While reading the writings of both Lynn White Jr. and the Pope, I could not help but be continuously reminded of the dominant worldviews each individual held, and how these views ultimately lead to what they have described as “ecological crisis.”
The Pope states, “The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth” (Francis, 48). The Pope’s encyclical letter makes it clear that the Earth does not solely belong to us, but every living creature inhabiting the planet. Humans have misinterpreted their dominion over Earth to mean much more than God has given us, in addition to acting selfishly with the gains we reap from tilling the Earth. The passages provided by both the Pope and White reminded me of the worldviews summarized by Dunlap: the Dominant Western Worldview, the Human Exceptionalism Paradigm, and the New Ecological Paradigm. White and the Pope suggest that most readers have interpreted the bible in a way that reinforces the Human Exceptionalism Paradigm. This model denotes humans being distinct and above all other creatures, as well as driving technology and being the master of the Earth.
This is where White’s discourse branches, as he does not believe Christianity’s teachings yield anything more than the thoughts of enslaving nature for our own personal gain (White, 1207). White emphasizes that in order to stop ecological collapse, we must reject Christian thought and arrogance, while the Pope details the “correct” interpretation of Christian texts. From the Pope’s words it is easy to gather that God intended for the New Ecological Paradigm to become dominant thought; that while humans are exceptional, they remain only one of many and are surrounded within the web of nature, creating unintended consequences while remaining dependent on the Earth for all resources. Further and from the Pope’s writings, is that in order to create solutions to solve the ecological crisis, all branches of human connection must be included. Too often we seek out solutions that benefit our group, while leaving out others. In order to create lasting positive change, we must view the Earth as residents and not owners.