“The ecological conversion needed to bring about a lasting change is also a community conversion.” (LS, 219)

praised be 31-10

In midst of the environmental crisis that overwhelms us is seems incredible, absolutely illogical, to see the apathy that intoxicates the majority of Chileans.  Only in the last five years have we experienced the effects of climate change, from extreme drought to floods and landslides in the regions of Atacama and Coquimbo or alterations in the seasons of summer and winter, just to name a few examples. Today, the call to move from concern to decision, from passivity to action, has taken shape in the so-called “urbi et orbi” to an “ecological conversion”, which takes form mainly in being green activists. However, conversion goes even deeper than that.  It’s about recognizing that we reside on this wonderful blue planet we call Earth.  We are part of the prefecture of the earth, that is, part of a place in this world from which we derive our planetary, global identity, whether we like it or not. We must wake up from our slumber and experience a transformation, a change, a shift in our habits and practices. This is the first step in ecological conversion: to realize that we are also the Environment; she is our environment, we are her environment, her ethics construction.

The second step of conversion is “action”, praxis, know-how. Recognizing our identity, gives rise to certain requirements: Giving, caring, improving and living together. To give is to give oneself to others, to community and school projects, in order to participate in pro-environment initiatives. Caring for our environment is a dimension closely linked to our subjectivity, to our human personhood: we care for that which allows us to stay alive, that is the source of our health, and our future. In this regard, there is no known animal that intentionally destroys their own habitat. To our knowledge, they all participate in caring for the environment in which they live, breed and exist.  It is not necessary to exercise any speculative reasoning to discern how important it is to look after water, energy, food, and hygiene. In short, looking after everything that gives us a vital bioethical space.

On the other hand, an “ecological conversion” means enjoying and be part of a grace that is given to us as a gift from God, from Mother Earth. Therefore, we are not required to give anything back in return, but simply to enjoy what we are given. This implies that this conversion is to return to basics, to enjoy the party that nature offers us and to take advantage of the opportunities it gives us for free. To enjoy the simple things in life with no ethical demands: to see how a seed germinates the bud that gives life to a tree, to see how the larva becomes a butterfly, or how rivers carry water of life.

But like every conversion, it requires a firm commitment that involves the conservation and expansion of life. From the grass in the public square to the large empty spaces that surround us we are called upon to improve the quality of life in order to integrate it in a dignified manner to future generations. One of the cornerstones in ecological conversion, perhaps its ethos, is knowing how to live together. To live side by side with each other, and with nature and the resources that gives it subsistence. Herein lies the radical ethical challenge of conversion: to abandon our selfishness to commit ourselves to building a better life for everyone. It is a job that various areas throughout Chile has sought to build, from the eco-villages which create an instance of conversion and community enjoyment, to environmental organizations where activists have made their fight for creation a way of life.

Collaboration: Sergio Prince, Doctor in Political Philosophy, University of Chile.


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