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Man is at once a part of nature and its steward, and natural ecology and “human ecology” therefore stand or fall together. This four-part series explores major themes in the contemporary ecological debate: man’s relationship with his environment, the land he was instructed to “till and keep”; animals, which can either be companions or dinner; the relationship we have with “stuff” and whether we have too much of it; and the place of the body in creation.

Integral Ecology: At Home in the World

As the debate about the environment continues, Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ demonstrated how the catholic perspective can transcend the dialectic between an anthropocentric technocracy and a biocentric environmentalism: laying out an “integral ecology” that respects both the solidarity and the difference between the human being and the rest of the cosmos. Man is at once a part of nature and its steward, and natural ecology and “human ecology” therefore stand or fall together.

Tilling and Keeping

In our second issue on ecology we take up the first work of man in the garden: tilling and keeping. Here we consider two questions which that work raises: about the relationship between the garden and the gardener, and about who—or what—is at the center of it all. The last question usually gets caught up in the either-or of the two bad alternatives: unchecked human dominion of nature, on the one hand, and the misanthropy which plagues so much of the environmentalist response to it. This issue explores another way.

Animals: Man and Beast

The panoply of creatures with which we are surrounded is an expression of the glory of God. Our relationship to that world is thus infused with respect: not because we worship nature, but because we worship God through the very creation which manifests him, and is sanctified all over again by his incarnation as a human being at the heart of it. Something which gives a particular signification to the role of man as pivotal in this hierarchy.

Human Ecology: Body and Home

It was Pope Benedict XVI who turned our attention to human ecology: “The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development.” Given our general blindness to that ecology, and the toxic cost of such negligence, we turn to the environment that man is and the one in which he dwells―the body and the home―the environments in which he was first welcomed and into which he, in turn, will welcome others.

Humanum: Issues in Family, Culture & Science
Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family
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