By Nathan Schneider
September 9, 2015
My friend Ryan Patrico, a doctoral student in history at Yale, noticed something curious while studying the German nuns whose convents wound up in Protestant regions in the early, bloody days of the Reformation. He focused on those nuns who refused the option of relocating to Catholic areas where they could practice their faith more freely. They understood their vows as being not only to certain kinds of prayers and allegiance to a pope, but to stewarding a certain plot of land and shepherding the surrounding economy. “Their Catholicism bound them to a place,” Patrico writes. They felt their salvation was tied up with caring for the land.
These nuns are a reminder that Pope Francis isn’t coming out of nowhere with his often perplexing “small is beautiful” form of ecological economics. He calls for urgency in confronting the climate crisis, while declining to put his trust in modern technology and markets for the solution. His sources of inspiration are seemingly lost causes: the remaining vestiges of indigenous agriculture, cooperative business models, and a call for the mass rejection of consumerism.
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