FaithInvest's Director of Movement Building Dr Lorna Gold took part in the first Sister-led Dialogue on the Environment Dialogue in Rome earlier this week, organised by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). And what a powerful gathering of Catholic women religious, representatives of other faiths and environmental leaders from around the world it proved to be.
The one-day event focused on the needs and challenges of the most vulnerable people affected by climate change and biodiversity loss – and what religious congregations can do to support them. As one participant said, religious congregations constitute one of the largest and deepest global networks and grassroot movements, especially in the global South.
Lorna gave a speech, rooted in faith and inspired by the Christian Easter season, called The Resurrected Economy. In her speech, she suggested that when it came to dealing with the profound crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, the world was in Holy Saturday – the day between the grief and darkness of Good Friday and the joy and hope of Easter Sunday.
It's a day that is 'marked by a sense of sadness, disillusionment and also confusion,' she said. 'It is an in-between space where we can’t yet see the promise of hope, where we struggle to imagine that a different future is possible. We want to still believe, but are unsure.'
But rather than falling into despair, 'we need to emerge from the empty tomb full of hope,' she said. 'We need to recognise that within our circles of influence, our structures, we have significant assets that can be put to work to build the new economy that speaks of resurrection.'
Afterwards, several people asked for copies of Lorna's speech so we are reprinting it in full below.
The Resurrected Economy
What would a ‘resurrected’, 'regenerative' economy look like?
A brief reflection rooted in faith, by Dr Lorna Gold
The world today, as we well know, is in profound crisis in terms of climate change and biodiversity loss. We have many names for this this crisis: the fork in the road, the edge of the cliff, the point of no return, the planetary tipping point…
Everything around us is pointing to the fact that human activity, both in its scale, speed and its form, is leading to the systematic breaching of planetary limits – and the sure decline of the life support systems that enable us to live together on this beautiful blue planet. We are alive at an extraordinary moment.
At this critical time, to help us break out of the destructive logic and foster a more integrated approach, we need to be prepared to appeal to, and harness the riches, the powerful narratives of faith.
The infinite mystery of resurrection
I would, therefore, like to offer a brief reflection rooted in faith – given that we are still in the Easter Season in the Christian world. It is the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. What place, you may ask has the infinite mystery of resurrection, rebirth, to do with an integrated approach to the crisis we are in and the potential solutions?
The Easter mysteries first and foremost help us understand where we are. We are living, in many ways, in the Holy Saturday of human experience. Good Friday was marked by the materialist logic which tells us that ‘it is over’ – the demise of humanity and the planet due to our sins, and those of our forebearers is sealed. We can see around us that there is much violence, death, and darkness. A kind of inevitability and finality about Good Friday.
Holy Saturday is marked by a sense of sadness, disillusionment and also confusion. It is an in-between space where we can’t yet see the promise of hope, where we struggle to imagine that a different future is possible. We want to still believe, but are unsure.
This time of planetary suspense, this long Holy Saturday, calls out to us in a profound way right now. It calls on us above all to reconnect with the earth and to rediscover the patterns of death and resurrection in nature all around us: imprinted in the very matter of the material world.
A wondrous sacredness
Nature itself affirms that each thing comes into existence from something else, and will eventually become something else. There is a wondrous sacredness to the earth… earth is precious. Each of us is called into being and will eventually cease to be in our current form, enabling something else to be through our death. This hope is not a fantasy – it is the basic fabric of our being. It is the pattern which underpins both human existence and planetary health in a profound way. Echoes of this profound logic and sense of sacredness are found in all faiths.
If this is true for us as individuals, and for nature, then what does this logic of rebirth, of sacredness say for what we call the economy? Surely the economy, which is the household management of the collective human activities, the ‘oikonomia’, must also bear the hallmark of the pattern of death and Resurrection? It begs the question: what would a ‘resurrected’, 'regenerative' economy look like?
On the ashes of the current economy, still so marred by the extractive logic of individual consumption, waste and greed, we can already see the signs of emergence of a resurrected economy.
A time for bold hope
We can see green shoots which embody the logic of a new, regenerative economy which is more rooted in the patterns of death and resurrection, the cycles of life and abundance, that mark existence. The first signs of Easter Sunday dawn are emerging.
We see these in the growing diverse movements for circular economy, for de-growth, for re-wilding, for agroecology, for clean and renewable forms of energy, for slow food and seasonality, for social and cooperative enterprises.
All of these facets of a new nature-based economy are emerging in every corner of the world at the grassroots – supported by movements like the Economy of Francesco, Slow Food, Buen Vivir, Doughnut and Wellbeing economy, led often by young people who are unencumbered by the old, fragmented ways of seeing and thinking. They offer a glimpse of a compelling vision of a renewed, integrated approach to economy in balance with nature and meeting human needs.
There is an urgency now to breathe life, energy – labour, land, finances – into these new emerging forms of prophetic economy at all levels. It is a time for bold hope. We must live into that future. I believe that the women religious, together with all the world’s faiths, have a major leadership role to play in bringing this to life.
Like in the past, the founders of the great orders saw the needs of society – especially in the form of welfare – and created from nothing, today there is a great need for the same generative, integrated spirit. There is an urgent need for new forms of nature-based finance, in particular, new investing instruments that enable these forms of economy that truly address the needs of nature and human flourishing to grow and multiply.
Women religious at the forefront
Women religious are already at the forefront of the values-led investment world – having built up significant institutional assets over several centuries, in the form of finances, infrastructure, land and buildings. You are working on divestment from fossil fuels, you are engaging with shareholders to change practices, you are shaping SRI and ESG policies. This is significant but I would say, at this point, it is not enough.
What is needed, alongside this work to reform, is a new impetus for collective action to construct the financial infrastructure to enable the new economy.
We need to get the capital to those people who are building the new – in parallel with the old financial structures, which are sure to collapse because they are founded on the myth of infinite resources and growth.
We need to emerge from the empty tomb full of hope. We need to recognise that within our circles of influence, our structures, we have significant assets that can be put to work to build the new economy that speaks of resurrection. We need to carve out those spaces, build the alliances necessary, generate the collective will and action which is essential at this point to bring the promise of regeneration a reality.
As Pope Francis says in Laudato Si: 'An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?'