August 2, 2015 ~ 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time


We are exploring this notion of “integral ecology” in a consideration of the connection between the natures of things. In Disney Pixar’s Wall-E, earth has become one big land fill, inhospitable to life. Human beings have moved aboard a large space-ship. They sit on their la-z-boy chairs with video screes in front of their faces. Fast food and immediate gratification characterize their diet and lifestyle.

Meanwhile, on earth, robots are left with the task to clean up the planet. Wall-E is one of those robots. His counter-part and strangely enough, love interest, is EVE. Her job is to find life and evaluate conditions for a possible return to earth. The movie really gets interesting when she finds a green plant emerging from the waste.

What I like about the movie is that it is clear that we have the capacity to damage our planet – to damage nature. But when Eve finds the living plant, it is evident that the earth has broken through the damage and started to heal itself.

Nature is amazing this way. It can be wounded for sure. But the movie draws attention to the fact that it also has incredible ways of healing itself. For sure the possibility remains that it be damaged beyond repair, but what I am getting at is that there is an interior principle of life to our planet that operates from within, which has its own integrity, with laws that follow from it that must be respected for it to flourish.

In our contemporary culture, it is popular to think this way about the planet.  This names one aspect of the brilliance of Pope Francis’ “integral ecology”.  The environment has a nature, an interior principle of integrity, that determines a set of laws that must be observed for the planet, for nature, to flourish. I think this is a trendy, but true way of thinking about the planet.

The thing is, few draw the analogy from the inner-workings of the planet to the inner-workings of human nature. But the analogy nevertheless obtains.  Just as the planet has a nature, which makes it be a certain way, that operates as an internal principle, has its own integrity, and has laws or a kind of order that leads to its flourishing, so too, humanity. We have a human nature, that has a kind of integrity, that is, is unchangeable, from which certain laws or a certain order follows which must be kept in mind for human beings to flourish.

What we have named is a kind of natural law that is in keeping with our planet and our human nature. Seen together as mutually informing one another, they contribute to an “integral ecology”.