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Ecology Reflections from Fr. John Surette, SJ

A reflection by Fr. John Surette, SJ

Do you remember the time when a college degree guaranteed employment or the time when one could work in the sun all day without worrying about skin cancer? Do you remember the time when parents expected that their children would enjoy a better standard of living than they themselves experienced or the time when one could eat fruits and vegetables without being concerned about toxic pesticides? Do you remember the time when the presence of nuclear waste was not an ever-present reality? It is none of these times anymore. They have all passed.

The ways we humans have organized our societies, our ways of doing economics, and the trillions of dollars we have spent on defense have not created more employment, lessened poverty, or made us feel more secure. They have, however slowly and steadily changed the chemistry of our planet, altered its bio-systems, and diminished hope among its humans. Our ecological violence includes deforestation, desertification, global warming, extinction of life-species, pollution of air, water and soil. And the list goes on.

As Earth is progressively diminished, life for the children of Earth is becoming and will become more demanding and competitive, less satisfying and cooperative, increasingly violent, and increasingly more violent. Consider the State of New York, for example, with the heaviest concentration of incinerators in the country and through which we drive so many vehicles, leaving behind asthma, lung cancer, and other diseases. In all of this I do not write with any sense of superiority because all of us, including this writer, are caught up in society’s denial regarding the magnitude of Earth’s ecological diminishment.

It is time to abandon the illusion that the environment is not central to the long-term security and well-being of all Earth’s people. Injustice for us humans and destruction of ecosystems are not two separate challenges. They are one. Hidden behind societal violence today is ecological violence. We cannot have healthy people on a sick planet. If Earth is under siege, we humans are under siege. The structures and institutions we build and the plans and programs we create can no longer disregard the way in which the natural order of things work. Continuing in this illusion is not good for any of us and is especially hard on the poor and marginal among us.

It is not that we are evil and deliberatively seek to do all this ecological violence. In fact, more often than not, we are striving to create a better world for ourselves, for our children, and for all of humankind. It is more a matter of understandings and perceptions concerning ourselves and our relationships to the natural world that result in our violent and destructive behavior.

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