Sunday, October 11, 2015

Laudato Si, Chapter 4

Here's something I wrote four months ago but never posted. It's my summary of Chapter 4 of Laudato Si.

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Chapter Four of the Pope's encyclical on the environment is called "Integral Ecology". This is an ecology that respects its human and social dimensions.

Everything is interconnected, so we cannot consider nature as something separate from us. Society affects the environment and vice versa. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and if a society has injustice, violence or lack of freedom, that can harm the environment. For example, there are some governments that sit by and do nothing, as environmental laws get broken; this leads to a lack of respect for the law, in general.

Culture should be preserved and incorporated; we should pay more attention to local cultures when studying environmental problems. Culture is a living reality, which cannot be excluded from our considerations. Some people believe "one size fits all", and so they think that one particular environmental solution will work everywhere, at every time. This is not true; a blanket method like that can overlook local problems. A framework from the outside doesn't always fit on the inside; in fact, we've seen this when foreign environmental exploitation has destroyed local cultures, as well as the structures that support those cultures.

"Authentic development includes efforts to bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life". That is because people use their environment to shape their identity; if you came to my house, you would definitely see things which identify the area as belonging to me. When the local environment is disorderly or chaotic--like at college!--it makes it hard for people to be integrated and happy. This especially hurts the poor people, in areas with extreme poverty and overcrowding. Their hostile environment has a negative affect on them, and what they desire most is good relationships and communities, to combat the harsh realities of their lives.

People's behavior is affected by their living spaces; people who design buildings and cities should take this into account. They should consider the views of the people who will live in the area, and they should desire to offer people a greater quality of life. We also need to protect common areas; we don't want a segregated city, divided into separate parts. We want it to be well-integrated, so people feel that they belong everywhere; this gives them a sense of the whole and a caring for all.

Lack of housing is a major issue for human ecology. Destroying slums or razing poor neighborhoods is not a solution; we must develop those areas. Developing public transportation is also important, as private transportation causes more pollution and waste more energy. Currently, the public transportation system forces citizens to put up with "undignified conditions due to crowding, inconvenience, infrequent service and lack of safety". In rural areas, a more common issue is a feeling of abandonment or disconnection from others, as well as harsh conditions that reduce workers to near-servitude.

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