Fellowship with nature democracy of the commons67

How is the openness of the Holy Spirit as gift and presence to be understood in a political theology.? If stewardship and valuing nature are not theologically well-supported ways of speaking of fellowship in the common realm, which way is preferable? Attending to the logic of fellowship, how might the sociality of creaturely life in its dependence and contingency be grasped in the dynamic of movement towards fellowship? In the matter of human-nature relations, how shall fellowship be thought?

I have already argued that the actions of the Spirit are eschatological. If, in eschatological perspective, we are directed towards the quality of eco-habitation (fellowship, by the Spirit), how might such fellowship be practised ahead of the full establishment of the rule of God? An appropriate pedagogy is the vital matter here. For what needs to be learnt by humanity are ways of participating in the common realm towards fellowship. Of especial importance is the matter of the practice of spatiality towards the otherness of nature: humanity learning how to act in friendly ways in ecological space.

One way of approaching the common participation of humanity and nature in a spatio-social field is by democratising human relations with non-human nature. As Vandana Shiva notes: 'In the final analysis, the ecological crisis is rooted in the mistaken belief that human beings are not part of the democracy of nature's life, that they stand apart from and above nature.'68 In short, what the theological position sketched in this chapter points towards is the extension of democratic, rather than moral, considerability to non-human nature.69 How so? Extending the franchise to nature is one way of acknowledging that nature-human relations are marked by the dynamics of encounter: a democratic exchange encompasses a number of agents taking different initiatives. Furthermore,

67. Of course, the theme of democracy was present in part II, especially in the discussions of deep and social ecologies.

68. Shiva, 'Decolonizing the North', in Mies and Shiva, Ecofeminism, p. 265.

69. Cf. Kenneth E. Goodpaster, 'On Being Morally Considerable', Journal of Philosophy (1978),


democracies function best when all parties are committed to democratic procedures and see themselves as oriented towards one another. Democracy is also concerned with the negotiation of difference and the attempt to explore and negotiate differences in ways that are non-violent and do not lead to violence. Thus democracy is also concerned with fellowship. Analogous to programmes of economic democratisation,70 such a process of'natural' democratisation would seek to make nature present in and to the political sphere. Such a recovery of the political dimensions of the common realm I shall call a 'common democracy'.

Thus the recommendation of a 'common democracy' is rooted firmly in the preceding theology of the common sociality of nature-humanity.71 What, then, is the content of such a 'common democracy'.-' According to one commentator, a 'consolidated democracy' is 'a system in which the politically relevant forces subject their values and interests to the uncertain interplay of democratic institutions'.72 The significant challenge in the theorising of a 'common democracy' is how to speak of non-human nature as among the politically relevant forces. How might this be thought? It is important to note here that a theological claim is being made: non-human nature is rendered concrete within the common realm by democratic practices founded in, and proportioned by, mediations of the Logos in creation; democratic practices are founded in the life of the Spirit who is both the agent and harbinger of fellowship. Such practices may be said to be oriented towards the eschatological rule of the triune God in that they relate to creatures, human and non-human, and yet leave the political realm open to new, surprising interactions between humanity and nature: interactions that are unlooked for and which cannot be anticipated.

Hence, the award of democratic status to nature is not thereby a convenient fiction, a conceit by which to bring nature into the human, political realm. It is rather an acknowledgment that humanity is always already placed in the common realm by God with nature. The present-ness of nature to humanity, the crucial condition of its democratic participation, is, as I argued in the previous chapter, to be sourced to the action of the Logos in creation. The attempt by humanity to acknowledge such present-ness as part of God's blessing is the practice of eschatological fellowship in

70. See Gary Dorrien, Reconstructing the Common Good (New York: Orbis, 1990).

71. As such, as I hope to show through this section, there are structural similarities between the fellowship of excentric relations between humanity and nature and the practice of democracy.

72. Adam Przeworski, Democracy and the Market, cited in Markoff, 'Really Existing Democracy', p. 59.

the Spirit. Here I am suggesting that the form of such acknowledgement should be the extension of processes of political negotiation to a 'common democracy'. Such a 'common democracy' - sourced to the eschatological actions of the Spirit - is oriented towards God's eschatological rule, and prefigures it, in that it acknowledges that through the interaction of political forces, alterations of relationships between humanity and nature will result. Such alterations are, after all, the point ofdemocratic negotiation (although, of course, not the point of democracy itself).

However, it remains true that the form of a common democracy will be settled by human beings. The scale of any such democracy is anthropological. It is therefore unlikely that a 'common democracy' might be practised without the most radical democracy being secured. If nature is one of God's ways to us - as the common realm invites us to think - such a democracy would emerge in many zones of human social life. To misappropriate Bruno Latour somewhat, we have here the dissolution of boundaries and the redistribution of agents.73 Human responsibility is thus properly to organise human affairs - here a 'common democracy' - founded in the actuality of the presence of nature to humanity in the common realm. Raymond Williams captures part of this in a discussion of the environment of coal mining in South Wales:

It is no use simply saying to South Wales miners that all around them is an ecological disaster. They already know. They live in it. They have lived in it for generations. They carry it with them in their lungs ...But you cannot just say to people who have committed their lives and their communities to certain kinds of production that this has all got to be changed. You can't just say: come out of the harmful industries, let us do something better. Everything will have to be done by negotiation, by equitable negotiation, and it will have to be taken steadily along the way.74

Commonality with nature cannot be secured without the achievement of commonality among those sharing a human nature. Such an extended democracy will be the crucial way in which human beings may learn to live with the political effects of the tension between ecologically harmful practices and the material well-being of human beings.75 This we might call the negotiation of the intersection of political and ecological

73. Bruno Latour, 'To Modernise or Ecologise?' in B. Braun and N. Castree (eds.), Remaking Reality: Nature at theMillennium (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), pp. 221-42 (p. 229).

74. Williams, Resources of Hope, p. 220.

75. See Harvey, Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference, p. 200. Of course, in this instance, the material well-being of the many turns upon the potential ill health of the few.

contingencies, in an anthropological scale but including the otherness of nature. Such a pedagogy of living out of the future', sourced to the escha-tological actions of the Spirit, will thereby involve all the present complexities of interhuman democratic negotiation together with its extension to the commons.

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