"In order fully to access, enjoy
and profit from our environment, we need to see it as something that does
not exist just to serve our needs. Or, to put it another way, we are best
served by our environment when we stop thinking of it as there to serve
"When we can imagine what is
materially around us as existing in relation to something other than our
own purposes, we are free to be surprised, educated and enlarged by it.
When we obsessively seek to guarantee that the environment will always be
there for us as a storehouse of raw materials, we in fact shrink our own
humanity by shrinking what is there to surprise and enlarge, by reducing
our capacity for contemplation of what is really other to us.
"The unique contribution that can
be made to this whole discussion by religious conviction might be
characterised in two ways. Religious belief claims, in the first place,
that I am most fully myself only in relation with my creator; what I am in
virtue of this relationship cannot be diminished or modified by any
earthly power. It is this that grounds the obstinate belief in the
irreducible value of human persons which animates any religious witness or
work for the sake of justice; it is this that enables religious resistance
to even the most overwhelmingly powerful and successful tyrannies, from
the Roman Empire to the Third Reich, the Soviet Union or apartheid South
"But the implication, secondly,
is that every aspect of creation likewise finds its full value and
significance in relation to the creator, not to the agenda of any other
creature. In the environment there is a dimension that resists and escapes
us: to be aware of that is to grasp the implications of belief in human
dignity, in my own dignity or value. And to reduce the world to a
storehouse of materials for limited human purposes is thus to put in
question any serious belief in an indestructible human value.
like Mary Midgley have argued eloquently, humanity needs to rejoin the
rest of creation, to become aware of the limits that interdependence
imposes and of the dangerous groundlessness of belief in human value when
it is abstracted from a sense of value in all that exists around us."
- Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
the lecture: Ecology and Economy
University of Kent, Canterbury, 8
© Rowan Williams 2005
Photograph: a cheetah (Acinonyx
jubatus) on the prowl in the early morning at Masai Mara National Park,
Kenya. Photo by Ned Benjamin of Spain.