Prof. Luciano Valle - Italy

Environmental philosopher, theologian, ecologist, professor at Pavia Univeresity, president of the Centre of environmental ethics of the Lombardia Region in Northern Italy; promoter of all those topics which teach how to recognize all that ties us deeply to our surrounding environment. Published several books on ecology.


“Ethics and the Environment”

The path of environmental ethics ultimately presents itself as a complex “epistemic education”, a form of new “human living”, a “new humanism” or union of thought and action, theoretic reason, moral, aesthetics, religious practice.

In short, a harmonious synthesis, to quote Heidegger: between “Heaven and Earth, the Divine and Mortals”.

A practice and knowledge that are deeply integrated, in whose ideal constitution, according to the suggestion of G. Bateson, take part “science, art, poetry, consciousness, the sacred and ethics”.

A project, in which reason is, again in Bateson and earlier in Pascal: “heart”. The fundamental elements of environmental ethics understood as such are:

  • A concept of reality by which the natural world (mountain, river, tree, sparrow, violet) is not seen as an object.

  • A concept of the subject by which man is not only logical-calculating activity but an integrated reality.

  • A concept of a non mechanistic, open to “grace”, concept of time.

Let us study these three aspects:

1. Concept of reality
(in philosophical language: ontological level). While modernity has crushed the natural world (for believers: the Creation/Creature world; for others: the physis-energheia world) to a world-object, a world without beauty, form or dignity, a world manipulated by the will of man placed in the role of its “owner and possessor” (Cartesio), in the 20th century, a large part of philosophical, scientific reflection and the whole new phase of re-discovery of the “theology of Creation” present in various religions, brought on a re-launching of an ancient concept of the world, already present in philosophical knowledge and pre-modern religions, by which the natural world is thought of and respected as “presence” (Buber) - as “you” - where with the message of Saint Francis of Assisi resumed more secularly by the poet Rilke, this world is also seen with sym-pathetic, “em-pathetic”, eyes, accentuated by brotherhood (things: “sisters in the wind of silent meadows”).

2. Concept of the human subject
Only a “new man”, an awakened man, a man re-born from deep mental and inner transformation (Saint Paul: “metancia”) can see the world as a place that manifests beauty and dignity. The new man: not just a calculating-mind man, but a quaternary-man: as with the Greeks, the East, Christianity, man as synthesis of four forms: body, soul, mind, spirit; this new-man who can now answer the evangelic call (Mathew 6, 26-34: “See the ‘glory’ of the lilies in the fields and the birds in the air”) and contemplate, participate and feel this world (stone, rose, swallow, starry sky…) as part of himself and himself as part of it. A man rich in simplicity, in sobriety, in humility, capable of listening and seeing the splendor that Creation offers him instead of passing by it closed and “crass”, entrapped in his commonness.

3. Concept of time
The “new man”, capable of seeing and listening, therefore of praising, loving all creation, watching over it and wisely administering it (in order to remain in harmony with the thinking of Giovanni Paolo II), needs, however, a different way of living his own temporary dimension, not letting himself be captured in the omnivorous “steel cage” of a time whose only aim is that which is usable, has results, is productive, worldly successful. A time that is, namely, “machine”, “capacity”, capable of tearing one’s own tissue where, as in “in-fancy”, as in “game”, we are lost in the act of listening, in the act of seeing the music of life and the invasion of such of that which is Eternal, by which an instant stops and in contemplation appears the immense: in which the flight of the swallows, the floating of the clouds, the countenance of a starry sky, the autumn mist become the Epiphany of another Time, another Horizon in which one can say: “Here, here we put up our Tent; here we set up our Abode; here we sit at Home”. Precisely: Home-Abode-Oikos.