Clairvaux. Based on photo from Flicker/by Aube Champagne
Her paper places into dialogue with the modern world a twelfth-century text that describes the surroundings of the Clairvaux abbey and the activities of the Cistercian monks that inhabited it. This text, written by an unknown author, is titled Descriptio Positionis Seu Situationis Monasterii Claraevallensis.
[t]he text exudes the unnamed author’s deep appreciation and gratitude for the cooperative interactivity of human beings, other species, the land, water, and air that assured their mutual sustainability and maintained the site’s integrity. This view predates by centuries the efforts of contemporary philosophers to reflect on the human relation to other biota and abiota that constitute ecological systems, to develop ethical principles that can guide human functioning as integral parts of these systems, and to facilitate systematic thinking about sustainable development strategies ...
The river ... passes nowhere without rending some service, or leaving some of its water behind. It divides the valley into two by a sinuous bed, which the labor of the brethren, and not Nature, has made, and goes on to throw half of its waters into the abbey, as if to salute the brethren.
See how, in order to cure one sickness, the goodness of God multiplies remedies, causes the clear air to shine in serenity, the earth to breath forth fruitfulness, and the sick man himself to inhale through eyes, and ears, and nostrils the delights of colors, of songs, and of odors.
[f]or moral theologians who have struggled with the dualistic perception of the physical universe as merely the object of human study and exploitation, the human-in-ecosystem approach provides a scientifically informed paradigm for thinking about how humans should function as integral parts of God’s creation. Ironically, a basic model existed centuries before, as exemplified by the monks’ grateful cooperation with other forms of biological life and the abiota that constituted the Clairvaux site.