Humanism and Ecological Transition: Dr. Geusau’s Talk at the International Conference in Avila, Spain

In cooperation with the European Association of Free Faculties, the Catholic University of Avila, the Institute of Comparative Philosophy, the Catholic Institute of Higher Studies, and the Catholic Institute of Rennes, the Katholische Hochschule ITI (ITI Catholic University) co-organized the International Conference on Humanism and Ecological Transition on October 21-22 in Avila, Spain. At the conference, ITI’s Rector Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau gave a lecture entitled “The Ecology of the Human Being: Listening to the Language of Nature in Modernity.” 

Dr. Geusau built his talk mainly on the writings and teachings of the last three Popes: John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. He thoroughly reflected on the questions ‘what is the ecology of the human being?’, ‘why is it important to respect this ecology?’, and ‘how can we understand this ecology better?’. The starting point for his reflections was the need for us to comprehend that nature is a tangible reality that speaks for itself, while it can be also observed and understood. In addition, we must have a right understanding of human nature as the summit of the created order, as well as a right understanding of the relationship between human beings and the natural order in which we exist.

The main theses of Dr. Geusau’s address are as follows: the ecology of the human being is the unchangeable, created reality of human life that is governed by laws of nature not of our own making. These laws of nature need to be respected and followed in order for human life to function. The ecology of the human being is best understood when our nature is received as a given fact that is understandable through the use of reason, allowing us to see reality. Respecting human ecology is important because it opens our eyes to be able to see reality for what it is, and it allows us to embrace that reality instead of either attempting to forcibly adapt reality to our own wills and whims or simply rejecting it. To understand human ecology better, we need to return to an education focused on understanding nature using reason. This will lead to a rediscovery of human dignity, which will allow us to treat our neighbors as ourselves with respect. This in turn will also lead us to care for our planet in fulfillment of our responsibility as a human family to pass it on to the next generation. Only this right kind of humanism allows for a just and peaceful ecological transition.

In his conclusion, Dr. Geusau referred to verses 3-6 of Psalm 8, where David considers the glory of God in His creation of the universe and the mandate given to humanity to have dominion over the earth. From this text, Dr. Geusau singled out three words: dignity, authority, and responsibility. This brought him to the culmination of his reflection, namely, that the authority to rule over the earth requires above all one thing we have to do as humanity: to listen in humility to the language of nature.