A 3.4.2 Response to Exercise


Response to the first question

After the principle of respect for human dignity, here are the other two that the text presents in #8.

1.  There is, John Paul II says,

a harmonious universe… a ‘cosmos’ endowed with its own integrity, its own internal, dynamic balance. This order must be respected. The human race is called to explore this order, to examine it with due care and to make use of it while safeguarding its integrity.  (Italics in original)

In study of this unit so far, this point is new.  Here the Pope locates the need for ecological responsibility in the context of what traditionally has been called ‘natural law’.  This term was introduced in both Units 1 and 2 (1.2.4, 2.2.9) and we shall look at it more fully in Unit 6.  Later in the document he makes fundamentally the same point in an even plainer way:

[W]hat the earth and its atmosphere are telling us… [is] that there is an order in the universe which must be respected, and that the human person, endowed with the capability of choosing freely, has a grave responsibility to preserve this order for the well-being of future generations. (#15; cf. #8)

2.  The second “underlying principle” is that,

the earth is ultimately a common heritage, the fruits of which are for the benefit of all. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, ‘God destined the earth and all it contains for the use of every individual and all peoples’ (#8, quoting Gaudium et Spes #69; italics in original).

What John Paul is referring to here is usually called the principle of ‘the universal destination of material goods’.  This was introduced in Unit 2 (2.2.10) and you can explore it more fully in Unit 5.

Response to the second question

The above principles have the following seven practical implications:

  • There is need for “a more internationally coordinated approach to the management of the earth’s goods [because in] many cases the effects of ecological problems transcend the borders of individual States” (#9, italics in original).
  • That need for international action “does not lessen the responsibility of each individual State… [not least for] giving special attention to the most vulnerable sectors of society” (#9, italics in original).
  • “The ecological crisis reveals the urgent moral need for a new solidarity, especially in relations between the developing nations and those that are highly industrialized” (#10, italics in original).
  • “[T]he proper ecological balance will not be found without directly addressing the structural forms of poverty that exist throughout the world”, for example because of “unjust land distribution in many countries” (#11, italics in original).  You will have the opportunity to look at what ‘structural’ means here in Unit 5, when we focus on what Pope John Paul wrote about ‘structural sin’.
  • War, even if “local or regional”, causes multiple kinds of environmental damage, such as ruining crops and vegetation and poisoning soil and water (#12).  This is another reason why it must be avoided.
  • There needs to be re-examination of lifestyle and a change away from ‘consumerism’.  This is a constant theme in CST.  For that to happen, an “education in ecological responsibility is urgent” (#13, italics in original).
  • Finally, the aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity.” (#14, italics in original)

How many of these points did you come up with?  Maybe you identified some practical implications that I have missed.



To return to 3.4.2, close this window.