All of this block quoting of the Pope is pretty convenient. I mean, it shortens up what I have to write considerably. I promise you I’m not being lazy though. Pope Francis has some important things to say, so here’s your next quote (emphasis again my own).
“Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.”
Pope Francis, Laudato Si, Chapter 3, Paragraph 106
I remember Ray often lamenting that our economic models are essentially predicated on the assumption of limitless raw materials. Sure, there is a cost to extracting, transporting, refining and manufacturing them into products. But we’ve never actually run out of a type of raw material without having a suitable replacement material at hand. I can promise you one thing though: eventually, with our take/make/waste industrial model, we will.
It’s why building the circular economy is so important. When you design for disassembly, eliminate the concept of waste and optimize the utility of our limited raw materials, as nature so beautifully does, you offer hope of a future where the needs of all people can be met without threatening the biosphere. You offer a chance for growth without squeezing the planet dry.
But notice I bolded something other than the Pope’s concern about the limits on raw materials and economic growth. To me, the word that stands out in this quote is “confrontational.” This is a sharp-edged word. It is hard to admit that our relationship with the natural world might have such a negative connotation. It largely rings true though, because of the first word that I used to describe our current industrial model: “take.”
Taking is a fundamentally confrontational concept. One football team tries to take the ball from the other. A warring country strives to take land from its rival. Mean people take candy from babies. All confrontational.
Imagine if our society viewed raw materials not as something to be taken from the earth, but rather something to be humbly received from it? “Receive” is a much different word than “take.” I can receive a gift. I can receive a hug and a promise. I can receive love.
When we take from the earth, it surrenders to us. When we receive from the earth, it gives to us. Which sounds more dignified to you?