Living in a throwaway culture

HUMN 221-09 Group 4:

Every year, human beings around the world waste a large portion of our parents natural resources. The earth contains enough natural resources to sustain the life of the 7.125 billion people that live here. Instead of taking care of our planet, we destroy and abuse it because it is in our human nature to bite off more than we can chew, and we end up wasting our now depleting natural resources. Section 31 of John Locke’s The Second Treatise of Government explains how “nothing was made by God to spoil and destroy” which correlates to passage 22 of Pope Francis’s encyclical “Laudato Si'” and explains how these problems are related to us living in a “throwaway culture”.  

“Nothing was made by God to spoil and destroy” Locke stated. This insinuates the planet’s resources were created for us to use , not abuse. The earth is our home and should be treated with the upmost care and be a hospitable environment for every creature who inhabits it.  No living thing should take more than they need, doing so can result in heavy consequences.

Pope Francis states in passage 22 of the encyclical: “These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture…:”. This is connected to Locke’s statement in describing humans as wasteful. 

We are very quickly running out of resources, and although we have made continued advances in technology and man made alternatives, these can never match and never replace that of the original resources of the earth.

God’s Expectation of our Stewardship as Discussed by John Locke

HUMN 221-09 Group 6:

Two Treatises of Government, John Locke (Passage 32)

“But the chief matter of property being now not the fruits of the earth, and the beasts that subsist on it, but the earth itself; as that which takes in and carries with it all the rest; I think it is plain, that property in that too is acquired as the former. As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property. He by his labour does, as it were, inclose it from the common. Nor will it invalidate his right, to say every body else has an equal title to it; and therefore he cannot appropriate, he cannot inclose, without the consent of all his fellow-commoners, all mankind. God, when he gave the world in common to all mankind, commanded man also to labour, and the penury of his condition required it of him. God and his reason commanded him to subdue the earth, i.e. improve it for the benefit of life, and therein lay out something upon it that was his own, his labour. He that in obedience to this command of God, subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his property, which another had no title to, nor could without injury take from him.”

In passage 32 of Two Treatises of Government, Locke stated, “God and his reason commanded him to subdue the earth, i.e. improve it for the benefit of life, and therein lay out something upon it that was his own, his labour.” We interpret this statement as God placing onto man the responsibility to till the earth for the betterment of humankind and that he (man) is entitled to the fruits of his labor in the process. The ownership of land however, is for everyone as God has given the whole of mankind the earth to till. In today’s throwaway culture, we have failed to meet the expectation quoted, “improve it for the benefit of life” because we haven’t kept resources bountiful for our future generations.


“These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. To cite one example, most of the paper we produce is thrown away and not recycled. It is hard for us to accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary: plants synthesize nutrients which feed herbivores; these in turn become food for carnivores, which produce significant quantities of organic waste which give rise to new generations of plants. But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard.”

Pope Francis shared this belief in passage 22 of his encyclical because he stated that our culture is one of throwaway by which we’re prone to excess waste as opposed to recycling. This attitude is responsible for destroying our environment through waste pollution, resource depletion, and interrupting the ecosystem of the world. Life, in all its forms whether it be plants or animals, are thus a part of our stewardship. This correlates with John Locke’s belief that we are to till the earth for the improvement of life due to our failure to do so.

Locke, the Pope, and the Law

HUMN 221-09 Group 3:

ENCYCLICAL QUOTES: “where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves”.[13]

“The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19).”

genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.” (70)


Sect. 6. “But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of licence: though man in that state have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions…”

A right to dominion doesn’t include a right to tyranny, whether that be God’s gift to people or a people’s choice of leader.

We are all part of God’s creation, so none of us has the right the absolute control over another. Personal autonomy is important to fulfilling God’s plan.

RELATIONSHIP OF PASSAGE TO WORK AS A WHOLE: John Locke stated that all people should be considered equal. There are a set of natural laws which citizens live by. Citizens begin taking only what they need, but eventually slow to hoard and collect more and more. This creates bartering, and leads to money, as well as creating estates and property. The purpose of government was to protect the citizens and work for their benefit.

WHAT DIFFICULT ISSUES DOES THIS PASSAGE TAKE FOR US: We all live under a system of laws in which we must follow. We exist under a social contract, consisting of an agreement to consent to appointed authorities, therefore forfeiting many of our rights under natural law. In today’s world it is unclear how to decline this social contract because nearly all habitable land is controlled by a government or person. We have the right to overthrow our government but our government also has substantial power. At times this government has the right to infringe upon life, health, liberty, and possessions.

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO THE ENCYCLICAL: John Locke is going over the system of laws that exist in nature while the pope is describing a set of laws we are morally and religiously supposed to subject ourselves to. The pope said that we all have a relation to each other in a familial manner, relating to, “yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession” from the second treatise of government.

Like Locke, Francis calls on us to respect each other’s autonomy as we value our own by recalling our relation to each other as children of God.


John Locke and Slavery

Slavery in Britain during the time of John Locke

The British tried to monopolize the slave trade because it was economically profitable. This allowed them to maintain economic and political control over the colonies for longer because the British had the ships and resources to run the slave trade. Through the colonization efforts of America it helped to ward off other European’s from doing the same

Racial sentiments were abound in European society well before slavery began. This magnified once slave trade began and slaves began to be viewed as subhuman. British established the Royal African Company to monopolize slavery. British were afraid of indentured servants and switched over to mainly using African slaves to prevent revolts.

Slavery was legal in Britain until 1772. The boom in Africans in England was a direct result of the empire expanding.

John Lok, John Locke’s ancestor was the first to bring African’s to Britain in 1555 as volunteers rather than slaves. He had hoped to teach them English to help them trade material goods.He had hoped that they would take the information they learned and teach others upon their return to Africa. This eventually gave way to slave trade initiated by John Hawkins

Opening Open Humanities

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