Human suffering is something that is hard to face; as is the suffering of any living being, or of the living environment. During my trip to Nicaragua I encountered a few places where all three kinds of suffering existed side by side. The dump, where over 3,000 families live, was one example, as was the neighborhood where the government moved many people from the dump to live. Both in the dump and in the neighborhood people lived in filth, surrounded by human waste and trash, with very little clean water and no sanitary plumbing conditions. Seeing the suffering faces of young and old, in the scorching sun, with no trees for shade, and no clean water was heart-breaking. They were surrounded by literally burning piles of waste, in what seemed to me like a scene of desecration of the beauty of life. It was a scene of destruction of what was once a beautiful and lush and providing environment. Even the animals suffered. There were countless mangy, emaciated dogs panting in the sun, covered by flies. I kept thinking this is not what life was meant to be. The beautiful people, the beautiful surroundings that God created were completely being exploited by a system of waste and selfishness and corruption.
I think one thing that hit me particularly in visiting these places is something that Hawken stresses in Blessed Unrest. That is that human rights and societal well-being really does walk hand in hand with understanding how to respect the environment. Loving each other includes loving creation. Spiritual need is tied to physical need, which is tied to the need to live in a healthy environment. Spiritual, social, and environmental morality are all part of humanity’s responsibilities. And we have a much more direct impact on the suffering of others through our own carelessness in these areas than we would care to know.