13 July 2022, The Tablet

Religion and the environment: a landscape


Religion and the environment: a landscape

Constable’s image of essential Englishness in his 1828 painting of The Vale of Dedham
Photo: Alamy/Archivart

 

Might the notions of home used by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ provide the foundations for a bridge over the culture war divide?

There is a lot of talk of the “culture wars”. We rarely encounter people who dare to dream of reconciliation, a pax cultura. As far back as 1979, Christopher Lasch spoke of an increasing “balkanisation of opinion”. Now hopes for healing seem like mere figments or fantasies of a less fractious society. David Goodhart has described this balkanisation as “a core values divide” centred on “the politics of culture and identity” which “cuts across age, income, education, and even political parties”.

Goodhart describes the two sides of the divide as “Anywheres” and “Somewheres”. “Anywheres” are the “mobile, graduate, upper professional elite” who see people as “rational, self-interested individuals existing apart from strong group attachments or loyalties”. They approach the impending ecological crisis in global terms, with rational and scientific solutions implemented by transnational NGOs. “Somewheres”, by contrast, live “within 20 miles of their place of origin” and evince “strong local attachments”. It’s local issues that get Somewheres on to the streets, like the destruction of a beloved natural or heritage site, or disruption from flooding or fires.

 

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