The Eco Approach

Anything and everything (except sin, of course) can reflect the beauty and holiness of God. The trouble is, we tend to substitute the beauty and holiness of things for the beauty and holiness of God. Even in a monastery, you can find people so determined to save the earth that they overlook or undervalue the importance of persons. I find that troubling. It is a reminder that any good cause can take over our lives, giving us a lop-sided view of things. Yes, let us do all we can to preserve the beauty of earth and sky, rivers and seas; let us do all we can to preserve the biodiversity of the planet; but let’s not forget that there is only one creature made in the image and likeness of God.

To preserve our humanity in the face of all that militates against it is also an ‘ecological endeavour’, one on which much of the future of the planet depends. If that sounds a bit pompous, this question may make my meaning clearer: unless we work together to roll back the consequences of some of our more stupid actions, can the earth recover of itself? We (most of us) accept that we are the problem. May we not also be the solution?



This article about starfish on the BBC web site caught my attention this morning. Anyone who has sarcoidosis or asthma or even plain old arthritis will recognize at once the potential here hinted at. When the body’s immune system rages out of control and inflammation levels rocket sky-high, the only available therapies have unpleasant side-effects. (That michelin-man look may be prednisolone- rather than Macdonald’s- induced.)

It’s a striking reminder how much we have still to learn about the natural world. The number of endangered species on the planet is frightening. We lament, rightly, what their loss would mean in terms of biodiversity and beauty. What we tend not to consider is how much our own species stands to lose. Many of us are still too hung up on energy to consider the wider implications of species loss: possible medical benefits and the like.

The Christian Churches do not have a united response to ecology questions but there is in the Rule of St Benedict a guiding principle we can apply. The cellarer of the monastery is to treat all its goods and property “as though they were sacred altar vessels”. There couldn’t be a clearer statement of our responsibilities towards the natural world or the material things we use. What God has created is good and should be treated in a good way because everything in creation is of interest and concern to him and ultimately for our good, too.

To put it another way: it isn’t only every sparrow that has been counted, it’s every starfish, too.