III. Ecology of daily life [147 – 155]

I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora & Newsvine and will add my comments over time. Pappa francescos 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do.

147. Authentic development includes efforts
to bring about an integral improvement in the
quality of human life, and this entails considering
the setting in which people live their lives. These
settings influence the way we think, feel and act.
In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and
neighbourhoods, we use our environment as a
way of expressing our identity. We make every
effort to adapt to our environment, but when it
is disorderly, chaotic or saturated with noise and
ugliness, such overstimulation makes it difficult
to find ourselves integrated and happy.

148. An admirable creativity and generosity is
shown by persons and groups who respond to
environmental limitations by alleviating the adverse
effects of their surroundings and learning
to live their lives amid disorder and uncertainty.
For example, in some places, where the façades
of buildings are derelict, people show great care
for the interior of their homes, or find contentment
in the kindness and friendliness of others.
A wholesome social life can light up a seemingly
undesirable environment. At times a commendable
human ecology is practised by the poor
despite numerous hardships. The feeling of asphyxiation
brought on by densely populated residential
areas is countered if close and warm relationships
develop, if communities are created, if
the limitations of the environment are compensated
for in the interior of each person who feels
held within a network of solidarity and belonging.
In this way, any place can turn from being a
hell on earth into the setting for a dignified life.

149. The extreme poverty experienced in areas
lacking harmony, open spaces or potential
for integration, can lead to incidents of brutality
and to exploitation by criminal organizations. In
the unstable neighbourhoods of mega-cities, the
daily experience of overcrowding and social anonymity
can create a sense of uprootedness which
spawns antisocial behaviour and violence. Nonetheless,
I wish to insist that love always proves
more powerful. Many people in these conditions
are able to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness
which convert overcrowding into an
experience of community in which the walls of
the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness
overcome. This experience of a communitarian
salvation often generates creative ideas for
the improvement of a building or a neighbourhood.117

150. Given the interrelationship between living
space and human behaviour, those who design
buildings, neighbourhoods, public spaces and
cities, ought to draw on the various disciplines
which help us to understand people’s thought
processes, symbolic language and ways of acting.
It is not enough to seek the beauty of design.
More precious still is the service we offer to
another kind of beauty: people’s quality of life,
their adaptation to the environment, encounter
and mutual assistance. Here too, we see how important
it is that urban planning always take into
consideration the views of those who will live in
these areas.

151. There is also a need to protect those common
areas, visual landmarks and urban landscapes
which increase our sense of belonging,
of rootedness, of “feeling at home” within a
city which includes us and brings us together.

117 Some authors have emphasized the values frequently
found, for example, in the villas, chabolas or favelas of Latin
America: cf. Juan Carlos Scannone, S.J., “La irrupción del pobre
y la lógica de la gratuidad”, in Juan Carlos Scannone and
Marcelo Perine (eds.), Irrupción del pobre y quehacer filosófico. Hacia
una nueva racionalidad, Buenos Aires, 1993, 225-230.

It is important that the different parts of a city
be well integrated and that those who live there
have a sense of the whole, rather than being confined
to one neighbourhood and failing to see
the larger city as space which they share with others.
Interventions which affect the urban or rural
landscape should take into account how various
elements combine to form a whole which
is perceived by its inhabitants as a coherent and
meaningful framework for their lives. Others will
then no longer be seen as strangers, but as part
of a “we” which all of us are working to create.
For this same reason, in both urban and rural settings,
it is helpful to set aside some places which
can be preserved and protected from constant
changes brought by human intervention.

152. Lack of housing is a grave problem in
many parts of the world, both in rural areas and
in large cities, since state budgets usually cover
only a small portion of the demand. Not only
the poor, but many other members of society as
well, find it difficult to own a home. Having a
home has much to do with a sense of personal
dignity and the growth of families. This is a
major issue for human ecology. In some places,
where makeshift shanty towns have sprung up,
this will mean developing those neighbourhoods
rather than razing or displacing them. When the
poor live in unsanitary slums or in dangerous
tenements, “in cases where it is necessary to relocate
them, in order not to heap suffering upon
suffering, adequate information needs to be given
beforehand, with choices of decent housing
offered, and the people directly involved must be
part of the process”.118 At the same time, creativity
should be shown in integrating rundown
neighbourhoods into a welcoming city: “How
beautiful those cities which overcome paralyzing
mistrust, integrate those who are different
and make this very integration a new factor of
development! How attractive are those cities
which, even in their architectural design, are full
of spaces which connect, relate and favour the
recognition of others!”119

153. The quality of life in cities has much to
do with systems of transport, which are often
a source of much suffering for those who use
them. Many cars, used by one or more people,
circulate in cities, causing traffic congestion,
raising the level of pollution, and consuming
enormous quantities of non-renewable energy.
This makes it necessary to build more roads and
parking areas which spoil the urban landscape.
Many specialists agree on the need to give priority
to public transportation. Yet some measures
needed will not prove easily acceptable to society
unless substantial improvements are made in the
systems themselves, which in many cities force

118 Pontifical Council For Justice And Peace, Compendium
of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 482.
119 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November
2013), 210: AAS 105 (2013), 1107.

people to put up with undignified conditions due
to crowding, inconvenience, infrequent service
and lack of safety.

154. Respect for our dignity as human beings
often jars with the chaotic realities that people
have to endure in city life. Yet this should not
make us overlook the abandonment and neglect
also experienced by some rural populations
which lack access to essential services and where
some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude,
without rights or even the hope of a more
dignified life.

155. Human ecology also implies another profound
reality: the relationship between human
life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our
nature and is necessary for the creation of a more
dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke
of an “ecology of man”, based on the fact that
“man too has a nature that he must respect and
that he cannot manipulate at will”.120 It is enough
to recognize that our body itself establishes us in
a direct relationship with the environment and
with other living beings. The acceptance of our
bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and
accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father
and our common home, whereas thinking
that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies

120 Address to the German Bundestag, Berlin (22 September
2011): AAS 103 (2011), 668.

turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy
absolute power over creation. Learning to accept
our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest
meaning, is an essential element of any genuine
human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in
its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am
going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter
with someone who is different. In this
way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of
another man or woman, the work of God the
Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not
a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel
out sexual difference because it no longer knows
how to confront it”.121

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