Economic-ecological transformation is the process of profound and radical change that orients our means of livelihood and our management of creation in a new direction — towards biosphere consciousness. And this consciousness needs to be guided and be energized by the values of the Rule of the Great Creator — like spiritually-rooted hope, justice-based liberation, patient activism, and unconditional love.
What is economic-ecological transformation? Oikos is the Greek word for house or household. Oiko-nomia, where we got the word economy, means management or administration of the resources needed to sustain the life and livelihood of the household or the family living in their house. Oiko-logia, where we got the word ecology, is the study of the relationships of all living organisms in our earth-house, or natural environment, or the creation, for the purpose of building a sustainable life in this earth-house that the Creator entrusted to us.
Spiritual Transformation: Cosmic Harmony and Hope
The Apostle Paul taught the followers of Jesus in Rome (Romans 8:18-28 NIV) that the Holy God is in the business of creating a new humanity from among human beings who failed to live in accordance with God’s standards. Humanity chose to be alienated—from the Creator, from the self, from others, and from the creation. So, Paul taught the early believers that it is possible to experience reconciliation in Christ. This reconciliation is not only applicable to the individual person; this applies to the whole creation.
Harmony with the creation is inherent in our spiritually-rooted hope and justice-based liberation (Romans 8:18-21).
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” Creation is not just nature or mere environment. Creation is God’s creative and faithful intention; an aspect of God’s revelation. Such is our glorious hope in “our present sufferings.”
The creation “was subjected to frustration” through human abuse. In our context today, one expression of abuse against the creation is by treating it in a mechanical-utilitarian way. It means treating our earth-house like a machine to be used without caring for it. In a mechanical-utilitarian view of the world, the emphasis is exploitation. If one of the parts of the machine-world is not functioning, the tendency is to replace it. In this abusive system, the natural resources are exploited for the present, and then later, they are substituted with synthetic products and artificial solutions.
But the Creator is not giving up: “…the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into glorious freedom of the children of God.” We are all called by the Creator-God to be good stewards of our earth-house! Earth-destruction is listedby the Prophet John as a sin: “The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead… and for destroying those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18). We are to repent or to turn-away from our unjust, abusive practices against the creation. The liberation of the creation is also our justice-based liberation!
Our final harmony with the creation is about to be born; meanwhile, the Spirit of God assures us as we actively wait and patiently hope (Romans 8:22-27).
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning… we ourselves… groan inwardly…” Here, the creation is seen as an organic-relational reality. It’s alive! It has the capacity to relate! Inan organic-relational world, the emphasis is stewardship and loving care of creation. This is consistent with the original story of creation. The Book of Genesis tells us that “the Lord God formed the mortal (adam) from the dust of the ground (adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the mortal became a living being” (2:7). These are the dynamic imageries used to give us a grasp of the beginning of the human race. We all came from the ground. We were named after the ground. We are one with Creation. We are one humanity! We are all carbon-based material. We are all breathed with the same breath of God. That is the story of our Being Alive! When the Creator-God commanded us to subdue the Earth (Gen. 1:28), it has the idea of l’shamrah—to care for, to keep, to watch, and to preserve it (Gen. 2:15).
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness… because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” While going through “our present sufferings” as we wait for the final redemption of the creation, the Spirit of God—the same Breath of God that made us alive during the creation—will intercede or pray for us beyond what human words can express. This is our sustained source of energy as we live, and even as we suffer, in seeking to be good stewards of the creation in the midst of the powerful economic and political forces who are destroying the creation.
The creation is part of all things God is working for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28-30).
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” Those who love God love God’s creation. The creation is the world that “God so loved…” (Jn.3:16). This world (kosmos) can mean the sum total of everything here and now, all of humanity, or world-systems.
“…To be conformed to the image of his Son,that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” In the context of this creation, God has predestined what is good for those who love the Lord—that is, to be like Jesus!
The whole creation is the stage of this cosmic love story between us and God (Romans 8:31-39).
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Issues of political instability or economic security will not separate us from the love of God.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing, in all God’s creation, can separate us from the unconditional love of the Creator!
This is also the creation that will ultimately be reconciled with Christ (Col. 1:15-20). Those who love God are called according to this Divine purpose of cosmic reconciliation in Christ. Our shalom—our experience of wholeness—necessarily includes the whole of creation.
Cultural Transformation: Biosphere Consciousness and the New Economy
How do we connect the biblical-spiritual values of hope, liberation, patience, and love to the global realities we’re experiencing in the first quarter of the 21st Century?
I suggest that we consider embracing biosphere consciousness. Here, I’d like to look into the ideas of Jeremy Rifkin. According to him, the biosphere is “the narrow band that extends some forty miles from the ocean floor to outer space where living creatures and the Earth’s geochemical processes interact to sustain each other.” In most of his presentations, he explains that the biosphere “functions like an indivisible organism.” All life on Planet Earth are inherently inter-connected because we are all in this “continuous symbiotic relationships between every living creature and between living creatures and the geochemical processes that ensure the survival of the planetary organism and the individual species that live within its biospheric envelope.”
Rifkin calls individuals, neighborhoods, and communities to look at our shared planetary home as one biospheric system. In this sphere, “every human life, the species as a whole, and all other life-forms are entwined with one another and with the geochemistry of the planet in a rich and complex choreography that sustains life itself,” Rifkin said. He further continues: “We are all dependent on and responsible for the health of the whole organism.”
Finally, Rifkin challenges us to “harness our empathic sensibility to establish a new global ethic that recognizes and acts to harmonize the many relationships that make up the life-sustaining forces of the planet.” We need to renounce the old notion of geopolitical thinking, which he describes as “the detached, self-interested and utilitarian philosophical assumptions that accompanied national markets and nation state governance.”
Entering a new era of biosphere consciousness is beyond urgent. This means we have to get into “a new world of biosphere politics, with new forms of governance emerging to accompany our new biosphere awareness” right now!
This one and a half hour video presentation gives us an overview of this economic-ecological transformation concept.
Economic-ecological transformation—the process of profound and radical change—orients our means of livelihood and our management of creation in a new direction. We are being led towards biosphere consciousness.
But we need a strong set of ethical values to guide us, and to energize us. I propose that we consider the values of the Rule of the Great Creator—like spiritually-rooted hope, justice-based liberation, patient activism, and unconditional love—as we face the economic-ecological challenges before us.