There are many causes of the ecological crisis. Here we address the most basic: the permanent rupture with the ultimate connectivity of the universe and its Creator that humans have introduced, nourished and perpetuated.
There is a profoundly mysterious and tragic dimension to the history of humanity and the universe. The Judeo-Christian tradition calls that fundamental frustration the sin of the world, and theology, following Saint Augustine, who invented the expression, calls it the original sin or original fall. Original here has nothing to do with the historical origins of this anti-phenomenon, or consequently, with the past. Rather, it relates to that which is original in the human being, which affects the fundamental and radical reason for human existence, and therefore, the present human condition.
This sin can neither be reduced to a mere moral dimension, or to an unsuccessful action by the human being. It refers to a globalized attitude, and thus, to a subversion of all human relations. It is about an ontological dimension to the human being, understood as a web of relationships. That web is distorted and corrupted, damaging all types of relationships.
It is important to emphasize that original sin is an interpretation of a fundamental experience, an answer to a challenging enigma. For example, the splendor of a blooming cherry tree in Japan exists simultaneously with a tsunami in Fukushima that devastates everything. There is a Mother Teresa of Calcutta who rescues desperate street people, and a Hitler who sends six million Jews to the gas chambers. Why this contradiction? Philosophers and theologians have long sought an answer. So far, without success.
Without going into the many possible interpretations, we accept one that is gaining ever greater consensus among religious thinkers: that is imperfection seen as a moment in the process of evolution. God did not create a universe that was instantaneously finished, a past event, totally perfect. Rather, God unleashed an open-ended and perfectible process that tends towards forms that are ever more complex, subtle and perfect. We hope that one day it will reach its Omega point.
Imperfection is not a defect, but a process of evolution. It does not express God’s final design for His creation, but a moment within an immense process. The earthly paradise does not mean nostalgia for a lost golden age, but the promise of a future yet to come. The first page of the Bible is actually the last. It comes at the beginning as a kind of scaled down model of the future, so that the readers are filled with hope for a happy ending to all of creation.
Saint Paul saw the sad condition of creation as a submission “to vanity” (mataiótes), not because of the human being, but because of God Himself. The exegetic sense of “vanity” points to the process of maturity. Nature has not yet reached maturity. That is why in the present phase it is still far from the final goal. Because of that “all of creation still groans and suffers with labor pains” (Rm 8,22). The human being participates in this process of maturation, and also groans (Rm 8,23). All of creation anxiously awaits the full maturity of the sons and daughters of God, because between them and the rest of creation there exists a profound interdependency and connection. When that occurs, creation will also reach maturity, because, as Saint Paul says, “it will participate in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God” (cf Rm 8,20).
Then the final design of God will be realized. Only then will God be able to speak the longed for words: “and He saw that all was good”. Now, these words are prophesies and promises for the future, because not all is good. Ernst Bloch, the philosopher of the hope principle put it well: «genesis is at the end, not the beginning». The human being’s delay in maturing implies a delay in creation. Human advances imply an advance of the whole. Humanity can be an instrument of liberation or an obstacle to the process of evolution.
And here is where the drama lies: when evolution reached the level of humanity, it attained a state of consciousness and liberty. The human being was created as a creator. Humans can intervene in nature for good, caring for her, or for bad, devastating her. It began, perhaps with the appearance of the homo habilis, 2.7 million years ago, when the instruments were created with which humans could intervene in nature, without respecting her rhythms. At the beginning it could have been a single act. But its repetition created an attitude of lack of caring. Instead of being together with everything, living together, humans set themselves above things, dominating them. And so it has been in crescendo, up to our times.
With this humans broke from the natural solidarity among all beings. They contravened the design of the Creator who wanted the human being as co-creator, whose genius would complete the imperfect creation. But instead, the human being assumed the place of God. The strength of human intelligence and will enabled humanity to feel like a small “god” and to behave as if in fact it were God.
This is the great separation from nature and the Creator that underlies the ecological crisis. The problem is in the type of human being that developed through history, more a «geophysical force of destruction» (E. Wilson) than a force for caring and preservation.
The remedy lies in re-connecting with all things. It is not necessary to be more religious, but more humble, more a part of nature, responsible for her sustainability, and more careful in all human activity. Humanity must return to the Earth, from which it has exiled itself, and become her guardian. Then the natural contract will be remade. And by also opening up to the Creator, humanity’s infinite thirst would be satiated, and the reward would be peace.
Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, email@example.com,
done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.