We want to present you another post extracted from the Creatio Conference in the WYD in Rio de Janeiro this year.
Thank you to Dr. Thomas R. Collingwood for his amazing presentation.
The underlying priority of all efforts for environmental integrity, energy justice and care for creation is a concern for the dignity and well being of the human person
The challenge in addressing the need for economic development, environmental protection, over consumerism and over utilization of energy resources while maintaining respect for the needs and dignity of human persons is complicated.. Nevetheless in this confllict we do not forget that the underlying priority of all efforts for environmental integrity, energy justice and care for creation is a concern for the dignity and well being of the human person following the mentioned by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Nowadays, as never before, it is require the practice of a stewardship ethic and lifestyle that can be an “end”, meeting the needs of God‘s creation (the environment). In the same way, the process of developing and practicing a stewardship ethic and lifestyle is also a “means”, for meeting the needs of the human person. Unfortunately, with modern day “psycho babble”, many human needs and problems can get inappropriately defined as “disorders”. However, there can be a role for the use of such terminology and, in terms of environmental and personal health issues, I have found two “deficit disorders” whose realities have implications for stewardship and caring for creation. In turn, those “deficit disorders” are reflective of the disconnection consequences from the ruptures of sin in the world explored within reconciliation theology.
The first reality is that many youth suffer from nature deficit disorder. This term, made popular by Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods”, refers to the fact that many of us (but especially youth) are disconnected and alienated from nature. As a consequence many do not know, understand or appreciate God’s creation with the resultant effect of not caring about the environment, being afraid of nature.
The second reality is that of youth and adults suffering from exercise deficit disorder.It refers to the fact that there is a corresponding disconnection and alienation from physical activity. The result is a lack of energy and the development of many health related problems such as obesity.
The consequences of this is that we see, for many youth, lifestyle habits that lead to an unconcern for creation, an epidemic of obesity and inactivity, and lack of exercise. Inactive individuals are not going to be involved in nature activities.
As John Paul II stated: “…society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at lifestyle.”
I have defined a model with five phases to overcome nature deficit disorder. To proceed from Step 1 through step 5, individuals must develop:
- FAMILIARITY with creation through experiences with the natural world.
- APPRECIATION for the natural world which can be accomplished by reflecting on experiences with creation.
- AWARENESS that there is more to know of nature, environmental problems and an ethic for how we should respond to those problems.
- CONCERN for the environment. This precedes taking action and provides motivation for the final step.
- STEWARDSHIP lifestyle to act to respond to environmental issues.
Those five phases can be viewed as objectives for developing a stewardship lifestyle. In turn, there are three steps to meeting those objectives which provide the framework for leading one through those five phases: Encountering, Exploring and Engaging.
- ENCOUNTERING God’s creation and nature. The process of encountering is to awaken enthusiasm for nature to have a familiarity and appreciation with creation.
- EXPLORING environmental issues and ethics. This involves becoming aware of the major environmental issues, the human role in them, and a Catholic based ethic for addressing them. In addition, it can involve a process for examining personal lifestyle and community needs.
- ENGAGING creation. This is the action element where concern motivates stewardship actions individually and collectively.
A quote from John Paul II illustrates this: “It is the duty of Christians and all who look to God the Creator to protect the environment by restoring a sense of reverence for the whole of God’s creation. It is the Creator’s will that man should treat nature not as ruthless exploiter but as an intelligent and responsible administrator.”
The experience of providing outdoor education and exercise programs has led to the conclusion that stewardship of the environment can be favorably affected by individuals becoming more active and physically fit. The human body is a self-regulating energy producer and user. Governments, especially of developed nations and educational institutions, are encouraged to promote individual physical activity and consequent physical fitness to develop more efficient energy systems within their bodies. In turn, the use of self-movement modalities such as walking and cycling can decrease the reliance on fossil fuel based transportation. At another level, a fit and active individual has the energy and discipline to be more actively involved in environmental stewardship actions – individually and collectively.
Physical activity can be a powerful vehicle for developing a stewardship ethic through activities that connect with nature. While the focus here is on exercise and fitness within the context of stewardship, facilitating a fit and active lifestyle is also, by itself, a positive force for one’s physical and mental health. In summary, by caring for your body, you care for creation. A parallel five-phase process can be developed:
- FAMILIARITY with one’s body by having experiences with movement and activity.
- APPRECIATION for the body’s capability to give us energy, strength and physical prowess. This can be accomplished by reflecting on the body’s response to being stressed through exercise.
- Developing an AWARENESS to seek to know more of the physical, mental and spiritual ethic for why we need to train our body.
- CONCERN for the body and physical fitness. This precedes taking action and provides motivation for the final step.
- A STEWARDSHIP lifestyle to act to respond to the nutritional and exercise needs of the body.
The same three steps to meeting these objectives can be operationalized for stewardship of the body:
- ENCOUNTERING the body by experiencing and observing its reactions to physical activity.
- EXPLORING health and fitness issues and ethics. This involves becoming aware of one’s level of physical activity and fitness and a Catholic based ethic for being fit.
- ENGAGING your body. This is the action element where concern motivates practicing an exercise and nutritional lifestyle to develop energy and dynamic health.
Physical activity, while directly confronting exercise deficit disorder, also serves as a nature connection process to overcome nature deficit disorder. Taking walks and hikes in public lands, doing simple yard work to being involved in a variety of environmental preservation, conservation and restoration endeavors can all be vehicles to increase physical activity and interact with nature. In turn, the process of developing fitness provides the energy needed to perform environmental stewardship activities.
Finally, the development of a stewardship of creation and stewardship of the body lifestyle can provide a means to confront nature deficit and exercise deficit disorders. Likewise, it provides a process to develop a stewardship ethic that translates to a concern and commitment to care for God’s creation. At another level a stewardship lifestyle serves as concrete actions to facilitate the need for reconciliation with God, ourselves, with others and creation.