The Black Sea
Common Responsibility
Common Ground
Action Plan

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard J. C. Chartres

In our travels in the Black Sea region, participants in the
symposium encountered again and again the puzzle that although
there might be theoretical understanding and incontrovertible
scientific evidence to pinpoint the causes of some serious
environmental problem, this did not by itself translate into
effective action. Often we know what ought to be done, but
we do not do it. The presentations within this theme demonstrated
different kinds of human perception and the translation of
those perceptions into ecologically beneficient action.

The journal Nature has recorded the results of a fascinating
experiment in which kittens were reared in an environment
dominated by horizontals. After prolonged exposure to this
environment, they were released as adult cats into a normal
domestic setting. Thereafter they experienced considerable
difficulty in perceiving verticals and were forever cannoning
into chair legs and other pieces of furniture. The truth seems
to be that although the capacity to perceive the vertical
is present in the brain, if this faculty is not triggered
and developed in early life, then it can very easily atrophy.

Something of the same seems to have happened with the capacity
for spiritual perception in the experience of many modern
people. This experience of the spiritual is very frequently
in the religious classics of various world religions likened
to an ascent or an encounter with the vertical dimension of
life. Ravi Ravindra painted a refreshing picture of
the progress to spiritual enlightenment in his paper, 'Healing
the Soul'. His emphasis is on personal, spiritual perception
and this is complemented by the social vision which informed
the paper by Bishop Mauro Morelli which follows. He
made a passionate plea for a deepened awareness of our social
solidarity with the poor who have to carry so many burdens
of pollution and waste. We live in a world in which 20% of
all human beings consume close to 75% of everything that is
produced. Bishop Morelli's contribution to the symposium demonstrated
the energy that can flow when things are seen from the perspective
of the 80% of humanity who are left with a bare quarter of
all that is produced.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki's presentation examined environmental
damage from the perspective of intergenerational ethics. It
is clearly unjust that our children should be presented with
the bill for the way we live now. With delightful humility,
Severn remarked that she is 'now 17 and over the hill', but
she is still able to give a voice to the generation that will
soon inherit our world.

Humility, in its profoundest sense, is down-to-earth humus
earthiness and this kind of humility was also a feature of
the presentations by Zaki Badawi and Naftali Rothenberg.
Dr Badawi, in recommending a precautionary approach in the
face of the power of modern technology to make profound changes
in the environment, drew attention to the tradition in Shariah
law that 'the wastrel and extravagant can be deprived of freedom
of action under the law and placed under the control of a
guardian'. He underlined the limits within which we are set
to work in this world but his contribution was also a plea
for humility and self-criticism on the part of religious authorities.

Rabbi Rothenberg outlined a religious 'third way'
between unrestricted human domination of nature and those
who tend to worship nature and relegate human beings as merely
one element in nature and different only in the degree of
their destructiveness. The religious 'third way' is expressed
in the placing of responsibility on humankind to find the
balance between 'tilling' the world, that is, intervening
in nature in order to help it flourish, and 'keeping' it,
which means the avoidance of needless destruction, particularly
of the kind that cannot be undone.

Reflection on these themes in a political context is offered
by William Reilly, who concluded that arguments based
on purely rational and scientific calculations rarely stir
people to action. He quotes Jacques Cousteau, the eminent
pioneer of underwater studies, who once said 'in the end,
people protect only that which they truly love.' It is a pithy
summary of the truth which reverberated throughout the whole

Healing the soul (Professor Ravi Ravindra)
Environmentally conscious citizens (The Right Revd Bishop Mauro Morelli)
The moral responsibilities of a precautionary approach (Dr Zaki Badawi)
To till it and to keep it: on ecology and everyday life (Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg)
Human health and the environment in the Black Sea region (Mr William K. Reilly)
Environmental equity (Ms Severn Cullis-Suzuki)