Commitment to care for our sacred common home is one result of integrating recent scientific discoveries into our beliefs and lifestyles. One strives to become a benign presence on Earth, appreciating and protecting her gifts rather than exploiting them. Educators increasingly find ways to infuse these values. The International Jesuit Ecology Project (IJEP) is an excellent example of educators responding to global needs with a global resource.
Healing Earth, a free environmental science e-textbook
Today, worldwide, there are millions of climate refugees who have been displaced from their land and livelihoods because of rising sea levels (due to arctic ice melt), catastrophic storm events, extended droughts, and/or torrential flooding. All of Earth’s systems are in decline.
How did we get here? Our consumption of fossil fuels and natural resources, and our production of waste is at an all-time unsustainable high. If all seven billion people lived like those of us in the United States, we’d require six Earths-worth of land and water to keep up with our lifestyle demands. The good news? We humans control the planet’s destiny; we are the authors of the next chapter. We can change the world for the better for our children and grandchildren. We need to follow the Pope’s example and muster the will to do what is right and responsible. Scientists, economists, world leaders and educated citizens world-wide understand and embrace the urgency at hand. If we want to change the direction of our impending fate—we must act now.
This is why my work on the free environmental science e-textbook, Healing Earth has felt to me like an important contribution to Jesuit education and environmental science. Healing Earth is for all types of students interested in environmental science and specifically designed for first year university students, fourth-year secondary school students, adult learners and those most marginalized worldwide. The textbook is aimed at heightening awareness of our planet’s environmental issues through Ignatian Pedagogy—a method that challenges students to see scientifically, evaluate ethically, reflect spiritually and act effectively. Healing Earth was written collaboratively by 90 scholars from Jesuit institutions worldwide and takes a global approach to environmental issues.
For over 500 years, the Jesuits have affected social change through education. The International Jesuit Ecology Project (IJEP) is made up of international scholars with expertise in environmental science, environmental ethics, and environmental spirituality who have thought deeply about how to get environmental science education to our most marginalized populations. With Healing Earth, we’ve created a textbook that encourages students to be agents-of-change on our ever-changing planet whose 5-billion-year evolution (within the Universe’s 13.8 billion years) is now dependent on decisions made by humans.
Healing Earth begins each chapter with a regional case study that poses interrelated scientific, ethical, spiritual and action-oriented questions. For example, the case study in the Global Climate Change chapter focuses on Mongolian Herdsman who are losing their herds and their ancient nomadic way of life because of climate change.
The science of global climate change can help us all better understand what is happening to Mongolia’s pastureland.
The perspective of environmental ethics points out the complex matter of moral responsibility [of the human species that is dependent on our interconnected common home for basic components of life.] The herdsman aren’t the ones emitting the destructive gases into the atmosphere. So, who shares moral responsibility for global climate change and what responses are morally called for?
The perspective of spirituality asks us to consider what the Earth means to us. How deeply do we respect the natural world? [Do we realize that we are part of it, living within it (not on it), taking our place in its billions-of-years story? Do we realize it is a community of subjects with spiritual worth?] For the Mongolian herdsmen, the herds and pastures have a sacred value.
How, then, are we called to act? How can we support the herdsmen in their efforts to survive against the increasingly terrible odds of global climate change?
Through case studies like that of the Mongolian herdsmen, Healing Earth (link: http://healingearth.ijep.net/) helps students see the relationship between science, ethics, spirituality and action.
Interested in becoming an early adopter of Healing Earth and sharing it with your students? Email firstname.lastname@example.org