Although the term is new, eco-spirituality as a perspective on the spiritual and material fabric of the cosmos is an established part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The ancient Hebrew psalmist, sensing the presence of God in the world of nature, called on the whole cosmos to celebrate its Creator:
Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,
let the sea and all within it thunder praise,
let the land and all it bears rejoice,
all the trees of the wood shout for joy
at the presence of the Lord
for he comes, he comes to rule the earth! (Ps. 96:11-13)
It is possible to find such "seeing" among professional scientists, especially physicists and biologists, today. Their vision of the cosmos as an emerging, integral system of interconnected and interdependent parts leaves them stunned with beauty and wonder. From such enchantment with nature, it is only a short step to religious experience and to the considerations of eco-spirituality.
Our beautiful planet does not present a totally enthralling spectacle today. We have all heard about the major ecological problems: air pollution; holes in the ozone layer; nitric- or even sulphuric-acid rain; soil erosion; contamination of fresh water and of the oceans; deforestation, especially of tropical rain forests; hazardous waste disposal; and the total destruction of many biological species. What is threatened is the biosphere on which present and future generations depend.
Basic moral questions are involved in the continuing abuse of the environment. Humankind is so interconnected with the earth that environmental irresponsibility quickly touches human rights and human life. Columbian missionary Sean McDonagh says:
Any action which misuses the resources of the Earth, especially if it is destructive of life-forms and does not allow the emergent creative process of the Earth to continue in an integral and effective manner, is intrinsically evil. The reason is simple: it affects this generation and all future generation and life-forms on Earth in a way that involves irreversible damage to life-systems (To Care for the Earth: A Call to a New Theology, 196).
The world's ecological crisis has been widely noted, and some initial steps have been taken to solve it. As the Industrial Age draws to a close, ours is the generation that has to begin shifting gears and moving toward a new style of living if there is to be a civilization of any quality left for future generations. Since action flows from thinking and from willing, the first step should be a renewal of our perceptions and a conversion of heart. The first step towards the well-being of our planet is not political but spiritual.
A Change of Attitude
The deeper causes of the environmental problems we face lie in the human heart: the pathologies of fear, greed, selfishness, arrogance. Eco-spirituality knows there will be no healing of the earth unless there is a healing and conversion of hearts.
Our conversion-process may be slow and lengthy, but a good beginning can be made on the level of perception. Self-centered, myopic perception needs to be enlarged in order to see the cumulative, long-term effects of environmental abuse. For example, the effect of one internal-combustion automobile on the quality of the atmosphere is negligible; the effect of millions of cars driving millions of miles is painfully noticeable.