3.3 Equality
In the search for new beginnings and new ends for the mutual involvements of man and nature the role of metaphor has become important, and in this field of study the figures of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Benedict of Nursia have come to represent two different types of creative thinking in the West which try to move beyond the conventional western world-view prevalent since the nineteenth century.
In recent years the icon of St. Francis has been held before both scholarly and lay communities by the historian Lynn White. In his much discussed and quoted paper of 1967, he proposed that there should be a revival of the outlook and mores of St. Francis of Assisi, whom he proposed as the patron saint of ecologists. White's original argument has been attacked but the powerful image remains of a way of life in which the natural is given an equal or perhaps superior place alongside the human and the man-made, and in which simplicity in the material sense is exalted as a sustainable and hence superior life-style.
Against this outlook, the medical scientist and humanist Rene Dubos put forward the claims of St. Benedict of Nursia (480-550), best known for the Benedictine Rule and for the numerous religious communities which have put it into practice. Dubos has claimed for St. Benedict that his followers have engaged not in a romantic and atavistic flight to the 'natural',  but have in a practical way brought about creative transformations of nature: turning waste places into productive agriculture, for instance. In this tradition he sees the great landscape gardens of eighteenth-century England, and the mixed farmland, woodland and small-scale settlement of Wisconsin or Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He claims that the Benedictine tradition is one of stewardship, care and reverence for the qualities of the land and that given such a positive and beneficial type of change, nobody ought to want to expend energy on preserving the wild for its own sake.
Just as White's interpretations of the influence of religious history have been challenged, so have Dubos's views: they are, it can be argued, too much based on the attractive visual outcome of processes in which social injustice was often manifest. Cistercian abbeys, for example, accumulated great wealth and were not above dispossessing peasants of their land and removing their settlements. Likewise, the great landscape gardens of William Kent and 'Capability' Brown may have occupied land which formerly supported yeoman farmers or smallholders.
If we are to incorporate these ideas but still to transcend the apparent dichotomy they present then perhaps we have to eschew the notion of a religious calendar in which there is only one saint. Thus at both intellectual and practical levels what we need is an environmental Book of Hours with both luminaries in their due seasons and in their appropriate places. After all, transformation of the earth's surface seems to be one of the inevitable concomitants of human societies down the millennia and we should therefore be concerned that such metamorphoses ought to be creative rather than destructive. Yet there seems a persuasive case that no alterations ought to be total. On practical grounds, we need the unchanged, the wild, the natural because they are an evolving store of new materials (especially where living organisms are involved), may well be governors of biogeochemical cycles, and because the behaviour of natural systems may afford us clues as to the 'best' way of using ones like them for our own purposes. Beyond that, most industrial cultures now place a considerable value upon the wild, as 'being something other'. People may wish to visit such places for recreation, or to watch TV programmes about them, or scarcely consciously just to know that they are there. Such a deeply held set of views cannot simply be dismissed as 'emotional' by advocates of change.
This still leaves us with the problem of distinguishing creative transformation from its destructive opposite. Since no magic formula can be produced here, we can only resort to hints and guesses. The most important is, perhaps, to be open to innovations in terms not only of new technology, but also of new ways of applying it and new social structures. As in organic evolution, many of these will wither, but others may flourish and form the nurseries of the long-term viability which we seek. Being open must mean being ready to receive ideas from sources other than the orthodox repositories of scientific and technological information, T. Roszak argues that if the Gaia hypothesis is a reality then the planet must be able in some way to communicate with her inhabitants and tell them how to behave. Such knowledge is as likely to come intuitively as rationally and even those who would find Roszak and his followers too mystical (or downright fanciful) might accept that we place too much emphasis on the development of one brain hemisphere at the expense of the other.
If we were to be 'greened' as individuals, with the more formal societal structures following only as a consequence, it is then possible to glimpse, albeit dimly, the kind of new self-organizing, co-evolutionary relationship in which, Jantsch wrote, 'Learning . .. would be a creative game played with reality . . . creative processes would be permitted to unfold and form new structures.'
For each present moment, we should continue to study the systems of the planet with all the rigour and care that science dictates and learn both its potentials and limits, and in a more meditative posture attend to its emergent properties, to which we may perhaps attach the term the way, or Tao.  It is only from this duality that the prudent practical measures endorsed by heads of nations at the Rio Environment Summit in 1992 may be realised.