“Integral ecology” is a major theme of the encyclical, and is the focus of Chapter Four. What does Pope Francis means by integral ecology, and why it is so important to the message of "Laudato Si."

Quick answer:

By "integral ecology" Pope Francis means that there is a close bond between humans and the environment in which we live. Everything on earth is connected, and so we need an integrated approach that deals with both social and environmental problems together. The concept of integral ecology is important to "Laudato Si" because the encyclical is primarily concerned with care for our common home.

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The concept of integral ecology involves the recognition that dealing with environmental problems cannot involve considering the environment in isolation. As the Pope insists we cannot separate ourselves from nature; we are an intrinsic part of it. Far from standing over against the environment as lords and masters we are deeply connected to it, related to every single aspect of the natural world, from the lowest to the highest forms of life. One could describe Francis's approach as holistic in that it involves looking at man's relationship with nature as a whole, rather than with individual aspects of it.

Furthermore, in examining environmental problems and trying to find solutions to them, we need to take into account relevant social and political factors. So for instance, if we want to know why a given area is polluted, we must study the workings of its society, its economy, the ways its people behave, and the ways it grasps reality.

If we are serious about caring for our common home, then it is important, argues Francis, that we recognize that there aren't two separate crises, one social, the other environmental. Instead, we must acknowledge that there is one complex crisis facing the world today that is both social and environmental. As everything is connected, dealing with social problems inevitably means dealing with environmental problems and vice versa. Only in this way will we be able to care adequately for the planet and every living thing that dwells upon it.

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