Members of CEH, we all share the belief that there is a profound need for societies and institutions, those which concern our shared way of life and styles of development, to be reoriented and reconstructed. It is evident that there is a progressive change on our earth, concerning the conditions for a wholly human life; a shift linked to a continual deterioration in the quality and fertility of our cultural and natural environments.
Additionally, it is clear that this environmental concern is not a recent matter. In fact, for decades the ecological question has been the subject of great discussion. It has inspired multiple public policies and international conferences, generated the creation of environmental norms in economics and has largely fed western culture. However, despite this strong influence, the results are mediocre. The presence of an ecological discourse has not been enough to contain and control the deterioration of the environment.
To us, the current situation is the result of a poor evaluation of priorities. The ecological and main concern is the human being, as well as human dignity and integrity. The environmental disaster comes as the consequence of brutality towards human kind. This has resulted in an insidious development of the primacy of possession and comfort over the primacy of the individual, in the predominance of efficiency over the relationship and in the establishment of a freedom relying on the accomplishment of individual desires. As the amount of superficial goals increases, many people experience a loss of meaning in their lives and a feeling of helplessness, especially in finding their course towards freedom. Unfortunately, the immediate result of the neglect of humanity and its natural environment is often disregarded. When man is considered as a resource, nature is no longer considered as an endlessly exploitable resource.
“Each individual can only succeed in discovering how to coexist harmoniously,
when its place within an environment is centred around the common good”
Therefore, the place of human beings within the organisation of society is central to the ecological question. Whereas currently, our systems of governance are dehumanised and have become litigious. Marked by a joint movement of globalisation and specialisation, our world has become so complex that it is necessary for each individual to lead their own life, and to contribute individually and collaboratively to the common good. In a context of increasing interdependence between human beings, populations and living beings, it is necessary that each individual gains awareness of their personal responsibility. It is a matter of honour. It is unthinkable for individuals to fulfil themselves, if they do not discover how to live together in an environment centred around the principle of common good. The construction of faith in humanity and individuals, is an essential dimension of the path we must follow.
At CEH we propose to put the wellbeing of mankind at the heart of society’s direction and decision making. Our mission should be based on an anthropological proposal and a vision of man and society which incorporates the pacification of the relationship between mankind and nature. This being the objective of our current manifesto, stemming from the essential principles which must guide the transformation of society by humanity. All this, for humanity’s sake.
WHY ACT? HUMANITY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ITS ENVIRONMENT
Human beings live in an environment in which social and natural dimensions are closely related, they should be considered by their interactions and their unity. On the one hand, the distinction between a social and economic sphere, and on the other between an environmental and natural sphere. CEH rejects the ongoing reductionism. For, humanity lives and acts in a unique biosphere in which it is united; there is an intertwining of social and natural dimensions which constitute our living environment. Both are perceived by human consciousness.
It is crucial that human activity shapes the environment, in order to make life safer and fairer; in other words, better. However, it could simultaneously cause damage by making eventually human life more difficult and even impossible – this ambiguity is what makes humanity responsible.
We maintain the belief that the complex relationship between humanity and our environment is arranged around human life, concerning both its organisation and its quality; thus defining the corner stone for the development of human ecology:
Ecology: used in the sense in which the discussion (logos), concerning the common home (oikos) which forms the social and natural environment, must account for the multiple interactions which enhance or damage life.
Human ecology: concerns using humankinds shared concrete life experiences and humanity’s consciousness in order to determine the civic and political conditions, in order to allow life to thrive – the ultimate purpose of human activity.
Therefore, we must take into account the natural consequences of our actions on our environment, on the quality of our air and water, on the balance and the diversity of living beings. Just as much as we must take account of the social consequences on the family, on the wider population and on its history, territory and shared experiences, as well as languages and cultures which ensure the possibility of a shared discourse. Because all these elements make up human lives, and it is up to each generation to pass on to future generations, not only a habitable planet, but also anthropological points of reference which allow each individual to thrive.
This consideration of a wide range of elements is what characterises human ecology, and it is necessary to specify the anthropological founding principles.
“It is crucial that human activity shapes the environment
in order to make life safer and fairer, or in other words, better.”
ACTING IN THE NAME OF WHAT? AN INSPIRING ANTHROPOLOGY
Action based around the human being
We believe that it is necessary to take into account “the wellbeing of every individual and all individuals” – this is the guiding principle for initiatives or policies that are compatible with human ecology. Every individual deserves to be respected and welcomed simply due to the fact that they are a living being. This principle should not be restricted and consequently allows a modest level of commitment to be set. In order to justify human activity and its effect on the environment, the activity should make the environment favourable to the ability of every living individual, present and future, to thrive.
For every individual
CEH is inspired by “an anthropology of 360 degrees” which embraces the human being in all dimensions that boost the ability for human life to thrive. In particular, we believe that there are 3 dimensions which show the presence of a human being in its environment and that these dimensions are all of equal importance. The physical dimension, the intellectual dimension and the spiritual dimension. We cannot discredit anything without the risk of diminishing the integrity and freedom of an individual. The spiritual dimension, however it may be expressed, particularly opens up the possibility of the sacred, in other words, the possibility to surpassing what is defined exclusively by human culture. The spiritual dimension allows us to escape from political, technical or utilitarian determinisms which could turn the human being into a means for the establishment of a single concrete end point, and the environment into a simple supplier of resources to use.
For all individuals
Humans are fundamentally interdependent beings and this interdependence is proven by procreation. From conception and throughout life, a human being requires other people in order to survive, to be protected, to gain self-knowledge and understanding and to develop. The link between each individual and their environment is created by multiple affinities and affiliations, both familial and social, yet also by engagements with transitional, professional, economic, political or cultural bodies. All of these allow each individual to construct their own identity and to find their own conditions, which enables them to thrive and find freedom – thus defining the solidarity of the human family. Authentic ecology cannot exist in a world which excludes individuals. In other words, a common home cannot be a common home if individuals, judged as unworthy, are excluded: this anthropological statement is the basis of our action. It is open to deeper study, and is open to the consideration of the roles played by human and social sciences in the establishment of a perspective, which is benevolent. Although, it also requires humans to work, whether it be physically, intellectually or spiritually, in order to render our environment more favourable to life.
Making the social and natural environment more favourable to life
The quality of the environment in which humans live, will either support or inhibit their ability to fully thrive. There are seven imperatives for a favourable environment:
1. Appropriate material living conditions
2. Impartiality of justice
3. Personal freedom of expression, action and belief
4. Harmonious integration of individuals into their natural environment
5. Fair access to aesthetic contemplation
6. Complete and full participation (both personally and communally), in the responsibility of common good
7. The responsibility of the individual to ensure that the living environment is passed on to future generations. In which, the six previous requirements can be applied
It is necessary to articulate these 7 imperatives alongside the need to maintain confident interpersonal relationships, which nowadays can be expressed through the democratic organisation of public activities. However, they can be hindered by private interests which weaken them and which tend to impose a utilitarian and deterministic view of life on humanity.
Our engagement with human ecology leads us to understand, without prejudice, how human activity boosts or damages the environment, and what renders it fertile or sterile. The social and natural environment provides human beings with rights, whilst also imposing responsibilities regarding themselves, other living beings and the environment which does not belong to them but constitutes a complex and fragile system. The particular responsibility of human kind, regarding nature, is that it should be respected and should not be passed on to future generations in a disfigured and impoverished state. The same applies to cultural patrimony; as well as economic structures that cannot predict future consequences of decisions taken to satisfy present interests. The recognition of this responsibility regarding the shared environment is the trademark of an accomplished civilisation.
“The social and natural environment provides human beings with rights,
whilst simultaneously imposing responsibilities regarding themselves.”
ACTING IN ACCORDANCE WITH WHAT PRINCIPLES? THE HUMAN BEING AS A STANDARD
In order to build our communal home together, it is necessary to put guidelines in place which allow actions to be consistent. These guidelines should not be based on the plans defined by a few “great architects” or rulers who would act on behalf of themselves, rather than for the people of the world. In fact, it is the action of each individual that will build this communal home. Still, it is necessary that these individual actions are coherent. This coherence, however, is clearly lacking in today’s world, particularly concerning the ecological question. Despite countless actions of goodwill, the results of precedent actions on this field, have been as disappointing as helpless.
Faithful to our anthropological inspiration, we believe that the communal home should be built at “shoulder-height” –to take part, to act from the very point where we are standing, living, feeling and experiencing our lives. Additionally, it is necessary to present a perspective and several principles that each individual can adopt in order to become, on their own terms, an architect and worker of human ecology.
One perspective: acting for the common good
“Common good” exists as soon as personal wellbeing comes as a result from contributing to the wellbeing of the people, and when this wellbeing begins to assist personal wellbeing. For this reason, we believe that an engagement in human ecology causes an individual action to increase in value simply because it contributes to the common good. Whatever the accomplished task may be, the individual improves himself through their his part taking in the construction of the communal home. However humble the task, the direction of their work is towards making the common home inhabitable and welcoming to all shapes of life.
Therefore, it makes sense to act at “shoulder-height”. At the heart of human experience is the physical, reproductive body. Time is limited for every individual. There is a reality to face concerning the fragility of the human being when facing natural conditions, and also concerning the perspective of an inevitable death. Specifically, we recognise the dignity of the most fragile individuals, the one’s who, like everyone else, have a vital need for attention and consideration but who are, more than others, dependant on conditions which either facilitate or do not facilitate their lives in the social and natural environment. In the spirit of human ecology, three principles must be respected: being above having, reporting above performing and responsibility above interest.
The well-being of the entire humanity and of each individual is used as the measurement and the justification of human activities and their productivity. The human being should never be treated as an object, as a means to an end, or as a tool to perfect or manipulate. Likewise, the human environment should not be monopolised by certain people as a resource to be consumed.
Three principles for the construction of our common home
In order to establish human ecology, we must follow three key principles: choosing benevolence, recognising commonality between us and defining actions as right or wrong, based on their effect on the most vulnerable.
1. Choosing benevolence
Being benevolent means to consider, to ensure and to act for the common good. At CEH we maintain that each individual is capable of acting in the name of common good. This does not mean that every act is “naturally good”, but that the capacity of human kind to be benevolent is anchored to the ‘human condition’, in the same way that reason is anchored to it. Benevolence means that we observe our social and natural environment, based on this assumption. Therefore entailing coherence and realism. Choosing benevolence allows conversations and solutions to be shared. These would avoid divisions based on the judgement of values, classes and categories within which, a winner and a looser, good and evil, the pure and impure would necessarily be deduced and pointed out. Benevolence does not eliminate the confrontation of ideas but instead, it promotes the communal capacity of common good. Because it unites and connects us whilst simultaneously combatting prejudice which separates and divides us. The interpersonal encounter favours honest discernment, it allows us to recognise both areas of agreement and divergence.
2. Recognising our ‘common ground’
We acknowledge the belief that there is a need for humans to refund their desire for the construction of society. It has to be linked to the possibilities offered by nature. It has to be permanently connected, to restructure the conditions for life in society. However, certain resources are the object of personal acquisition to the detriment of other individuals. These resources must be held, developed and managed communally – it is only by working alongside that we will succeed in the construction of a social and natural environment favourable to the thriving of life.
We can build our common home by recognising our commonality and what we need to care for together. This requires the replacement of political groups and systems of governance with those in which individuals would be exclusively in charge of their own personal interest, whilst the state (and its experts) or the market (and its invisible hand) would have the exclusive concern of the orientation of collective life. On the contrary, we maintain that each individual should have his own individual responsibility regarding the management of what is shared between people, starting with nature, which offers us our living environment. We believe that politics should be based on the extension of transitional forms of communities motivated by a culture of responsibility and participation of individuals, in conjunction with a fair balance of responsibilities with the state and the market. On this matter, we assume an authentically political perspective.
3. Action based on those who are most vulnerable
Taking into consideration the vulnerability of individuals in communal action is an indicator of the level of development in a civilisation. Vulnerability is part of the ‘human condition’ and it is paramount that the cultural environment does not restrict the welcoming and the respect of each individual, despite any imperfections, mistakes or errors. We denounce politics that use abstract standards, which overestimate the human capacity and which envisage perfect human beings. On the contrary, the most vulnerable person belongs to the common concern of all, it characterizes human ecology. In this sense, the famous phrase “the poor are our masters” takes its true force. Accounting for the difficulties of the vulnerable allows the ‘common good’ to be fully achieved and to ensure it is not confused with the wellbeing of the privileged.
On the whole, the consequences of private or public decisions for the most fragile should be at the heart of the preoccupations of fair politics. In the same way that we are serious about the risk of considering nature as a reserve of raw materials, we are serious about the risk for humanity of a technical determinism based on the denial of human fragility, aiming to create a new man, invulnerable, all powerful, immortal; created for the interests of economic and financial power, following the instinct for domination.
HOW TO ACT? BY OPENING PATHWAYS
“One of CEH’s missions is to encourage initiatives
which contribute to the wellbeing of every individual, for all individuals”
Many initiatives have been taken and many solutions have been tested in order to contend with the difficulties and challenges of the contemporary world. They are often managed independently, away from one another and occasionally contradictorily. We need a coherent and unified vision for interactions between human activities. A vision which allows initiatives and ideas to be compared. A vision to shed light on their reciprocal impacts and effects on the cultural and natural environment, our living environment. One of CEH’s missions is to encourage initiatives which contribute to the wellbeing of every individual, for all individuals according to the anthropological principles previously evoked.
In order to achieve this, a coherent vision is required. This vision should be a vision that puts human life as a measure and as an end. A vision which allows simultaneously humbling and challenging actions to be taken on our social and natural environment.
In order to contribute to the development of human ecology, members of CEH engage at 3 levels:
1. They undertake personal changes in their own lives
2. They work together to initiate or promote initiatives that serve the cause of human ecology
3. They connect with other people or organisations in order to encourage, support or collaborate on necessary changes regarding political, social or economic structures in order to promote a society which is concerned about human ecology
We have a long term goal which is based on the processes which develop over time in the embodiment of the action of our members.
We want to encourage those in society who use their ideas and actions to contribute to the construction of a cultural and natural environment in the spirit of an authentic human ecology. Every area of human activity is concerned. It is less about multiplying initiatives and more about putting initiatives in relation and coherence with the vision of our communal home. At CEH we do not claim to substitute any economic, social or political organisation, but on the contrary, we are delighted by the increase of initiatives and commitments. Of course, we are keeping a keen eye on what these organisations can produce.
To guide our action, we aim to focus equally on promoting the expression of the entire individual, as well as on encouraging initiatives and on proposing a critical view of activities that impact the cultural and natural environment.
1. Encouraging the expression of the entire individual
CEH takes the three physical, intellectual and spiritual dimensions seriously whilst freely welcoming each individual’s personal beliefs, in the respect of every individual. Believers or non-believers should be able to get together and talk without feeling the need to hide this important aspect of their identity. We welcome statements respectful of the paths of each individual. They form rightfully an integral part of each individual. We believe that discourses which deliberately cut out this dimension, are incapable of constructing a common home.
2. Promoting initiatives that engage people at all levels
We are focused on promoting initiatives, especially in local scales, that contribute in the direction of human ecology, and that are anchored to individual personal experiences.
3. Proposing a critical view, based on our inspiring anthropology, of activities that impact the cultural and natural environment in a way that could make it inhabitable. If we don’t believe that our living environment can be defined and organised by omniscient decision-makers, it is down to us to present a critical judgement of public or private decisions, in a way that evaluates the effects of human ecology. We don’t believe in the transformation of the world “from above”; based on the decisions of experts. Instead, we believe in the possibility for each individual to have a viable path of change, differing in each individual context. A path permitting a better response to their own aspirations as well as to the aspirations of others surrounding them.
However, it would be unreasonable to believe that the management of our social and natural environment could simply come about as the spontaneous result of local intiatives. Taking into consideration, the knowledge and skills accumulated by experts, it is evident that it is also about giving justice to human reason.
Likewise, a harmonious construction of our communal home, requires coordination at spatial and temporal scales, larger than the consideration of challenges simply at the local level. For all that, we are committed to the expression of a genuine subsidiarity which confers on the level of local decision-making the possibility of taking responsibility for itself in broader decision-making bodies at a national and international level, or delegating this responsibility. In a general way, neither the State management of coordination missions, nor the use of private property or market processes, legitimise the disaffection of individuals regarding to public or private affairs. On the contrary, they must always be accompanied by a vigilant and shared responsibility for common good and its transmission.
We therefore encourage integrating initiatives, which associate ‘ground actors’ with experts. The articulation of the experience and of the generalisation, allows the creation of genuine and efficient engagements. The key is to ensure that all stakeholders consider the same view on common good.