Traditional and contemporary eco-cosmologies within Western and Christian traditions: seeking sustainability through recognition of integral interconnection

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Byrne, Edmond P.
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The project of modernity has emanated from and pervaded Western life and culture for almost four centuries. It increasingly pervades an ever more globalised world, threatening cultural diversity and wisdom developed across diverse cultures and traditions. It promotes a paradigm of reduction and separation, promoting an individualistic consumerism (via an ideology of (infinite) growth), the driving force behind the contemporary crisis of unsustainability, as manifested by climate change, biodiversity and cultural loss/extinction, increased individualism/narcissism over collective/community, increased anxiety, and throwaway materialistic consumerism. The project of modernity, which has promised and delivered great goods, has been too smart for its own good; uber-smart trumps ancient wisdom. Western Christian culture has striven to develop and propogate this paradigm to the detriment of other global traditions, cultures and associated wisdoms. Indigenous cultures often emphasise the ecocosmological interconnectedness contra dominant Western culture, which has embraced competition, domination and control, often shrouded in a cosmology of ‘manifest destiny’. While the above presents a compelling narrative, the reality is more complex. Just as indigenous cultures can offer a rich and diverse understandings and appreciation of universal interconnection and a corresponding ethic, neither is this lacking among the Western Judeo-Christian tradition. Within this tradition, strong counter narratives have always existed. Heraclitus envisioned a world of process and continuous change and dialectic necessary opposites (echoing Eastern Taoist conceptions of complimentary Yin and Yang), in contrast to the more concrete rationalism of Plato. Francis of Assisi spoke of Brother Sun and Mother Earth, feeling a deep sense of communion with the natural world, while many Western academics, thinkers and influencers have always been to the fore in developing alternative conceptions to the dominant paradigm. This paper highlights alternative conceptions across Western Christian thought, recognising that indigenous diversity is enriched through all cultures and traditions. Examples include developments in process philosophy and eco-theology, as well as Pope Francis’ contemporary devastating critique of the individualistic throwaway globalised monoculture that a technocratic hypermodernity promotes.
Consumerism , Interconnection , Sustainability , Ecological crisis , Environmentalism , Eco-cosmology
Byrne, E.P. (2018) 'Traditional and contemporary eco-cosmologies within Western and Christian traditions: Seeking Sustainability through recognition of Integral Interconnection', Eco-cosmology, Sustainability and a Spirit of Resilience Conference, University College Cork, 21-22 September.
© 2018 the author.