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Ecojesuit: Global Jesuit collaboration and action on environment as relationship

15 October 2017

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Jesuit responses to a rapidly changing world, environmental concerns, poverty, and violence are challenging its worldwide ministries.  There clearly is a need to initiate new processes for broader engagement by Jesuits in the larger transformation that Pope Francis seeks in caring for creation in Laudato Si’.  As the message of GC 36 and the conversations with the Holy Father spread, reflection is quietly deepening and this is where Ecojesuit wishes to strategically respond.

Previously referred to as the Global Ignatian Action Network (GIAN)-Ecology, Ecojesuit facilitates engagements among Jesuit social, educational and pastoral institutes, as well as other religious congregations and the Church, to address Laudato Si’s broad call for action and collaboration with others in reconciliation in the world.  And to achieve this, Ecojesuit pursues the following actions at three levels:

  • Promoting global cooperation through dialogue to discern on the role of values and civil society in achieving effective change, with the scientific community and with belief systems
  • Accompanying regional actions through collaboration to encourage links with regional networks and with diverse stakeholders
  • Supporting local initiatives through networking to strengthen local efforts in ecological conversion and meeting the needs of people

Boundaries on the landscape

The Jesuit global challenge in healing a broken world needs to respect the natural balances of the Earth’s chemistry and biological diversity.  These are the natural boundaries to life as we know it and there are nine key relationships we are breaking in our misuse of resources. When put on the landscape, the planet’s boundaries  are easier for people to see where they can connect and contribute.

Fossil fuel burning is the primary cause of increased atmospheric carbon and impacts climate change and all other boundaries of the planet as we know it.

Land use change is a second source of carbon and is now critically weakening the interconnectivity of ecological systems and natural diversity negatively impacting many of our unique environments from coral reefs to the Arctic.  The lungs of the world – Amazonia, Congo Basin, and tropical rainforests of Asia – are losing their moderating influence on climate and biosphere integrity.

A third boundary is novel entities that include hydrochlorofluorocarbons, also contributing to carbon emissions, and other chemicals used in the agrochemical business with high levels of environmental toxicity.  Eutrophication from excessive use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers threatens the natural biochemical flows and sustainability of our soils and water sources, a fourth boundary.

Indigenous Peoples and farming communities in many cases are both negatively impacted by weather change and aggressive commercial agriculture.  They are frequently identified as destroying the forest, without recognition of the drivers, but lack adequate support in agroforestry programs and tenure while subject to displacement by infrastructure and mining for national economic development.

The challenges of this generation, recently laid out by a global agenda survey, can be summarized on three levels.  The first is political will, increasingly unclear geopolitical shifts, rise of populist leaders, and major shifts in global trade.  The next level is about youth, unemployment, education, skills development.  The third level of global challenges is the inequalities and the environmental condition of the world.

Global trends and global risks resonate with the inequalities, the polarization, the public disaffection for political processes affecting the decision-making globally and weakening global collaboration.  Many global social processes too are being heavily tested.  We keep talking of risks and seeking to manage these risks but responding to mass popular reaction, sometimes with limited understanding and integration of the drivers and root causes of these risks in an effort to end them.  As a result, global resilience is reduced.

“Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (Laudato Si’, 139)

Ecojesuit themes

Ecojesuit identified 10 contemporary themes to focus the work and use as a basis to strengthen broader collaboration through experiences in relation to these themes.  This thematic listing is not comprehensive but is an effort to synthesize actions already taking place.

Many of these themes call for major adjustments in how we think and accompany others as we respond and these in turn impact how we approach themes of global sustainability.  All are linked but there is a creativity that is emerging that is influencing our education, our spirituality, our use of science, communications and global networking with much greater integrity and sense of service.  The 10 Ecojesuit themes are:

  1. Ecojesuit Online  (sign on please)
  2. Organic Farming and Land Use Change (including Ecclesial Networking for Land Use and Indigenous Peoples)
  3. Disaster Risk Reduction and Water
  4. Healing Earth, Living Text
  5. Flights for Forests  and the Carbon Challenge 
  6. Energy and Fossil Fuel Divestments
  7. Lifestyle Initiatives, using SDGs Local to Global
  8. Laudato Si’ and Spirituality of Action
  9. Science and Values
  10. Initiatives in relation to global processes, such as the annual UN Climate Change Conference and in 2017 will be held in Bonn, Germany under the Presidency of Fiji

Invitation to discern, collaborate and network

Laudato Si’ places the environment and the poor at the center of climate change and sustainable development discussions.  If translated and shared, it is first an experience of felt compassion for the poor that someone is sharing their pain and suffering as they seek a livelihood while strengthening their environmental resilience.

The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion to new ways of practicing change together and first entails gratitude and recognition that the world is a gift.

With this, we invite you to join this effort in a global Jesuit collaboration on reconciliation and action where the environment is a relationship with God and neighbor.  We invite you to help heal our broken world by taking part in building global Jesuit cooperation, strengthening regional actions in Jesuit Conferences, and sustaining local initiatives towards ecological conversion.

“Pope Francis has emphasized the fundamental connection between the environmental crisis and the social crisis in which we live today…These are not separate crises but one crisis that is a symptom of something much deeper: the flawed way societies and economies are organized.  The current economic system with its predatory orientation discards natural resources as well as people.  For this reason, Pope Francis insists that the only adequate solution must be a radical one.  The direction of development must be altered if it is to be sustainable.  We Jesuits are called to help heal a broken world, promoting a new way of producing and consuming, which puts God’s creation at the center.” (GC 36, Decree 1.29)

To know more about Ecojesuit’s activities and the regional links and contacts who regularly meet online, especially in preparation for the Ecojesuit 13 November side event in Aloisiuskolleg in Bonn, Germany in conjunction with COP23 activities, please email [email protected].  The Ecojesuit brochure in English, Spanish, and French can also be viewed and downloaded here.

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