3.5.4 Review and discussion of Unit 3

Back to 3.5.3

Unit 3 Contents


We are now at the end of Unit 3.  This page outlines two ways of reviewing what you have learned, whether you are doing the module as part of a degree or using it to study informally.

Before we come to them, open the Unit 3 Contents page to remind yourself of what has been covered.

A.        Assessing the ‘learning outcomes’

First, it will be useful simply to refer again to the learning outcomes for this unit (as given in 3.1.1). As reproduced below, it is shown where in the unit each of them was most directly addressed.

Learning outcomes for Unit 3

By the end of this unit, you will be able

  • to outline some contrasting explanations of ecological crisis [3.1, 3.2, 3.3]
  • to summarise Christian understanding of what it means that humans are made ‘in the image of God’ [3.3.4-3.3.7]
  • to name the main statements of CST about ecological responsibility [3.4]
  • to engage in discussion about strengths and weaknesses of CST statements on ecology and about how to act in light of them. [3.5]

How easily do you think you could do these things?

The first LO might seem challenging, but in the course of the first three parts of the module we looked at a number of contrasting explanations of ecological crisis.  Below is a question for discussion that can prompt you to recall them.

What the other LOs are referring to is probably easier to grasp.

B.       Discussing your study

How you can best discuss with others what you have studied for this unit will depend on the university or other context you are in:

  • If you are studying formally, you may be expected to participate in a seminar on what you have read for Unit 3.  The format of this will be determined by the Module Convenor in your university/college.  One student might be asked to prepare a discussion paper.
  • If you are studying informally in a parish, other Christian community or workplace, it will be worthwhile to join with others to compare and contrast your reactions so far.
  • If you are reading the material alone without opportunity for face-to-face discussion, you may like to post your reactions to it and any questions at Comments on Unit 3.  If you do, I’ll respond.

Whichever of the above applies to you, your study will have provoked questions.  The ‘reflections’ and ‘exercises’ do this directly.  There have been five ‘exercises’ in this unit:

  • in 3.1.1 on your own attitudes and actions re ‘the environment’
  • in 3.3.1 on Lynn White Jr’s argument and, in particular, biblical texts that justify challenging it
  • in 3.4.2 on the content of Pope John Paul II’s 1990 ‘Message for the World Day of Peace’
  • in 3.5.2 on whether CST is unduly anthropocentric
  • in 3.5.3 on what study of this unit should mean for what we do and how we live.

Here are some questions for discussion:

1.  Can you identify three contrasting explanations of ecological crisis that the unit has suggested?

When you have tried to do so, look at the brief outline of these here.

Which of them is most convincing?

2.  Unit 3 has discussed two main understandings of human beings:

  • Within the huge mechanism that the world is, humans are biological mechanisms each driven by never-ending desires for pleasure-gain and pain-avoidance, that is, for ‘utility maximization’.  (See 3.1.2 and 3.1.3.)
  • Humankind is made in God’s image (a) for the responsibility of exercising dominion on God’s behalf, stewardship, within his good creation, and (b) as a community of persons, male and female, called into perfect communion with the triune God. (See 3.3.7.)

Compare and contrast these two views.  What ways of acting in the world, especially in relation to the rest of nature, will correspond with each?

3.  In interpreting Pope John Paul II’s Solicitudo Rei Socialis (1987), Celia Deane-Drummond said that it puts across that ecologically responsible living “is the very means through which humans… express the image of God” (quoted in 3.5.2 Response to Exercise; italics original).

What does that mean, and what is the basis for it?

4.  According to Pope John Paul II, there is,

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.

(‘Message for the World Day of Peace’, 1990, #8, italics original)

Is belief in God necessary for accepting this view of the world?

Is John Paul’s vision consistent with or contradictory to the mechanistic view of reality that has been dominant in Western modernity?

What does that statement mean for human living, especially in relation to ecological responsibility?

5.  In Unit 3 we have encountered three publications by Catholic bishops’ conferences in particular countries, namely the Philippines (3.2.4), the USA (3.2.6; this was suggested as only an optional reading), and England and Wales (3.4.3).

If you had to draft a statement on ecological protection to be issued by Catholic bishops in your country now, what would you see as the most important points to include?

6.  Pope Benedict XVI wrote this in 2010:

We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment. This responsibility knows no boundaries. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity it is important for everyone to be committed at his or her proper level, working to overcome the prevalence of particular interests. A special role in raising awareness and in formation belongs to the different groups present in civil society and to the non-governmental organizations which work with determination and generosity for the spread of ecological responsibility.

(‘Message for the World Day of Peace’, 2010, #11, italics original)

In light of this quotation and your study of the whole unit, identify one or two practical things that exercising ecological responsibility should mean for each of the following: 

  • each person
  • families
  • local churches
  • workplaces
  • governments


End of Unit 3



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