The one thing necessary: Thomas Berry on the human-earth relationship


In the modern western world the strange thing is the silence of Christian tradition on this basic issue of human relationship with the earth. Although this is essentially a religious, a spiritual and an ethical issue, our religious traditions, our spiritualities, and our moral codes do not function in this order of magnitude. We can identify the moral evil of suicide, homicide and genocide, yet we have no principles on which to deal with biocide and geocide, evils that are infinitely greater in their consequences and their absolute range of moral acts. What we do have is a complex of traditions that must all be turned toward a creative functional relationship with the dynamics of the earth. The one thing necessary is to appreciate that the earth itself and all its living and non-living components is a community, that the human is a member of this integral community and finds its proper role in advancing the well-being of this community. There can be no sustained well-being of any part of the community that does not relate effectively to the well-being of the total community. We might note particularly that we cannot have a healthy human community on a sickened, disintegrated, toxic planet.

The glory of the human has become the desolation of the earth. This I would consider an appropriate way to summarize the twentieth century. A further statement that might be made is that the desolation of the earth is becoming the destiny of the human. Indeed, the total fabric of living beings is so closely woven that none of its components can be damages without harming the other.


From Thomas Berry, Teilhard in the Ecological Age.