global phenomena of climate change. The Earth that appears harmoniously beautiful from the moon also reveals to us as having some ugly “scars” and bleeding “wounds.” Being earthly creatures, we need to really care for this living planet as ourselves. We cannot ignore the ecological crisis that alarmingly threatens our very survival within the community of life.

 

 

1.2 An Analysis of the Ecological Crisis

 

It has been said that “about 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 80% of the world’s largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire,” which is a belt of about 452 volcanoes and an extensive zone of continually colliding tectonic plates. This ring of fire extends from the tip of South America to North America, East Asia and Oceania.[6] Being situated within the “Ring of Fire”, many Asian countries have been affected by a yearly occurrence of large-scale natural disasters throughout their geological history. Apparently, this geographical vulnerability aggravates the glocal situation of poverty and the ecological crisis.

To see the negative glocal situation, we appropriate the framework that considers poverty and the ecological crisis as inextricably connected issues. We also emphasize the fact that the earth’s ecosystems are finite. Using this framework, we pay attention to four interrelated negative global realities: the increasing scarcity of material and energy sources, the ongoing damages of the Earth’s waste-absorbing capacity, and the growing global poverty.

1.2.1 The Increasing Scarcity of Material Sources

 

Let us have a quick view of the increasing scarcity of material sources as we can see in the state of our forests, land, water, and natural species.

 

The Declining Forests

Before the advent of human agriculture, there were originally about 6 to 7 billion hectares of forest cover on earth. But due to massive loss of forest areas,[7] only 3.9 billion hectares are left today, of which only 1.3 billion hectares could be considered as relatively undisturbed natural forests.[8] Despite this global trend, demands for forest products are growing and the deforestation continues at a pace of more or less 13 million hectares (an area the size of Greece) per year between 1990 and 2005.[9]

This global trend is happening in the Philippine islands, where the remaining forest cover, as of 2002, has about 24% of its total land area. This small percentage is already quite far from the required forest cover. In fact, due to severe deforestation, the present ecological state of the Philippine environment is helplessly vulnerable to various forms of natural disasters. We suffer from the bad ecological effects of deforestation. We are beginning to realize that the forest is a “focal ecosystem” whose destruction would necessarily affect all other ecosystems. We recognize the necessity of the “ecosystem services” of the forests for the maintenance of water, land, living species, and climate – among others.

The Depleting Lands

It is estimated that the earth has about 2 to 4 billion hectares of potentially cultivable lands. Unfortunately, only about 1.5 billion hectares are being roughly cultivated today.[10] Many of the potentially arable and accessible lands are shrinking and getting depleted due to excessive use of industrial inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation equipment for the sake of increasing yield. The formerly vast areas of prime soils are now severely degraded and turned into wasteland.[11]

Based on its 1994 mapping study, the Worldwatch Institute reported that only 27% of our planet’s habitable land mass remains “undisturbed” while about 36% of the Earth’s habitable land is “highly disturbed.”[12] In Asia, it has been reported that “one fourth of China’s land, especially in the northwestern regions, has already turned into dust” due to severe deforestation, over-cultivation and over-grazing.[13] Apparently, this alarming state of our land has a negative ecological effect on agricultural productivity and the community of life in general.

The Freshwater Shortage

Due to deforestation, there is shortage of fresh water supply[14] in many parts of the world, especially in many developing countries, where about 2 to 3 million children die from water-related diseases each year.[15] According to the report, “Currently, about 1.2 billion people lack access to potable drinking water, less than one-third of the world’s population enjoys abundant water supplies, and some studies suggests that nearly 50% of the world’s population will be living in water shortage areas by 2025.”[16]

In the Philippines, it has been reported in 2000 that, among the country’s major rivers, not one of them may be considered safe for drinking in their flowing state and that more than 50% of them are already considered “biologically dead” due to heavy chemical pollution and siltation problems.[17] If this alarming trend of ecological damage continues, there will be severe freshwater crisis in the country. Obviously, the whole community of life is at stake here.

 

The Extinction of Species

The destruction of forests could lead to extinction of many living species.[18] The abnormal rate of extinction of natural species since the advent of 18th century industrial revolution has gravely disturbed the natural processes and equilibrium in nature.  The data from International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List in 2000 confirm that there has been a rapid increase of endangered species: “from about 1,700 in 1988, to 3,800 in 1996, to 5,400 in 2000”[19] If no action is taken, this negative trend could lead to an “empty forest effect,” that is, trees may still be standing but the wildlife has actually vanished.

Today we realize that “ecosystem services” have irreplaceable value in sustaining the community of life.[20] From the economic aspect, the cost of performing the vacant “niches” by other technological means would exceed far beyond the annual gross monetary value of world economic product.[21] Consequently, many Asian countries have become “ecological debtors” as their ecological footprints exceed their biocapacity. The main reason, according to some analysts, is the uncritical decision by many Asian countries to cater “the production demands and consumption patterns of advanced capitalist countries.”[22] The capitalist plunder has been blamed for the degradation of natural resources in Asia.

1.2.2 The Increasing Scarcity of Energy Sources

The sources of energy are also finite. The solar energy can be captured mainly by means of chlorophyll or the green coloring substance of the plants. It is believed that the supply of solar energy is more than enough to sustain the earth’s energy consumption, if only we have the appropriate technology to capture it. Unfortunately, due to our lack of technical know-how of capturing solar energy, people easily turn to commercial energy drawn from non-renewable fossil fuels (e.g., oil, natural gas, and coal) to sustain the economic demand for energy consumption.

Meadows and colleagues called the years between 1970 and 2000 as the “decades of exploitation” because it was during those decades when “the world economy burned 700 billion barrels of oil, 87 billion tons of coal, and 1,800 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.”[23] In effect, the supply of these non-renewable energy sources is getting scarce without developing their renewable substitutes.

There is a growing campaign to promote the technology of renewable energy and the proposal to use alternative bio-fuels. Some scientists, however, are pessimistic about this. According to James Lovelock, to substitute bio fuels for today’s energy use demands that every year we burn at least two to three gigatons (a gigaton is equal to 1000 million tons) of carbon as bio fuel. Lovelock argues: “to grow this much already uses more of the Earth’s land surface than may be safe. We would need the land area of several Earths just to grow the bio fuel. … We have already taken more than half of the productive land to grow food and raw materials for ourselves. How can we expect Gaia to manage the Earth if we try to take the rest of the land for fuel production?”[24] The debate on energy crisis has been made complicated by the discussion on the choice between mitigating measures and adaptation strategies.

1.2.3 The Damages of the Earth’s Waste-absorbing Capacity

 

Although some of the waste materials are recyclable, there would always be wastes[25] because, in principle, even recyclable waste materials can never be recycled 100 per cent.[26] Moreover, even the used up energy, which would otherwise escape the atmosphere and continue out of space, is now being trapped on earth’s atmosphere and oceans—causing our planet to get dangerously warmer.[27]

The streams of waste materials have to flow through the planetary sinks where they would be accumulated as harmful pollutants and would remain there for more than 1000 years. These anthropogenic wastes have been building up exponentially since the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1750.

Our planet has two main planetary sinks—the atmosphere and the oceans—to absorb these startling wastes. The oceans have already absorbed about 42 per cent of human-made carbon dioxide (CO2) from 1800 to 1994 which led to the reduction of the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere but at the expense of the reduction of the pH value (i.e., a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions) of earth’s waters.[28] This reminds us that the planetary sinks of the earth are not only physically limited but also erodible by the presence of too much degree of anthropogenic pollutants.

It is sad to know that many transnational companies (TNCs) have moved many of their carbon-intensive operations to Asia and other developing nations mainly to cut their labor costs. This largely explains why, in 2006, the Blacksmith Institute has identified the cities of Sukinda (India) and Tianying (China) as among the world’s top ten polluted places.[29] Since 2006, it is no longer the United States but China which has been considered the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.[30] This harmful pollution cannot be confined within china but expands beyond its borders. This is the prize of unsustainable and uncontrolled economic development.

1.2.4 The Growing Global Poverty

 

We can see that our poverty situation today is getting worse than ever. According to the recent United Nations (UN) statistics, more than 75 percent of the 6.6 billion people living on Earth are coming from underdeveloped countries, where about 1.3 billion people are suffering from extreme poverty.[31] In the face of seemingly abundant production of food, it is ironic that nearly 840 million people are considered under nourished. In fact, about 40,000 people die of hunger every day, or from causes related to hunger.

It has been reported that about “3 billion people worldwide have US$2 or less per person per day to spend on meeting daily needs. Some 30% of people in developing countries live with US$1 a day or less per person.”[32] According to Asian Development research, in 2002, almost 690 million Asians were receiving US$1 a day. Using the poverty threshold of US$2 a day, about 1.9 billion Asians may be considered economically poor in that same year.[33] In any case, the picture of poverty remains alarming in Asia.

As of 2008, a study reveals that more than half of the world’s rural poor are living in Asia.[34] The situation of severe poverty is even worse in South Asia. Among Asian countries, “India has the highest number of extremely poor people.”[35] It is expected that, as a consequence of the disturbing global climate change, there would be great economic losses due to weather-related disasters.[36] As it is getting more difficult for poor people to get out of their poverty, the World Bank has alarmingly predicted in 2009 that more people would also remain poor or even getting poorer.[37]

 

  1. An Emerging Ecological Theology of Liberation

 

The concept of “the poor” is complex. The poor have many faces as there are different forms of oppression that produced them. This awareness compels us to expand the scope of our preferential option for the poor. In fact, it is generally acceptable to speak today of four categories of the poor: the socio-economically poor, the racially discriminated, the sexually oppressed, and the ecologically poor. Although these various forms of oppression are deeply interrelated, it is clear that each of them has its specific nature and requires an appropriate treatment in view of the holistic and integral liberation. Our option for the poor is not a commitment to a particular category of the poor only. Liberation theology, therefore, should be interested in all forms of oppression that produced poverty—both the human and ecological faces of the poor.

We recognize the Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff for his pioneering appropriation of an enlarged concept of “the poor.” He called our attention to the shifting “accents” in liberation theology that continually embraces the human and ecological faces of poverty. For him, to cope with the expanding notion of “the poor” is crucial for making liberation theology relevant to the present challenges:

 

The poor have many faces. In the 1960s, liberation theology emphasized the economically poor; in the 1970s, its option for the poor was extended to the culturally poor, including the indigenous peoples, blacks, and other discriminated minorities; in the 1980s, its emphasis was given to the question of gender, especially the oppression of women; in the 1990s, it began to hear the cry of the Earth, also impoverished because it is unjustly attacked and systematically exploited. For every concrete oppression, we tried to develop a corresponding strategy and a liberating pedagogy. The Theology of the Liberation had never been a victim to an impoverished concept of the poor. It always tried to deepen its understanding of the complex reality of any unjustly inflicted poverty.[38]

In many ways, this quotation is paradigmatic to the expanding scope of the preferential option for the poor. Taking from this cue, it could not be denied that there has been a series of “axial shift”[39] in the main current of liberation theology: from socio-economic to socio-cultural to ecological perspectives. The main goal of “axial shift” is to broaden the existing analytical framework and to widen the perspective of the preferential option for the poor, as demanded by the new realities of oppression and the renewed understanding of liberation.

2.1 The Ecological Face of Poverty 

 

We have shown in the foregoing that the notion of “the poor” is an analogous one. Human beings can be poor on the level of class, race, and gender. In this section, we shall go beyond this social category of poverty by embracing the notion of “the ecologically poor.” This ecological notion of poverty has been sufficiently developed by Leonardo Boff who described the Earth as a wounded planet that suffers from its poisoned waters, devastated forests, endangered species, and destroyed ecosystems. The bleeding wound of the Earth breaks down the delicate planetary balance. This ecological wound is affecting the Earth system globally. In the words of Boff, “It is not just species or ecosystems that are threatened; the Earth as a whole is ill and must be treated and healed.”[40] For Boff, an ecological perspective on the preferential option for the poor must include “all the poor with all their many faces, and the great poor one, the Earth.”[41] In that sense, our option for the poor has to become an option for the Earth—an option for all creatures threatened by the ecological crisis.

We must not be concerned only with human oppression and social injustice but also with ecological oppression that springs from human beings’ violent and unjust treatment of our common home, the Earth. Boff emphasized that we need to listen both to the inseparable cry of the oppressed human beings and the groaning of the Earth. We know that our systematic assault of the Earth has bad ecological effects and harmful social consequences. As Boff has pointed out, the decline in the quality of our surroundings “produces social tensions, violence, disease, malnutrition and even death.”[42] In this ecological paradigm, respect for life must be extended to the entire community of life.

One of the most obvious reasons why people are so deaf and insensitive to the “cry” of non-human creation is anthropocentrism (human-centeredness).[43] An exploitative anthropocentrism has greatly contributed to the distorted image of human being as nature’s lord and master, who arrogantly presumes to have the power to dominate and exploit nature as he or she wishes, without limits or guilt. Anthropocentrism has generated a lot of self-centered attitudes that are deeply integrated in the oppressive matrix of social paradigms and ideologies. According to Boff’s analysis, “The logic that leads the dominant classes to oppress peoples and discriminate against person is the same as that which leads to the exploitation of nature.”[44] In other words, the global problems of poverty and the ecological crisis are interrelated, like two sides of the same coin, as both forms of oppression are products of the same dominant type of anthropocentric economic development, which unsustainably exploits people and exhausts nature’s limited resources.

2.2 Expanding the Notion of Liberation

 

In light of the foregoing sections, we will attempt to show that both human and non-human creatures need liberation. Boff speaks of the fourfold liberation: namely, the liberation of the oppressed class, the liberation of the oppressed culture, the liberation of the oppressed gender, and the liberation of the oppressed Earth. In the face of the “shifting grounds” in liberation theology, there are fundamental threads that run through its liberative praxis: the liberation of the oppressed by the oppressed themselves, the liberation that starts from the most threatened and down-trodden human creatures, and the use of “hermeneutic mediation” for making theological judgment.

2.2.1 The Kingdom of God as Model of Total Liberation

In this section, I will use the biblical notion of the Kingdom of God as a hermeneutic mediation. As we know, the Kingdom of God does not only occupy a central place in any theology but also serves as an essential element in the methodology of liberation theology. In light of the eschatological vision of the Kingdom of Gods, we will see that all authentic processes of historical liberation have their proper places in the scheme of salvation history. The main reason behind this assertion is the belief that “God penetrates, permeates, all aspects of reality” and that “everything in existence…pertains to the kingdom.”[45] In this sense, the challenging task of liberation theology is to extract and construct those theological elements that are objectively present in the authentic process of historical liberations.

We need to clarify what we mean by the phrase “Kingdom of God.” As we know, there is a consensus among modern biblical scholars that the Kingdom of God plays a central role in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. (Mk 1:15; Matt 4:17; Lk 4:43).[46] The coming of God’s Kingdom is his primary historical project. For this reason, Paul VI declared that “the Kingdom of God must be treated as an absolute, to which everything else must be referred.”[47] In light of this Christian principle, we firmly condemn all forms of oppression—both human and ecological forms of oppression—that may hinder the historical and eschatological realization of God’s Kingdom. From a Christian perspective, the normativity of God’s Kingdom allows us to see all forms of oppression and unsustainable practices as morally unacceptable realities. Thus, our vision of God’s Kingdom enables us to judge whether the present realities are in harmony or in discord with God’s historical project.

Let us call to mind that Jesus did not define the Kingdom of God in discursive language. What we have heard from him, instead, are parables of the Kingdom. Thus, interpreting its meaning has become a hot issue among scholars. As we revisit this biblical notion, there are two caveats that we need to keep in mind. On the one hand, we decidedly appropriate the contemporary understanding of the Kingdom of God that refers to the concrete saving “activity of God as king.”[48] In this sense, the meaning of “Kingdom of God” is synonymous with “salvation.” In other words, salvation and Kingdom of God are “interchangeable” and “equivalent.”[49] On the other hand, we need to retrieve the inclusive meaning and non-anthropocentric perspective on God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is for all. Both human and non-human creatures eagerly hope for the coming of God’s Kingdom. As St. Paul has declared, “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom 8:20-21). This hope gives meaning to our option to care for both human and non-human creatures.

2.2.2 The Human Liberation

In light of God’s Kingdom, a Christian is able to determine and affirm whether the experience is in harmony or discord with God’s historical project. In any case, all those who participate in transforming the reality of oppression, either consciously or unconsciously, are contributing to the coming of God’s Kingdom in history. Thus, the Kingdom of God serves as “referent for historical liberation.”[50] Let us unfold the important aspects of human liberation that anticipate the coming of God’s Kingdom in history.

First, we hold that the reality of socio-economic poverty is contrary to God’s Kingdom. We envision the Kingdom of God as a reality where there is no more class oppression. From this perspective, the authentic liberation movements in history that tend to realize equality, participation, fellowship, and communion may be seen as instances of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom.  Moreover, any authentic achievement of socio-economic liberation may be seen as part of the larger salvation history. Therefore, the various struggles for socio-economic liberation may be seen as human participation to speed up the coming of God’s kingdom.

Second, we maintain that any form of socio-cultural oppression is anti-Kingdom. We believe that in God’s Kingdom there will be full recognition of and respect for the otherness of every race and culture. Any claim for superiority of one race over the other has no place in God’s Kingdom. In God’s Kingdom, there is fundamental equality for all human beings before God regardless of race and culture. In the words of St. Paul, “There is no longer Jew or Greek . . . for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”[51] We have reasons to hope that, in God’s Kingdom, our differences in terms of color, language, religion, culture, tribes and other human features of otherness will no longer be sources of discrimination and conflicts. Instead, these differences will be fully recognized as wonderful opportunities for promoting unity in diversity.

And third, we believe that the globalized culture that alarmingly promotes different distorted “ideological currents” (e.g., male chauvinism) that oppress women and deny their full humanity are anti-Kingdom. On the contrary, the emerging movements that recognize the full humanity of women are clearly positive signs of the coming of God’s Kingdom. In light of Jesus’ liberative praxis, the misogynic attitudes and gender discrimination are incompatible with the coming of God’s Kingdom.  In fact, they delay the coming of God’s Kingdom. St. Paul proclaims that, in God’s kingdom, “there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28). Obviously, all oppressive gender ideologies are not based on authentic Christian anthropology that affirms the equal dignity of both man and woman as equally created in God’s image and likeness.

We try to find the meaning of God’s Kingdom in the face of the concrete situation of utter poverty caused by various forms of oppression. As the beatitudes themselves have explicitly declared, the Kingdom of God primarily belongs to the poor (Lk 6:20). It is for the poor that the good news of God’s Kingdom is destined and preferentially addressed. Furthermore, in light of the parable of the Final Judgment, Jesus identified himself with the “least ones” (Matt 25:35-40) to the effect that we can call them the “unknown God.” From this perspective, the poor and all the sufferers of history enjoy a deeper and more concentrated presence of Christ, who inaugurated the coming of God’s Kingdom. In this regnocentric perspective, the poor are enabled to participate in the achievement of historical liberations, which anticipate in a concrete way the final realization of God’s Kingdom.[52]

2.2.3 The Ecological Liberation

To complete our task, let us now turn to the aspect of ecological liberation. It would be quite pretentious to speak of authentic ecological liberation if the basic requirements of human liberation have not been duly served. By all means, we have to go beyond the aspects of human liberation. It is imperative to address the similar logic that oppresses the poor and the natural world. We should not separate the struggle for social justice from and ecological justice. In their most celebrated pastoral letter on ecology, the Filipino Catholic bishops declared:  “The commitment to work for justice and [the task] to preserve the integrity of creation are two inseparable dimensions of our Christian vocation to work for the coming of the kingdom of God in our times.”[53] Here, we need to emphasize the perspective that, like social domination, ecological domination too is contrary to God’s Kingdom.

It is my deep conviction that any ecologically unsustainable activity that destroys the integrity of creation (e.g., exploitative anthropocentrism and the greedy use of earth’s resources) is contrary to the eschatological vision of God’s Kingdom. The coming of “a new heavens and a new earth,”[54] which is another image of God’s Kingdom, should not be misunderstood as reverting back to the creation before the fall but as building on “a new God-given creation.”[55] The renewal of creation, as this term suggests, does not mean replacement or substitution of the original creation for another nature. Rather, as the emerging theology proposes, salvation is a continuation of God’s act in creation.[56] The realization of God’s Kingdom will not happen somewhere in another planet but here on earth—our common home. As we were molded from earth, so we will also definitely return to earth. This implies that we are not just travelers on earth. As earthly creatures, the Earth is our home. That is the main reason why we have to take care of and preserve the remaining gifts of nature.

I have emphasized elsewhere[57] that our eschatological vision of God’s Kingdom is thoroughly ecological. As in this life, the life of human beings in the eschatological future is unimaginable if it is disconnected from the community of life that makes up the ecosystem. Thus, I firmly believe that, in God’s Kingdom, human beings’ interrelationship and interconnectedness with nature will be fully preserved and actualized in the best possible way. Perhaps the great difference, as we can foresee, is that the relationship in life-everlasting will be a fully “healed” and a completely “reconciled” kind of relationship enjoyed by the one family of creation. We may, therefore, say that a healthy relationship with creation is a positive sign of the coming of God’s Kingdom.

The author of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah has beautifully described the coming of God’s Kingdom in these words:

On that day … the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.[58]

In light of this biblical passage, we believe that the coming of God’s Kingdom will fulfill rather than abolish the earthly ecological laws of relationship. Thus, in God’s Kingdom, there will be a full recognition of the dignity of all human beings and the “intrinsic value” of all creatures.

  1. Some Embers of Hope

We have to discern our specific contribution to the transformation of oppressive relationships, as we believe that a theological reflection on praxis that does not lead to transformative action is useless.[59] Our transformative actions are our practical ways of anticipating the coming of God’s Kingdom. Ultimately, from a Christian perspective, our struggle for human and ecological liberation becomes meaningful only when it is done in view of our hope for the coming of God’s Kingdom—the total salvation of the whole creation. Our struggle for human and ecological liberation does not have to start from zero. In fact, we can discern some concrete lines of action pursued both by the church and other social movements that are already operative and serve as “embers of hope.” Our main task is to participate in and build on these existing movements according to our Christian faith. Let me highlight five inspiring signs that call us to participate in our glocal context.

First, on the level of the academe, there is an emerging movement towards the “greening” of theology that embraces the ecological struggle in the Asian theological agenda. In the Philippines, it is worth noting that, in its annual convention in 2007, the Catholic Biblical Association of the Philippines (CBAP) centered its theme on the “Bible and Ecology.” One of the questions that surfaced was this: “What does the Bible have to say about natural disasters and people’s responsibility toward mother earth?”[60] Another good news happened in 2010 when the Damdaming Katoliko sa Teolohiya (DAKATEO), which is the Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines, has chosen “Reimaging Christianity for a Green World” as the theme for its theological reflections.[61] In its seventh General Assembly at Yogyakarta (Indonesia) in April 2012, the Ecumenical Association of the Third World Theologians (EATWOT) has released a strong statement on “Ecological Vision and Planetary Survival.”[62]  These on-going initiatives should be pursued.

Second, at the grassroots level, it is inspiring to know how environmental activism emerged in many developing countries. In the Philippine experience, it is significant to know that ecological struggles first emerged in 1987 among the rural grassroots of San Fernando parish in Bukidnon (Philippines). The poor parishioners of San Fernando (Philippines) staged their series of picket against logging operations, which greedily exploited their remaining forests.[63] With the support of their diocese, they had successfully pressured the government to put the whole province of Bukidnon under a logging moratorium in 1990. The clergy of the Diocese of Malaybalay (Bukidnon) zealously implemented this logging moratorium which culminated in the martyrdom of the diocesan priest, Nery Lito Satur, on October 14, 1991.[64] His martyrdom for ecology did not only strengthen the Church’s commitment to care for God’s creation but also provoked the emotions of many environmentalists.

Third, among the religious organizations, it can be shown that the treatment of ecology in the assemblies led by the World Council of Churches (WCC) was far advanced and must have pressured the Catholic Church magisterium to issue its own social teaching on ecology. The WCC decidedly added the “integrity of creation” in its fundamental commitments. Consequently, “Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation” has become the celebrated theme at the Vancouver Assembly in 1983. In its series of assemblies, WCC has tried to establish the necessary inner connection between faith and the advocacies of justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. This pioneering initiative made a big impact on the subsequent ecumenical assemblies around the world.[65]

Fourth, there is the “greening” of the Catholic social teaching (CST). On the level of the universal magisterium, it should be noted that the post-conciliar CST recognizes the urgency of the ecological crisis since 1971. This can be shown in Paul VI’s two documents—Octogesima Adveniens and Justitia in Mundo—which criticize the exploitative model of development and the unjust economic systems that promote extreme inequalities. Since then, he significantly included the ecological issues in his work for global justice. Moreover, in the twenty-seven years of John Paul II’s papacy, the ecological issues consistently occupied a significant space in his four important documents, namely, Redemptor Hominis (1979), Laborem Exercens (1981), Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1987), and Centesimus Annus (1991). Among his papal message, his 1990 World Day of Peace serves as his most comprehensive treatment of ecology. Many of his social teaching on ecology—which can be found in his encyclicals, letters, addresses, and messages—has been put together in the chapter on “Safeguarding the Environment” of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004). Furthermore, his successor, Benedict XVI, continued this ecological advocacy in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate (2009), which contains four sections on environmental concerns. Like his processor, Benedict XVI’s papal message for the 2010 World Day of Peace was also devoted to the theme, If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation. All these clearly show the greening of the CST.

On the level of the local church magisterium, we may observe the “greening” of the Bishops’ pastoral letters and other magisterial documents. As we have shown, the treatment of the Church magisterium on ecological crisis lagged a long way behind that of other religious organizations (e.g., WCC). Nevertheless, it must be remembered that the Catholic social teaching (CST) has recognized the urgency of the ecological crisis since 1971.[66] In Asia, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued in 1988 its groundbreaking pastoral response to the ecological situation in the country, “What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?” This document has been globally recognized as the first magisterial pastoral letter to focus on ecology issued by a Bishops’ Conference.[67] As of 2008, the CBCP has already issued four important pastoral responses to the ecological crisis.[68]  In 1989, the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) issued an FABC Paper no. 54 with the title “Peace, Justice and the Integrity of Creation.” We hope that the magisterium will continue the greening of its social teaching.

Lastly, on the level of witnessing, the example par excellence of a liberating attitude towards non-human creatures is St. Francis of Assisi. This “celestial patron of ecologists” has made us realize that “our sister, mother earth” is also our “common home.” He recognized the universal kinship with all creatures believed that everything, including the most insignificant creatures, “had the same source as himself.”[69] This non-anthropocentric attitude led him to declare all creatures, and not only human creatures, as literally his brothers and sisters in God. This non-anthropocentric realization is poetically expressed in The Canticle of Brother Sun, which inspires us “how to think of creation with gratitude, appreciation and respect.”[70] It implies that St. Francis recognizes the intrinsic value in nature, which challenges us to set up a “cosmic democracy” of God’s creation. Let us follow the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi in his fiery love for the poor and fellow creatures.

 

Conclusion

 

In this paper, we have tried to frame the intimately connected issues of poverty as products of the same logic of exploitative anthropocentrism driven by the pursuit of unlimited economic growth on a finite planet. In the contextual part, we have also shown that this logic of exploitation has found its strong manifestations in the Western ethos of modern capitalism. With this framework, we have tried to see the global context of poverty and ecological crisis in the interrelated negative realities: the increasing scarcity of material and energy sources, the ongoing damages of the Earth’s waste-absorbing capacity, and the growing global poverty. In our analyses, we have learned how the exploitative attitude of modern capitalism operates in maintaining the oppressive social structures and in pursuing the drive for unsustainable growth. This enabled us to infer that overcoming the exploitative attitude of modernity is crucial to the solution of the twin problems of poverty and ecological crisis.

In our theological reflection, we appropriated Leonardo Boff’s analyses on the global context of poverty and ecological crisis have affected the current biblical and theological reflection on creation and liberation. In a special way, we have found this effort in Boff who tries to bring together the issues of poverty and ecology into his ecological perspective of theology. We followed Boff in integrating the challenges of ecological crisis in the liberation theology agenda. We tried to understand the option for the liberation of all creatures in the light of the coming of God’s Kingdom. As we have pointed out, Boff understands the coming of God’s Kingdom in terms of salvation, which is “total liberation.”[71] Although Boff has not adequately developed an ecological perspective on the Kingdom of God, we affirm that he maintains an inclusive view of salvation: “the annihilation of all that sin means for human beings, society, and the cosmos.”[72] We have come up with a non-anthropocentric perspective on God’s Kingdom, from which we can theologically ground our inclusive preferential option for the oppressed creation. We maintain the centrality of God’s Kingdom in our ecological theology of liberation.

We briefly explored the ongoing ecclesial activities and social movements that respond to the glocal realities of poverty and the ecological crisis. They serve as “embers of hope” in our human and ecological struggle for liberation. They invite us to join them in the pursuit of a sustainable world.

 

[1] Jacques Haers, “Environmental Theologies as Processes of Ecclesiogenesis and Common Discernment,” Concilium (2009/3): 67-75, 69.

[2] Significantly, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) proposed to view the world as a “household.” He wrote: “The world is not such that a thing is unrelated to another, but it is always a definite something. For all things are ordered together a common center, as in a household….”. See Aristotle, Metaphysics, translated by Richard Hope (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1960), no. 1075a11-25, p. 267.

[3] On this proposal, see Donald Worster, “The Ecology of Order and Chaos,” Environmental History Review 14 (1989): 1-18; see also Donald Worster, “Nature and Disorder of History,” Environmental History Review 18 (1994): 1-15; Donald Worster, Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas, 2nd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 342-433.

[4] On this account, see Eugene Odum, Ecology: A Bridge between Science and Society (Sunderland: Sinauer Associates, 1997), 2.

[5] Carolyn Merchant, The Death Of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983), 2.

[6] See “Pacific Ring of Fire;” available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Ring_of_Fire#cite_ref-0 (date accessed: September 14, 2012).

[7] See Emil Salim and Ola Ullsten, Our Forests, Our Future: Report on the World Commission on Forest and Sustainable Development (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 18-20.

[8] Forest Resource Assessment (Rome: FAO, 2000).

[9] Green Facts Digests: Facts on Health and the Environment; available from: http://www.greenfacts.org/en/forestry/#2 (date accessed: 22 January 2009).

[10] This is ironic since there is a widening scale of “ecological footprint” to the extent of desperately cultivating even the critical watershed areas.

[11] See Sarah Scherr, “Soil Degradation: A Threat to Developing-Country Food Security by 2020?” IFPRI Discussion Paper 27 (Washington D.C.: IFPRI, 1999), 45; also see L. R. Oldeman, “The Global Extent of Soil Degradation,” in D. J. Greenland and T. Szaboles, eds., Soil Resilience and Sustainable Land Use (Wallingford: Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International, 1994).

[12] John Tuxill, “Losing strands in the Web of Life: Vertebrates Declines and the Conservation of Biological Diversity,” World Watch Paper 141 (Washington, D.C.: Worldwatch Institute, 1998), 22.

[13]Ron Gluckman, “Beijing’s Desert Storm”, Asiaweek (October 13, 2000); available from:

http://www.gluckman.com/ChinaDesert.html (date accessed: October 15, 2012).

[14] The connection between forests and water supply is clear. Forests function to “collect, store, filter, and re-circulate the water so essential for all life.” See Emil Salim and Ola Ullsten, Our Forests, Our Future: Report on the World Commission on Forest and Sustainable Development (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 18.

[15] See Salim and Ullsten, Our Forests, Our Future, 118. The World Bank reported that “Inadequate water supply and contaminated water is responsible for ten percent of all disease in developing countries.” See The World Bank, Poverty Trends and Voices of the Poor, Fourth edition (Washington, D.C.: 2001).

[16] Herman Daly and Joshua Farley, Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications (London: Isand Press, 2004), 117. For the sources of this report, see U.N. Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable development, Critical Trends: Global Change and Sustainable Development (New York: United Nations, 1997); C.J. Vörosmarty, P. Green, J. Salisbury, et at., Global “Water Resources: Vulnerability from Climate Change and Population Growth,” Science 289 (July 2000): 284-288; L. Burke, Y. Kura, K. Kassem, et al., Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems: Coastal Ecosystems (Washington D.C.: WRI, 2000).

[17] See IBON, The State of the Philippine Environment 2000 (Manila: IBON Foundation, Inc., 2000), 51, 53.

[18] John Terborgh, Diversity and Tropical Rain Forest (New York: Scientific American Library, 1992), 5. John Terborgh writes: The forest at my research site in Amazonian Peru contains 200 species of trees per hectare. A hundred hectares provides breeding habitat for 230 species of land birds…. Ninety species of frogs and toads can be found in a few square kilometers…. When fumigated, the crown of a single large tree yielded 54 species of ants…. A colleague has collected over 1200 species of butterflies at a locality nearby. Such extravagant diversity characterizes almost any group of organisms inhabiting the tropical forest.” Elsewhere, Terborgh also noted that a single tree in a tropical forest may support 150 species of beetle and a single hectare of trees may contain 41 thousand species of insect.

[19] Quoted in Daniel Botkin and Edward Keller, Environmental Science: Earth as a Living Planet (New Jersey: Wiley, 2003), 258.

[20] Some of the ‘ecosystem services’ include: purification of air and water; decomposition, detoxification, and sequestering of wastes; regeneration of soil nutrients; pollination; controlling pest; dispersal of seed and nutrient, and many more. For a more detailed list of “ecosystem services” rendered by natural species, see Gretchen Daily, ed., Nature’s Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1997), 3-4; cited in Donella Meadows et al., Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, 83-84.

[21] See Robert Costanza et al., “The Value of the World’s Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital,” Nature 387 (1997): 253-60. Costanza and colleagues estimated the cost of ‘ecosystem services’ at $33 trillion per year, compared to the annual gross of the human economy in the world, which is only $18 trillion.

[22] Athena Peralta, ed., Poverty, Wealth and Ecology in Asia and the Pacific: Ecumenical Perspective (Chian Mai and Geneva: CCA, PCC and WCC, 2010), 62.

[23] Cited in Meadows et al., Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, 89. These authors point out that to compensate the decline of supply of fossil fuels, the tendency of many mining companies has been to discover and explore more “reserve” in order to project an impression that there are still more deposits of fossil fuels in the ground until now. Accordingly, the extraction from the newly discovered fossil fuel “reserves” has become the habit of replenishing the consumed commercial energy and, by using the deceptive market mechanism, to project an impression that there are still more deposits of fossil fuels in the ground until now.

[24] James Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back—and How We Can Still Save Humanity (London: Penguin Books, 2006), 85, 109.

[25] Daly and Farley explain, recycling the energy “always takes more energy to do the recycling than the amount that can be recycled.” See Daly and Farley, Ecological Economics, 31-32.

[26] It has been observed that many companies do not practice the process of recycling because it requires a lot of energy to crush, grind, melt, purify, and re-fabricate the material wastes into usable products again. Others think it would be impractical to recycle waste products that contain have too many toxics. Accordingly, these are some of the reasons why many companies dispose their wastes by dumping them into the landfill, burning them in the incinerator, or simply export them to some distant regions.  See World Resources Institute, Resource Flows: The Material Basis of Industrial Economies (Washington D.C.: WRI, 1997); see also Abe Goldman, “The Export of Hazardous Industries to Developing Countries Antipode,” Multinational Monitor 12 (1980): 40-47.

[27] Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We can Do about It (New York: Melcher Media, 2006), 27. Recently, a group of IPCC scientists unequivocally declared that the Earth’s climate system has warmed by over 0.7 degrees Celsius in the last 100 years. They call our attention to the discernible “increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.” See IPCC, Climate Change 2007, 30. For a more detailed presentation on the climate crisis, see also W. L. Hare, “A Safe Landing for the Climate,” State of the World 2009: Into A Warming World (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009): 13-29.

[28] Helge Drange, “Known and Expected Climate Challenges in the 21st Century,” (Unpublished lecture during the Bergen Summer Research School at the University of Bergen, 2009).

[29] BBC News, “Ten ‘Most Polluted Places’ Named (September 14, 2007); available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6995621.stm (dated accessed: October 15, 2012).

[30] See Jeffrey Logan, “Surging Chinese Carbon Dioxide Emissions,” Earth Trends, World Resources Institute (November 2006); available from http://earthtrends.wri.org/updates/node/110 (date accessed: October 15, 2012); see also Emma Graham-Harrison & Gerard Wynn, “China Seen Topping U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2007”, Reuters (March 27, 2007); available from  http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L22726612.htm (date accessed: October 15, 2012).

[31] Cited in Mathilde Snel, “The Key Links,” in Environment & Poverty Times 1 (August 2002): 1, 6.

[32] Salim and Ullsten, Our Forests, Our Future, 128-29.

[33] Cited in Athena Peralta, ed., Poverty, Wealth and Ecology in Asia and the Pacific: Ecumenical Perspective (Chian Mai and Geneva: CCA, PCC and WCC, 2010), 57.

[34]  Nurul Islam and Joachim von Braum, Reducing Poverty and Hunger in Asia, Agricultural and Rural Development for Reducing Poverty and Hunger in Asia: Past Performance and Priorities for the Future,” Focus 15 (March 2008), brief 1 of 15.

[35] See Peralta, ed., Poverty, Wealth and Ecology in Asia and the Pacific, 58.

[36] See Mathilde Snel, “At the Whim of Nature,” Environment & Poverty Times 1 (August 2002): 12.

[37] See World Bank, “Swimming Against the Tide: How Developing Countries are Coping with the Global Crisis,” Background paper prepared by the World Bank staff for the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting (Horsham, United Kingdom, March 13-14, 2009).

[38] Leonardo Boff, “El pobre, la nueva cosmologia y la liberación: Cómo enriquecer la Teologia de la Liberación,” in Alternativas 18/19 (2001): 75-89, 76. [My translation].

[39] Juan Carlos Scannone, “‘Axial Shift’ instead of ‘Paradigm Shift,’” in Georges De Schrijver, ed., Liberation Theologies on Shifting Grounds: A Clash of Socio-Economic and Cultural Paradigms (Leuven: University Press, 1998): 87-103. Scannone affirms that there is “at least an ‘axial shift’ (desplazamiento de eje)” or a “shift of emphasis (accent)” from one perspective to another “without, however, neglecting the former.” (p. 87).

[40] Boff, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, 104-105.

[41] Boff, “El Pobre, la nueva cosmologia y liberacion,” 86.

[42] Leonardo Boff and Virgil Elizondo, “Ecology and Poverty: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor,” Concilium, (1995/5), ix-xii, x.

[43] See Boff, Essential Care, 62. Boff describes anthropocentrism as “an attitude that is centered in the human being and in which things have meaning only to the extent to which they are related to the human being and satisfy human being’s desire. … Moreover, it [anthropocentrism] forgets the connection that the human being itself has, whether it likes it or not, with nature and with all realities since the human being is part of the whole. Lastly, anthropocentrism ignores the fact that the ultimate subject of life, of sensitivity, of intelligence and of love is not primarily us, but the universe itself, especially the Earth.” (p. 62).

[44] Boff, “Social Ecology: Poverty and Misery,” 245. Elsewhere, Boff similarly states: “The same logic of the ruling system, based on profit and social manipulation, that leads to the exploitation of workers, also leads to the spoliation of entire nations and eventually to the degradation of nature itself.” See Leonardo Boff, “Liberation Theology and Ecology: Alternative, Confrontation or Complementarity?” Concilium (1995/5): 67-77, 73.

[45] Leonardo Boff “Integral Liberation and Partial Liberations,” in Leonardo Boff and Clodovis Boff, Salvation and Liberation: In Search of a Balance between Faith and Politics, translated by Robert Barr (New York: Orbis Books, 1984), 14-66, 51, 54.

                 [46] On this claim, see Bernard Brandon Scott, Jesus, Symbol-Maker for the Kingdom (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981), 1.

[47] Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi: Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Paul VI on Evangelization in the Modern World (8 December 1975), no. 8. [Emphasis mine].

[48] Norman Perrin, Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 81, n. 9.

[49] On this claim, see Carlos Abesamis, A Third Look at Jesus (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1999), 39.

[50] On this theme, see John Fuellenbach, “The Kingdom of God in Latin American Liberation Theology,” Studia Missionalia 46 (1997): 267-91, 268; see also Antonio Pernia, God’s Kingdom and Human Liberation: A Study of G. Gutierrez, L. Boff and J. L. Segundo (Manila, Divine Word Publications, 1990), 21-28.

[51] Galatians 3:28.

[52] See Boff, “Integral Liberation and Partial Liberations,” 14-66.

[53] CBCP, “What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land: A Pastoral Letter on Ecology,” (29 January 1988) in Sean McDonagh, The Greening of the Church (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1990): 207-16, 213.

[54] Isaiah 65:17-25, 66:22; cf. 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1-2.

[55] Reimund Bieringer, “The Ecological Crisis and the Future of Creation.” In Religie, Zingeving en Levensbeschouwing (Leuven: Acco, 2008, 130-140), 133.

[56] See Carlos Abesamis, A Third Look at Jesus, 3rd and completely revised edition (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1999). Abesamis contends: “Nature and humans long for liberation: we humans, from death; the rest of creation, from decay; we humans, for resurrection; nature for its transformation.” (p. 95).

[57] See Reynaldo Raluto, “The Catholic Social Teaching on Stewardship: Respect for Human Dignity and the Integrity of Creation,” Hapág: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Theological Research [Forthcoming issue].

[58] Isaiah 11:6-9.

[59] On this proposal, see Carlos Abesamis, “Faith and Life Reflections from the Grassroots in the Philippines,” in Virginia Fabella, ed., Asia’s Struggle for Full Humanity (New York: Orbis Books, 1980): 123-39, 128.

[60] Felipe Fruto Ramirez, “Nature’s Beauty and Turmoil,” in Bible and Ecology: Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Convention, 20-22 July 2007 (Manila: Catholic Biblical Association of the Philippines, 2007): 3-5.

[61] The proceedings of the conference were published in Reimaging Christianity for a Green World, edited by Randy Jasper Odchigue and Eric Marcelo Genilo, Hapag 8 (2011).

[62] A very significant line in the EATWOT statement goes: “We are committed  to developing, pursuing and putting into action a theological agenda in terms of ecology, an ecotheology that reimages us as part of the earth, as earthlings; that sees the world as our home, our only home and site of God’s reign; that senses God in everything and everything in God.” See Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians, “Statement of the Seventh General Assembly: Ecological Vision and Planetary Survival,” (Yogyakarta, Indonesia April 23 to 29, 2012); available from: http://www.eatwot.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=84 (date accessed: September 14, 2012).

[63] On this account, see Karl Gaspar, A People’s Option: To Struggle for Creation (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1990), 34.

[64] See Gaudencio Rosales, Fr. Neri Satur and the Church He Died For (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1997).

[65] On this account, see Seán McDonagh, Passion for the Earth: The Christian Vocation to Promote Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1995), 103-23.

[66] This can be shown in the two documents—Octogesima Adveniens and Justitia in Mundo—which criticize the exploitative model of development and the unjust economic systems that promote extreme inequalities.

[67] See James Malone, “Environmental Degradation and Social Justice,” Origins (18 March 1993). Malone has pointed out that the CBCP “took an early lead among the bishops of the world in condemning the devastation of the tropical forests in their country.” (p. 687).

[68] The other CBCP pastoral letters on ecology include “A Statement of Concern on the Mining Act of 1995” (1998); “Water Is Life” (2003); and “Upholding the Sanctity of Life” (2008). All these pastoral letters are available in http://www.cbcponline.net/ (date accessed: September 14, 2012).

[69] St. Bonaventure, Major Life of St. Francis, 6; cited in Leonardo Boff, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, 214.

[70] Roger Sorrell, St. Francis of Assisi and Nature: Tradition and Innovation in Western Attitudes Toward the Environment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 124.

[71] Boff, “Integral and Partial Liberations,” 60.

[72] Leonardo Boff, Jesus Christ Liberator: A Critical Christology of Our Time (New York: Orbis Books, 1978), 53.

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