What is integral ecology in a nutshell?

POST BY AWentworth

Niall Leahy is a Jesuit from Ireland who is studying for an MA in Integral Ecology at the London Jesuit Centre. Here he explains what Integral Ecology is. 

If you want to know what integral ecology is then don’t waste your time reading this blog post and just read Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’. To cut to the chase then read Chapter Four, called (drum roll…) ‘Integral Ecology’. It does exactly what it says on the tin. 

Still here? Then here are a few thoughts about what awaits.

Pope Francis is encouraging us to ‘zoom out’ and get some sense of the context in which we live. Trying to look at the big picture is a difficult task so he helps us along by offering a number of different ways of seeing and understanding the world, e.g. theological, environmental, economic, social, cultural, patterns of daily life, personal dignity. Each of them represents a specific way of connecting people or a different ‘ecology’. The Pope is therefore helping us to become more conscious of the many different ways in which we are all connected to one another.

The Pope also says that in our present day the patterns of connecting people to each other do not make it possible for everyone to live well. (And by “everyone” he means everyone, including future generations). Using the language of Catholic Social Teaching, not all of the present interconnections are serving the ‘common good’.

One last point. Pope Francis is not saying that there is one perfect ready-made, one-size-fits-all, (deep breath…) socio-eco-agri-economic-cultural-political system that can be rolled out tomorrow all over the world which will solve all our problems. It is precisely that kind of thinking that got us into this crisis in the first place. In fact he wants us to respect our local circumstances and cultural heritages and build from the ground up in a way that integrates every important aspect of life. 

And that, in a nutshell, is integral ecology.