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We Need An Earth Justice System To Live Eco-Spiritually With Earth – OpEd


There is an area where Christian spirituality and contemporary ecology can overlap to give assurance that we sustain planet Earth. This is the area of eco-spirituality.

This seeks and finds God not only in loving service of the neighbor but also in creation by reverencing life in all its diversity and all non-living things in all their nobility as humans’ reflections to an all wise and loving Creator.

We do this through prayers, sacred scriptures and sacraments and by being responsible trustees and caretakers of Earth. We do this as believing Christians leading spiritual lives to reach union with God by being concerned with all his creation.

Living and Acting Eco-Spiritually

In my 30 years of experience of earth-caring, a good ecologist is only worth his salt but also by believing the material cosmos, the world where humanity dwells together with all plants and animals, is a reality. The living human spirit is always enfleshed in a material body, always a being in the world with other beings, all interacting, all interdependent. No one escapes the fact of being situated in this world physically and spiritually.

People living spiritually breathe the same air, drink the same water and walk on the same earth as those who practice ecology. Beyond the shared obvious commonality, they share many values such as reverence for the living and non-living and appreciation for beauty.

I approach eco-spirituality in the context and from the side of traditional Christian values expanding self-awareness reaching out to expressions by actions that reflect spiritual validation—planting and caring for trees and plants, preventing destruction of landscapes, forests, soil, air, waters, pollinators, and; fighting for these by writing  talking in for a and by organizing street protests.

We Need an Earth Justice System.

As Christians, we expect a “new heaven and earth” (Rev 21:1), we believe in the value of the Creator’s creation We also need to internalize and concretize  a sense  of Earth Justice System.

By this I mean just as a human jurisprudence is a tool to create and maintain a human justice system, so an Earth Jurisprudence is a tool to help create and maintain an Earth Justice System.

What  an Earth Justice System will do?

An Earth Justice System is one that recognizes, honours and protects the rights of the planet earth as a living reality and the rights of all of its species, including the human species, to exist and fulfill mutual self-supporting destinies.

When we ask questions about “the nature of rights” , we are not simply asking a question about the character or characteristics of rights. We are referring to rights much more literally–as part of nature. “The nature of rights” means those elements of nature that expresses themselves in the form of rights.

There are three characteristics of the rights of the earth. First, they are “primordial”–they are the “first rights” or the “foundational rights” from which all other rights flow.

Second, because they are primordial, they have their own built-in unifying principle–the nature of the Earth– itself that confers a sense of purpose and direction.

Third, because they are primordial, they are also self-normative. They have a “built-in standard” that sets the standard for rights. They determine what a right is. To put it another way, we don’t understand the rights of the Earth through our understanding of human rights; we understand human rights through our understanding of the rights of the Earth.

Thomas Berry has described the characteristics of the rights of the earth in his simple, yet eloquent principles: “The Origin, Differentiation and Role of Rights.”  as the right of each creation to perform its role on Earth  without any threat or  disturbance.

A Bill of Rights For The Planet Earth

The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. As subjects, the component members of the universe are capable of having rights. The natural world on the planet Earth gets its rights from the same source that humans get their rights, from God who brought the universe into being.

Every component of the Earth community has three rights. The right to be, the right to habitat, and the right to fulfill its role in the ever-renewing process of the Earth community.

All rights are species specific and limited. Rivers have river rights. Birds have bird rights. Insects have insect rights. Humans have human rights. Difference of rights is qualitative not quantitative. The rights of an insect would be of no use to a tree or fish.

Human rights do not cancel out the rights of other modes of being to exist in their natural state. Human property rights are not absolute.

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Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan wrote for the British Panos News and Features and GEMINI News Service, the Brunei Times, and US Environment News Service. In the Philippines, he wrote for DEPTHNews of the Press Foundation of Asia, Today, the Philippine Post, and Vera Files. A practicing environmentalist, he holds postgraduate degrees in environment resource management and development studies as a European Union (EU) Fellow at University College, Dublin, Ireland. He is currently a Fellow of Echoing Green Foundation of New York City. He now writes for Business Mirror and Eurasia Review.

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