Some of what St. Francis was getting at, when he preached to birds and addressed "brother sun, sister moon," is gratitude. Because that is what a Catholic vision of "respect for the natural world" must, in the end, be reduced to. Respect is actually something owed to persons, and all "respect" for objects, natural or man-made, is really a respect for persons; the object is merely a means of transmission. Example: we show respect for, say, an American flag, not for its own sake, but because it's a way to visibly respect people who also share that flag, sometimes (as at a military funeral) very specific people.
And we "respect" the natural world, not for its own sake, but (practically speaking) to steward it and share it for the sake of other people's livelihood, and (more fundamentally speaking) out of gratitude to God for making a gift of it to all of us. Wastefulness and an attitude of total control risk us taking for granted this world of objects for which we should give thanks every day.
This in turn doubles back to much of what Ann Voskamp has written on gratitude.
Given my fractious feelings with regards to patriotism and the American flag the last number of years, I like the handle that this gives.
I also think that it's interesting that *what* we respect is an indicator of what we are *grateful* for . . . somehow this all doubles back and relates to idolatry and desire . . . we are grateful for that which we deem to hold worth. What we *worship* . . .
Is the divide between the right and the left in large part a choice of different idols? That what we value as worthy of opposed?
Bearing's original post