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May-June 2011

Vol. 36, No. 3


Harmony with nature: An invitation to fresh thinking

On Earth Day, April 22, the UN held an Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature. The dialogue was framed by a report on the same theme delivered by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2009 which provides an overview of how contemporary lifestyle in industrialized countries, through its consumption and production patterns, has severely affected the Earth's carrying capacity. It points out humanity's fundamental failure to recognize that human beings are an inseparable part of nature. It states passionately that nature cannot be damaged without severely damaging humanity, and calls for new and fresh thinking to guide human behavior.

The 2011 event, organized by Ambassador Pablo Solon of Bolivia, included a panel of speakers: Vandana Shiva of India, Riane Eisler of the U.S., Peter Brown of Canada and Cormac Cullinan of South Africa. Their remarks were tied to the upcoming two week meeting on Sustainable Development and the major UN Earth Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil in 2012.

Following the remarks of the panelists and interventions by government representatives, Sr. Ann Braudis, a Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns staff member who represents Maryknoll at the UN, was invited to give a brief response. Her remarks follow:

I would like to begin by thanking the Plurinational State of Bolivia for organizing this excellent event. I spent 15 years working and living in Bolivia and much of my thinking has been shaped through close association with the Bolivian people.

I would also like to acknowledge the excellent work of the panelists. Your inputs have been very compelling! I was pleased to hear Prof. Brown refer to the work of the great thinker and advocate for the Earth, Thomas Berry. I would like to add to the work that was highlighted earlier the following words of Thomas: "It is hand in hand with nature that we will go into the future or we will not go at all."

Maryknoll Sisters work with marginalized people around the world and bear witness to the fact that [Earth's] ecosystems are moving steadily toward biological collapse. Therefore, it is not surprising that we concur with most of the thinking presented here today, that the present dominant economic system is outmoded and corresponds to thinking that no longer correlates with reality. Furthermore, it is a source of immense injustice and inequity.

We believe that new ethical principles aligned with contemporary understandings about the nature and limits of the planet need to be articulated, and deliberately chosen to undergird a green and sustainable economy in the Sustainable Development Summit of 2012.

We hold that the satisfaction of human needs and rights must be seen as integral to a new approach to the Earth in its cosmic order, as known through science, and interpreted through the richness of cultures, through philosophical and spiritual insight, and through both visual and performing arts. The unbroken unfolding of the Earth in the past and up through the present indicates that the entire universe ... leans continuously into the future. Since humanity draws on the nature of the universe for its fundamental guidance and direction, humanity too must lean into the future. Today that means assuming the obligation to assure the very existence of the future in harmony with nature.

Economically speaking, a functional manifestation of this obligation and this work is understood and expressed in the concept of Steady State Economy; this means a sufficiency based economy for developed countries. It implies respecting the rights of countries in development to forge their own economies, sustainably and adequately, for meeting the authentic needs and rights of their citizens.

In the days and weeks to come Maryknollers will be deeply engaged in the meetings of the Commission on Sustainable Development, making every effort to assure that the situations around the world where Maryknollers and their partners are in mission are represented. It is the intention of Maryknollers to bring to the global table fresh thinking in support of international policy that guarantees for all humanity just societies in harmony with nature.

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