JUSTICE AND ECOLOGICAL CIVILIZATION
John B. Cobb, Jr.
For those whose vision and sensibility are deeply informed by the Hebrew scriptures, the term “justice” works as an inclusive term for what is right and good. Indeed, some prefer the translation, “righteousness.” It applies to individual human behavior, and also to society as a whole. The idea of justice is less prominent in the New Testament, but it is taken for granted as important. In Jesus’ teaching the goal is the “basileia theou”, and this was made central in the social Gospel that dominated mainstream Protestantism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This has usually been translated as “the Kingdom of God,” although a basileia need not be a monarchy. Jesus shifted thinking of God from monarchical to familial categories. I believe a better translation would be “the divine Commonwealth.”
We who belonged to that branch of Christianity understood that our task was to ‘build the Kingdom.” But this phrase, unlike “justice”, could not be used to describe the character of human beings or their behavior. Hence, as Christians rediscovered the importance of the social dimension of action in the nineteenth century, “justice” became for us the key word to identify the comprehensive goal. The social gospel inspired cooperation among churches, specially to achieve justice; so, the ecumenical movement identified the Christian goal as justice.
For the most part this has worked well. So much of what is glaringly wrong with our world is readily described as injustice. Throughout history, powerful nations have conquered and exploited weaker ones. During modernity the conquering and exploiting nations were usually Christian ones. All too often the church supported conquest and exploitation. It was long past time for Christians in the exploiting nations to ally themselves with the aspirations for freedom in the exploited ones.
Throughout history, the powerful have enslaved or exploited the powerless. By the late nineteenth century, the United States had freed the slaves, but the exploitation of Blacks had in some ways gotten even worse. Both globally and nationally, industrial capitalism was establishing its supremacy in the economic world of Christendom, especially in Protestant countries. The condition of workers in the new factories was appalling. Workers organized themselves to gain some measure of justice. Too often the leadership of the churches acquiesced in their ruthless exploitation. It was long past time for Christians to give support to workers. In the twentieth century, much of the attention was directed to those who were victimized because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.
When Protestants influenced by the social gospel extended to other faiths their quest for mutual support in the quest for justice, they did not think much about the possible limitations of an idea derived from ancient Israel. I doubt that there was much discussion about the adequacy of the term at the time of the establishment of the Parliament of World Religions. Today it may be time to reflect about it.
The notion of “justice” has many rich connotations. These center around two foci. The first is distributive justice: that people be treated equally especially in the distribution of good things. The second is that people be treated as they deserve. Both of these foci have valuable contributions to make, but both are also problematic.
Few of us favor the extreme economic inequalities that characterize today’s world. Distributive just calls for reducing inequality. Calling for this is an essential part of our task. Nevertheless, putting the goal of equality forward as our central concern is problematic. The most serious effort to achieve equality among people, was the “cultural revolution” promoted in China by Mao. The most important inequality there was the gap between the urban middle class and the much more numerous farmers. Mao tried hard to overcome this class division. That he failed does not invalidate his goal, but those who were losing their privileges look back on that experiment with horror. They had been abused, often violently. Justice as equality, imposed by force, must at least be recognized as having extreme problems. Few of us favor renewing Mao’s effort. Clearly, social and economic equality is not a goal that overrides all other considerations.
The World Council of Churches recognized the need to introduce another characteristic of the kind of society toward which it worked. It added the word “participatory”. The society it supported should be just and participatory. This qualification excludes the Cultural Revolution, but the result is still problematic. Although no one now favors the brutality of that effort to achieve equality, we need to take note of the fact that in many cases of significant decrease in inequality, such as the substantial reduction of poverty, authoritarian regimes have been involved, and the great majority of people are supportive of what is being done. Surely, we can still recognize and appreciate the value of what is accomplished even if it was not done through democratic structures. If we really had the chance to be governed by Plato’s philosopher-king, are we who represent the great wisdom traditions of the world altogether opposed?
Now consider the second idea we hear in “justice”; each of us should get what we deserve. There is certainly much good that comes from that kind of justice. We prefer a society in which faithful and honest workers are rewarded more than those who exploit others and save themselves by deceit. But when we go to our primary spiritual teachers, we often find a different emphasis.
Sometimes we learn that if each of us were treated as we truly deserve, none of us would fare well. We Christians are deeply grateful for God’s love and mercy. Paul tells us that we are justified by our own righteousness but by participation in the faithfulness of Jesus. This participation expresses itself more in love than in treating others according to their deserts. This teaching does not put what we or others deserve at the center of consideration.
Justice dominates Christian social ethics despite the primacy of love in Christian theology, and many Christians who focus on justice recognize the greater ultimacy of love. They do not support legalism, and can point to the broad Hebrew meaning of justice and the importance of mercy in the just life and society. Nevertheless, the connection between justice and law, also in the Hebrew scriptures, cannot be simply denied.
Few Christians have replaced the primacy of love with that of justice in their understanding of individual motivation and interpersonal morality. But in social ethics, the tendency in this direction is significant. Consider as examples the following quotes. Reinhold Niebuhr: “Justice is an approximation of love under conditions of sin.” Cornell West: “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Thus, for Christian social ethics, justice plays the supreme role, little modified by love. For Buddhists, compassion would not be thus pushed into the background, and social harmony might be a better goal to describe what compassion looks like in public.
In other great wisdom traditions, “justice” either as equalizing or as dealing with people as they deserve is not particularly attractive. In East Asia, “harmony” is typically prized more than justice. Whereas in the West we are likely to think it important that a criminal pay for his crime, in Japan the concern is more that the community that has been disrupted be healed. The goal is that the criminal be truly remorseful and ready to serve the community. Many Christians would join the Japanese in affirming a system in which restoring community takes priority over just punishment. But the call for “justice” typically works against any such reform of the penal system.
Masao Abe and I organized a group of Buddhist and Christian thinkers to clarify the similarities and differences of Buddhism and Christianity and to help each to learn from the other. Often a major difficulty was identifying a topic for the next meeting that we both recognized as important. On one occasion when we were stumbling on this, Rosemary Ruether called out “let’s talk about justice.” As a Christian she assumed everyone was interested in that. However, the Buddhists expressed their distaste for this topic. Many Buddhists rely on the unmerited compassion of the Bodhisattvas -- not justice. They feel called to act with compassion toward all creatures, not to treat them according to their deserts.
It is not hard for Christians to recognize value in harmony and compassion. For example, an obviously important characteristic of the society we seek is that it be at peace. In Christian ethics reflection about war has led to the question of whether war is ever “just.” The answer of nations that want to fight is always that their war is just. If the question of war were approached with the ideal of compassion or harmony as central, perhaps people would support their nation’s wars less frequently.
In the World Council of Churches, beginning with “justice” and qualifying it may be the appropriate direction to go, given the modern history of Christian ethics. But in the Parliament of World Religions, I believe that this primacy of “justice” should be questioned. It is good to see that peace is given independent and equal consideration with justice in the Parliament of World Religions, rather than being treated as a subtopic. I propose that there be serious consideration of giving equal standing to the central values of other traditions, such as compassion and harmony.
In the late nineteen-sixties, people all over the planet began to realize that neglect of the natural world had led human beings to move in a suicidal direction. Their exploitation of nature was unsustainable. Eventually Christians saw that they had led the world in focusing on human beings and ignoring the rest of the world. A society that was just and participatory and peaceful could still be self-destructive. The WCC added “sustainable” to the requirements. It aimed at a “just, participatory, and sustainable” society.
Here, too, the Parliament is ahead of the WCC. “Sustainability” is an independent section. That gives a more realistic sense of its importance than limiting it to an additional characteristic of the just society we seek. But in naming what we seek, the word “sustainable” is still problematic. That this is so is clearly recognized by the Parliament in its invitation to indigenous people to participate.
At the same time that we can rejoice that sustainability is given high visibility, we may also deplore the fragmentation of discussion implicit in this or any separation of the issue of sustainability from those of peace and justice. Many recognize that there can be no peace when vast numbers of people are being exploited mercilessly. Reducing poverty at the cost of becoming more unsustainable is profoundly problematic. But becoming more sustainable at the cost of increasing poverty is also profoundly problematic. War inherently and necessarily is unjust to many people, and it speeds the world on the road to self-destruction. But the loss of dignity and independence may sometimes be too high a price to pay for peace.
The idea of a sustainable society is clearly focused on the relation to the natural environment if human societies. It calls attention to the fact that humans are exploiting the nonhuman world in ways that cannot continue. Fish stocks and forests and soil are being exhausted. Human waste is accumulating. Aquifers are being exhausted. Rivers are running dry. Global climate is deteriorating. I need not continue the litany of destruction. This calls for an attention to the natural world that has been absent in “civilized” communities. That is a great gain.
However, the attention based on the recognition of the unsustainability of our use of our natural environments can still be governed by an interest only in how the rest of the world serves us humans. Indigenous peoples never objectified nature in that way. They have known that we are part of that world. All creatures have their own integrity and value. Our deep interconnection with one another extends to everything. We are neither separate nor in control. Perhaps this deep sense of interconnection constitutes yet another distinct focus of understanding and concern alongside justice, compassion, and harmony.
My judgment is that a serious discussion of these matters, even in the early days of the Parliament, might have led to calling for a just, compassionate, harmonious, and interconnected society, as well as one that is participatory and sustainable. Perhaps the Parliament could have played the role of helping each community learn from the others at a deep level. Perhaps more of this is still possible.
However, even this extended list of characteristics of the society for which we hope is still far from complete. Many of us would want to add wisdom or at least honesty. The list thus far does not specify the importance of people being healthy. It neglects the need for beauty and creativity. Nothing is said about how children are cared for, or about the need for personal intimacy. I doubt that a complete list of attributes of the world we want is possible.
Perhaps a better way of approaching the task to which we all commit ourselves would be to find a name for the world for which we hope. This would identify a common, inclusive goal. If we can agree on that, then we can recognize that there are many ways to work for it. Many debates about its character will be legitimate and desirable. A detailed description can evolve over time, but that should still leave much open for diverse experiments and invite discussion of diverse ways of moving toward it. With a common goal, even though our tasks are highly varied, we can recognize our deeper unity.
We Christians are encouraged by Jesus’ example to aim at the divine Commonwealth. We will not go wrong to do so. It is the world in which God’s will is done, and Jesus’ life and teaching give us guidance as to what God wills. Nevertheless, in our very different day, we need new language.
Paul gave us no language about the world at large, but he did provide a normative image of the congregations he established. He depicted them as analogous to the human body. We now know a great deal more about the human body than Paul could have, but the new knowledge supports Paul’s use of the model. Paul sees the body as a complex organism which can function well only as each of its parts performs its distinctive role. To model the church on this is to depict a society composed of very diverse people each of whom is encouraged to contribute to the whole the distinctive gifts with which she or he is endowed. Each contributes uniquely to all the others and receives the unique gifts of all the others. Since all are needed, there can be no hierarchy of better and inferior roles.
For Paul, our interdependence is very deep. He says we are members one of another. That means that I am what and who I am in part because you are what and who you are. We are both what and who we are because of the communities in which we participate. It is in and through our relationships with others that we are able to be strong persons who contribute freely and richly to one another. For Christians, and, I think, for others as well, the isolated individual of much modern thinking does not exist. And holding that Enlightenment model of human beings has led us into self-destructive thinking and actions.
In recent years our study of the natural world has shown that it is not only individual organisms that have this character of mutual dependence of parts but also, whole ecosystems. The term “ecological” has taken this on as its primary connotation. Members of some species are composed of far more complex bodies than others. Some bodies support what we call “psyches” whose lives are far richer than other entities. But the survival of the ecosystem may depend far more on the simpler organisms than on these complex ones. When we, as the most complex of all, disrupt the interactions among the others, we threaten our own survival. Paul gave us an ecological model of the congregation. Perhaps this model will help us also in envisioning the world we want. Perhaps we humans can understand that we are what and who we are because of the natural ecosystems in which we participate.
What we often call the “scientific worldview” is very different. It is composed of separate individual substances that push and pull each other around. But for decades many scientists have thought in terms of fields. What they are learning empirically is that the relational model of ecosystems has many applications beyond biology. To replace the model of individual substances with the model of profound interdependence is to join those at the leading edge of many sciences. We need a vision of the world for which we long that fits our growing recognition that Paul was right. We are members one of another.
The finest formulations of this model, fully actualized in the lives of individuals and communities, are provided by indigenous people in various parts of the planet. Nevertheless, to give us practical guidance in an industrialized world, these models need to be reformulated in some respects.
We are fortunate to have available to us now two proposals of this kind. One of them is that of Pope Francis in Laudato Si. He calls for an “integral ecology.” The other comes to us from China. The Communist Party there has written into its constitution the goal of becoming an “ecological civilization.” Neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Chinese Communist Party claims to actualize what is called for, but we are fortunate to have the visions, all the same.
Both of these proposals have already been unpacked to a considerable degree. But both leave a great deal to be worked out. I am impressed that the world for which they call is very similar, perhaps, identical. In the past, people have usually begun with human society as an independent reality and asked how to improve it and assure its survival. In contrast, both of these propose call for the improvement of a world in which humanity and other species are deeply interwoven. In my view, this is an important advance, and it is one which many feminists promote and to which most spiritual traditions can and should give support.
Both proposals build on the growing recognition of the importance of what is denoted and connoted by “ecology”. For a while, still focusing on human society as a separable reality, the new understanding of how it is threatened led to heavy use of “sustainable”. As we have come to understand that all the world is, in Christian language, God’s beloved creation, we need language that expresses human participation in something more inclusive. Many of us now could not take seriously any goals for the future that did not express this understanding. The proposals of Pope Francis and the Chinese Communists both build it into their names for the goal.
Pope Francis’ formulation places “ecology” in the center. It is the whole ecological system that needs to flourish. The adjective “integral” means that humanity is an important and positive part of the ecology to whose flourishing we are to contribute.
The Chinese put “civilization” in the center. But their one characterization of this civilization is that it is ecological. That means that the new civilization for which we call is grounded in its relations with nonhuman species, that these relations should display mutuality, and that interpersonal relations will be deeply informed by ecological norms. Despite the differences in formulation, the practical implications are much the same.
My judgment is that the Parliament of World Religions would do well to support one, or both, of these proposals in its understanding of its goal for the world. Perhaps some prefer one formulation and others prefer the other. A little competition will do no harm.
Whichever one a group chooses, they will still need to be concerned with justice, compassion, harmony, and interconnection as well as participation and sustainability. At times other terms will come to the fore. When nuclear war is likely, peace should be central to our thinking. Similarly, when increasing carbon in the atmosphere threatens survival, focusing on that becomes crucial. As the financial institutions sucking wealth out of the pockets of the poor, responding to that may be of first importance.
If our goal is integral ecology or ecological civilization, whatever most threatens that goal becomes of immediate and urgent concern for all. On the other hand, utmost respect should always be paid to those who faithfully continue their focus on the many diverse causes: racial justice, saving species, appropriate education, ecological agriculture, reduction of violence, meeting the needs of children, on and on. All those who work for these and many other causes can understand themselves to be allies in a common cause.
I personally consider the term “ecological civilization” to be a better guide to what both Pope Francis and the Chinese Communist Party want. But probably that is not the best choice for many Roman Catholics. I am working with an order of nuns who want to promote Laudato Si and its call for “integral ecology.” I have no criticism at all. There are, no doubt, other Christians and members of other traditions who prefer the pope’s conceptuality. May they flourish. I ask only that they recognize their close companionship with those who choose “ecological civilization.” I would be deeply distressed if my explanation of my preference for “ecological civilization” caused any disparagement of the pope’s language or suggested a split between us. What I consider limitations of the term, are ways in which the term, taken out its context in Laudato Si, might be misunderstood. Given the rich context supplied by the encyclical, its meaning is ideal.
One objection to the term “ecological civilization” points to a reason for my favoring it. Historically, civilization has always involved a break with the local ecology. Instead of human beings adjusting their behavior to the wellbeing of the ecological system, civilization has entailed reshaping the natural world to serve the artificial one. Accordingly, some who are deeply sensitive to the importance of ecological health call for a break with civilization. The practical implications vary, but, in general, I fear, the population that could survive without civilization would be small. I am confident that the pope’s integral ecology does not entail abandoning the elements of civilization needed to support a large population, but rejection of this option is clearer when civilization is included explicitly in the name.
I will illustrate my concern. In healthy ecologies, predation plays a large role to keep populations in balance. The deer population is checked by wolves that kill them for food. Some of our ancient ancestors did become the food of wild animals, but today our killers are more likely to be microscopic. I do believe that it would be better if world population declined, but I do not favor ending our medical efforts to protect people from diseases. Population control should be by “civilized” measures such as the education of girls and cultural favoring of small families. It is very likely that war, disease, and starvation will cause population reduction, but we should not give up civilized means of working against them. Making “civilization” rather than “ecology” the noun protects us from misunderstanding.
An ecological civilization does not view human beings simply as part of a natural ecology, but it does change quite radically the relation of humanity to the natural ecology that has developed in the history of civilization. This can be illustrated in food production. In hunting and gathering societies, humans are obviously dependent on the health of the ecosystem. If they seriously disrupt that system, it will no longer support them. This dependence is much like that of other species.
Introducing gardening into that system is often possible without major disruption. But cities, the hallmark of civilization, required much more. The domestication of grains, typical of civilization, led to humans disturbing the soil on a large scale. Top soil was lost. If irrigation was involved, salinization began. Whereas gardening did not have a major effect on animal species, cities replaced wild animals with domesticated ones and killed off predators over considerable areas. They used forests unsustainably and destroyed the habitat of many species. Hence it is understandable that some of those most concerned about ecological matters say that the rise of cities, that is, civilization, is inherently destructive of ecosystems, and that to speak of an ecological civilization is an oxymoron.
I believe that recognizing the deep connection between urbanization and the destruction of natural ecologies is crucial to recognizing the radicality of the changes that are needed from our present form of civilization to an ecological one. On the other hand, to deny that this is possible, is a counsel of despair. A depleted planet could support very few people if the only way of responding to our crisis is by turning our backs on civilization. We have no choice but to try to figure out how cities can become parts of a larger flourishing ecosystem. This gives a sharp focus to our task.
Wes Jackson has made an extremely important contribution. I have pointed to the connection between agriculture and loss of soil. Jackson sees that this goes back ten thousand years. To increase grain yields, farmers developed annual grains out of their perennial ancestors. Annual ploughing began the loss of soil. Now Wes has studied how nature builds up the soil when left to itself. He notes that natural ecologies are mostly perennial polycultures. The incompatibility of human food production with nature comes from the replacement of perennial polycultures with annual monocultures. He believes that human beings can return to perennial polycultures while producing as much food as they now do with annual monocultures. Whereas the “experts” told him this could not be done, over a period of fifty years he has developed a perennial grain that is competitive with annuals. Now that he has done this, others, all over the world are working on other grains. One major cause of soil loss can be ended, by renewing nature’s pattern. Civilization can be re-formed by adopting nature’s ways.
For millions of years human beings got all their energy from the current sunshine. They inflicted no damage thereby on the ecological system. However, already in the bronze age they deforested large areas partly for fuel. Far more extensive destruction came with the industrial system. This required massive amounts of fossil fuel. Ecosystems were disrupted in extracting fossil fuels, and we now see that their use has done very serious ecological damage. This is a major reason for being discouraged about the human prospect, especially in the form of civilization.
However, progress is being made toward a renewal of dependence on current sunshine. We can use the knowledge and technology gained by civilization to greatly reduce the amount of energy that we use. And the rapidity with which systems of transforming sunlight into electricity are growing is quite encouraging. We do not have to have fossil fuels in order to have an industrial civilization.
Another of my heroes is Paolo Soleri. Soleri was inspired by his reflection on the natural world to re-envision cities. He proposed building what he called “architectural ecologies”, abridged as “arcologies”. Single buildings could house large cities in which people could get from any place to any other in a few minutes, without using private cars, taxis, buses, or trains. The entire arcology could get all of its energy from the sun. If we build arcologies instead of suburbs and convert many suburbs into arcologies, cities will use far less energy, cease to occupy so much fertile land, and greatly reduce their disruption of natural ecologies. The time lost by tens of millions of workers in long commutes would be saved for life with family and community.
Soleri was offering us arcologies sixty years ago. We insisted on suburbs, and we are paying a high price. But better late, very late, than never. Before one decides that ecological civilization is an oxymoron, one should study his proposals. They are technologically possible. The problem is deep-seated habit and closure to radical change. But as the problems caused by urban sprawl become deeply felt by city-dwellers, we may be on the verge of willingness to consider a profoundly different city and, thereby, a profoundly different civilization.
Another of my reasons for favoring “ecological civilization” is that its adoption in China has already produced a considerable literature and some practical effects. Of course, some of what I cite as practical effects of the adoption of this goal might have occurred without the terminology. But it is worth noting that China now evaluates its political leaders, such as governors of provinces, not only by typical measures of economic growth, but also according to environmental improvement. Further, it sets national growth goals lower than it could, in order to encourage ecologically sensitive growth.
A clearer case of the influence of the ideal of ecological civilization has been a shift of agricultural policy. Ten years ago, it was largely assumed that China should and would modernize its agriculture. Modernizing agriculture meant industrializing it. The massive migration from country-side to city would continue and even increase. Most villages would disappear.
The goal of building an ecological civilization enabled opponents of industrializing agriculture to make the case that an ecological civilization requires an ecological countryside and ecological farming. The government changed its policies. Of course, there are enormous problems, and the whole effort may yet collapse. But currently the goal is to develop the country-side in sustainable, and preferably organic, ways. There are now many ecological villages, and the idea is taking hold. In 2016 for the first time more people moved from the cities to villages than from villages to cities. China’s commitment to work toward an ecological civilization is making a difference.
It would be foolish to think that China is now a model of ecological civilization. One reason for officially adopting the goal was that the ecological situation was so bad, and rapid economic growth still threatens to make it worse. Perhaps China’s example can give hope that as the situation grows worse, other countries will commit themselves, with some seriousness, to becoming ecological civilizations.
To aim at ecological civilization does not mean to aim at homogeneity. In nature there are many, many ecologies. Each is appropriate to a particular situation. It might be better to speak in the plural of ecological civilizations. Commitment to ecological civilization would encourage nations to develop in their individual ways growing organically out of their history and culture. Their economies would adjust to their resources and real needs, so that they would become much more self-sufficient.
Even within nations, moves to local self-sufficiency and self-determination are moves toward ecological civilization. The ideal is to produce most of the food a community consumes locally. Even manufacturing of what is really needed can be widely dispersed. Financial control should devolve from the present global banks to nations and within nations to states and cities. The lives and livelihood of people in local regions are now extensively dependent on decisions in which they do not participate, far away, and in which their interests are little considered. The less this is true, the better the chance of development of communities in which people feel responsibility for one another and for the well being of the community as a whole.
Currently schools train youth homogeneously to contribute to the global market. They are totally urban oriented. The only values they serve are money and additional information on numerous separate topics. Our leading universities pride themselves on identifying “education” as “value-free research.” Setting the goal of preparing young people in very diverse situations to give leadership in building ecological civilizations all around the world would radically transform education and the thinking of future generations.
If nations become largely self-sufficient they need not use enormous resources to import extensively from others. They need not compete with others for control over scarce resources outside their boundaries. They will be freer to cooperate with other self-sufficient nations in collectively dealing with global problems.
What might the program of the World Parliament look like if it were organized to promote thought and action directed toward an ecological civilization? The common focus would be on how people of faith and communities of faith can contribute to a satisfying human survival of the crises we now face.
There might be a section on the production, distribution, and consumption of food. People would write about how to redevelop healthy soil for the production of healthy food and how that can produce healthy persons and healthy communities. Because healthy soil stores carbon, issues of climate are addressed in the discussion of agriculture.
Others could write about education. How can we overthrow our present educational system designed to support a capitalist system by promoting individualistic competition for scarce jobs and the assumption that increased market-activity is the one unifying goal of society? What kind of education would contribute to an ecological civilization?
Still others could work to envision an economic system that would overcome poverty while also reducing the threat of ecological collapse and climate change. What changes would be needed in our financial system to make this possible? How could corporations be brought into the service of communities rather than continue their domination of society?
Some fear that focusing on an ecological civilization would detract from responding to the terrible injustices from which the world now suffers. Since an ecological civilization could not be racist or sexist or homophobic, specific discussions of all these topics would be entirely appropriate. Even more clearly, it would require the end of neo-colonialism and imperialism. The challenge would be to move toward this end without war and with a minimum of violence. Some night study how poverty can be reduced without increased market activity.
For the Parliament of World Religions to encourage religious communities everywhere to commit to work for an ecological civilization would be a significant gift to humanity and to the natural ecology into which we need to fit. Perhaps offering the world a truly attractive vision of what can be hoped for and worked for may today be the best way to fulfil our collective calling. Jesus’ message as a Jew in the context of the Roman Empire was: “Repent, for the divine Commonwealth is at hand.” Perhaps today he is joined by the saints and sages of many traditions in crying out: “Repent, for ecological civilization is at hand.”