Ecological Paradigm Shift
It is quite well known that what little goodness and solidity still remaining in our society comes from the remnants of Christian civilization. This same civilization founded two thousand years ago allowed people to build what is broadly called medieval Christendom.
Today the dominant intellectual class seeks to replace the declining “modern civilization” with one based on a “new cultural synthesis,” elaborating a conception of the world, man, and God.
Throughout the twentieth century, secularists and Christian Democrats attempted to launch the program that fostered a post-Christian, secular “integral humanism,” which was neither religious nor atheistic. The result was the Catholic world’s acceptance of secularization that favoured the de-Christianization of society.
Today, philosophers, sociologists, political scientists, scientists and even theologians are scrambling to invent a “new humanism” that would build a “common home” to save modern society from its contradictions and crises.
However, this program contains paradoxes that border on provocations. The touted “new humanism” actually consists of an “integral ecology” that reduces man to a component of the environment. The planned “common home” is reduced to a socio-biological environment identified with the Earth ecosystem. The desired “new civilization” would arise from the abandonment of the cultural, social and political foundations of traditional and Christian civilization.
This program excludes any reference to the Redemption, the salvation of the soul, the supernatural, eternal life or even to God. It is based on an earthly and immanent conception of the world, man and even religion.
These viewpoints and suggestions can already be found in Pope Francis’ encyclical dedicated to ecology (Laudato si’, 2015). The Preparatory Commission of the coming October Special Synod of Bishops on the Amazon has taken them to an extreme under the banner of a new paradigm: “integral ecology.”
The introduction of the official Preparatory Document of the Synod proposes to initiate the conversion of peoples, states and even the Church with a “process of integral development and ecology” aimed at fostering “diversity” and “pluralism” in all areas, not only environmental but also human, that is, social, cultural, and even religious.
The Program for “Integral Ecology”
Let the reader not be deceived with the qualifier “integral” before the Synod’s use of the word ecology. Such manoeuvres give the impression that it is an integral ideology, that is not reductive and partisan, but rather balanced and coherent as it deals with all aspects of reality.
On the contrary, this ecology is not integrated into the Christian vision, but rather the latter is integrated into an ecological program. Religion, culture and civilization are reduced to environmental factors in the ecosystem, identified with the planet Earth as is clearly found in the Preparatory Document (especially in section no. 9).
This ecologism is an ideology that claims to overturn the traditional hierarchical vision of the relationship between the world, man and God. Divine Revelation places Creation at the service of man, man at the service of the Church, and the Church at the service of God. The new ecological program turns this sequence around, putting God and the Church at the service of the integrity of man, and man at the service of the integrity of nature. This natural integrity consists of cosmic biodiversity and environmental balance. The aforementioned document tries to justify this new arrangement by claiming that “everything is interconnected” (no. 13) in Creation. All elements in this scheme are related on an egalitarian basis.
When trying to seduce the masses and peoples, ecologists must exploit man’s primal and atavistic feelings and instincts, including religious or para-religious ones. Even though often touted by atheists or agnostics, “integral ecology” implicitly professes a kind of religion of its own: the worship of Mother Earth, as concretized in cosmolatry or in the “cult of Gaea” (or Gaia).
Ecologists also have their own (false) prophetism of the apocalyptic type, which manifests itself in predictions of imminent environmental catastrophe. Although these forecasts are periodically denied by the facts, ecologists keep presenting them as imminent while stubbornly pushing them back to a future date.
This apocalyptic obsession resembles the fanaticism of Jehovah’s Witnesses so much that eco-catastrophists are now branded as “Witnesses of Gaea,” or Mother Earth. Both these witnesses ask the public to have a blind faith in their terrorizing predictions even though these are always denied by events and constantly postponed. Moreover, as psychologists say, “those who govern fear govern society.”
Thus, such ecologism is really unnatural idolatry and runs counter to civilization. It presupposes a vision of the world, man and God situated between modern materialism and “postmodern” pantheism. That is why “integrating ecology” is actually a factor of disintegration of religion, culture and society.
Recycling Failed Ideologies
The ecological movement best efforts at recycling do not involve waste but rather concepts, schemes and mottoes of old revolutionary ideologies such as Marxism, and even more utopian socialism. It is adept at adapting them all to the emerging cultural crises and formulating new strategies to conquer public opinion.
For example, environmentalists have instrumentalized the struggle of the proletariat to recover economic assets “alienated” from the capitalist system. They do this by recycling the struggle of the Third World’s sub-proletariat to reclaim lands “seized and exploited by world capitalism.” They blame the capitalists for spreading an “extractivist” productivist and consumerist economy that contaminates man’s “primordial innocence” and represses the autonomy of the “world’s peripheries.”
In addition, ecologism takes up the eighteenth-century myth of the “noble savage” and the nineteenth-century motto that urged a “return to barbarism,” alluding to urban proletarian masses that needed to be evangelized. This ideology recycles that motto into a new one, urging a “return to the savage,” alluding to populations in “peripheries of the [Third] World” marginalized by advanced society.
The religious environmentalists reverse the concept of evangelization. For example, according to the aforementioned Preparatory Document (No. 13), peoples and tribes like those in the Amazon should not be evangelized by the Church, but rather the Church must allow herself to be evangelized by them.
As for their model of “sustainable economy,” ecologists recycle the old model of utopian socialism (from Fourier onwards). They propose a rejection not only of consumerism, but also of the market, industry, and private property. While claiming to create a society that would be “sober, frugal and happy,” this project would actually favour poverty and indeed both economic and moral misery.
From the City as a Centre of Civilization to the Jungle as Uncivilized Fringe
Life in society is based not only on religion but also on a civilization politically organized under the rule of law. The word “civilization” comes from the Latin civitas, which means city, understood as a stable community organized in urban centres. The word “political” comes from the Greek polis, which also means city, referring to urban administration and government. The word “law” alludes to the Greek jus and the Latin rectitude. Hence, a simple private habit or public custom cannot be justified by the mere fact of existing (being a “lived situation,” as they say today), but must tend to achieve an objective good.
History shows that advanced civilizations are born when human families or communities, abandoning the nomadic life of hunters or developing the sedentary life of gatherers, unite in stable cities, organize themselves politically under an authority, and govern themselves with public law, which historically can be corrected and enriched by Christian law.
By contrast, the “new civilization” dreamed by ecologists not only replaces the city with the forest, politics with ecology, but also substitutes the rule of law with the de facto situation of savage tribes whose ideas and customs must be justified and promoted at all costs. Ecologists reject not only capitalism or technocracy but also the State, city and even family, replacing them with a communion of goods and a spontaneous and occasional community or tribe, that is, those primitive forms of association typical of barbarous or savage communities that cannot provide their members with a truly civil life, let alone an advanced one.
The same ideological propaganda that exalts political constitutions and citizenship rights (to be recognized to anyone), paradoxically promotes an “integral ecology” that rejects the foundations of civil society, as manifested not only in politics or law, but also in the culture and family. Therefore, the “new ecological civilization” is actually preparing a kind of anti-civilization.
The ecologist program is consistent with the well-known Italian philosopher and historian Giambattista Vico’s diagnosis of civilization in the first half of the eighteenth century which he saw as corroded by the “fatuous culture” of the Enlightenment. Three centuries ago, he argued that civilizations that make progress in a disorganized fashion tend to deny their moral and religious roots and risk falling into a cynical and unholy anti-civilization that takes them back to the barbaric or savage state. This regression is very dangerous because it places advanced conceptual and technological tools at the service of immoral and disordered passions. Vico concluded that the only salvation from this danger lies in recovering the surviving religious and moral spirit in the consciousness of the population. This solution should be proposed for today’s moribund civilization.
Written by Guido Vignelli