Humankind and Nature

MRI International Workshop 2012

Humankind and Nature:
An Endangered System of Interdependence
in Today’s Globalising World

Macau, 7th – 8th November, 2012

Since the 1960s, concepts like “conservation” and “environment friendly” have become part of our language and to a lesser degree of our lifestyle. When it comes to facing these issues, religions are par excellence positioned to teach and deal with the relationship between man and his environment. Eastern thought has many references to this, notably tian ren he yi (unity of humankind and nature), and there is also an equally reflective teaching in Western religion (Christianity) expressed in the first divine invitation to man: “to fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:1–3:23). Where are we now with the response of major religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Taoism, to this particular call?

Today’s relationship between man and nature is defined by economic development. With the great impact on other forms of life and also human suffering and poverty, however, this “development” could be seen as a myth. Billions of people experience growing vulnerability to food and water shortages, wars and environmental disasters. Much of the challenge is not only to science and technology but also to the neo-liberalist economic policy. Again, where has religion helped to deepen this human engagement with resource development and the need for balance? How does religion contribute to bringing about a greater human consciousness of the value of the gift of life? Where is the celebration of creation?

The economic development that guides science and technology has greatly contributed to today’s crisis in the relationship of humans to nature. Conservation and actions to protect the environment have been aimed to remedy this problem, but this relates very much to an urban middle class re-discovery of this relationship and easily blames or excludes the rural poor as part of the problem. Ecology is an ‘-ology’, a study, science or ideal that is not always inclusive of all of humanity, especially of people at the margins. We as humanity are not one, nor are we one with that into which we were created.

Nowadays the elites in our societies dominate not only creation but also humanity, and consequently our participation in globalisation is unequal. Our humanity is no longer what includes us in a common fellowship as dogs in condominiums often eat better than children in the streets of many of our global cities. What has development done to humanity? Does it always have to be advanced technologies that give us a comfortable lifestyle? We are still working here in the realm of comfort zones, and there is no place in any of this for religion that speaks of limits, even cutbacks, and that accepts and enters into human suffering.

Man does not merely influence nature in a destructive way; it is as if all men, women, and children are in a battle to triumph over the realities of nature. There is a struggle for power in the dominant human self-image, while there is a lack of self-reflection as part of nature, and of recognition of human needs, especially in terms of suffering and limits of moral values.

In this particular context we can consider the role of religions and seek their valuable contributions. Since religion’s role is not simply morality but especially in Christianity is to show the face of God, it is out of this relation we then seek to live towards the ‘good’, especially in relation to our neighbour, creation and God. Religious believers may have failed severely in communicating this relationship in the twenty-first century. So we might ask:

- How relevant is religion to the challenges and changes in a sustainable world as a result of market growth and financial crisis?

- How can modern religions adapt, contribute and be part of social maturation in response to the times and context of a vulnerable heaven and earth?

- How can religions respond to the call to meet basic human needs and to have a more secure and sustainable relationship with the natural resources and diversity of life?

Main Themes

1. Reflections on Religions and Ecology
- How do these traditions relate to helping people live towards the ‘good’ (at least to meet basic human needs)?

2. Reflections on Humankind
- What has global development done to humanity?

3. Reflections on the Conservation Movement
- How could we ‘balance’ development and conservation and still meet basic needs of the many people of humanity? Can we achieve a balance that is good for all?

4. Reflections on Technology
- Where is the space for self-reflection and recognition of human needs when bio-sciences are progressing extremely fast?

Scientific Committee

Christopher Key Chapple
Loyola Marymount University, USA

Ven. Guang Xing
The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

Luis Gutheinz, S.J.
China Leprosy Service, Taipei

Stephan Rothlin, S.J.
Center for International Business Ethics, China

Mary Evelyn Tucker
Yale University, USA

Dominique Tyl, S.J.
Macau Ricci Institute, Macau SAR, China

Pedro Walpole, S.J.
Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines

Artur Wardega, S.J.
Macau Ricci Institute, Macau SAR, China

7th - 8th November, 2012

Workshop Venue
Auditorium, Team Building,
Institute for Tourism Studies, Macau

English, Chinese (Mandarin).
Simultaneous Interpretation Provided

Organising Institution
澳 門 利 氏 學 社
Macau SAR, China


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