Healing Earth is a living textbook of the International Jesuit Ecology Project headed by Michael Garanzini, SJ, President of Loyola University Chicago and Secretary for Higher Education for the Society of Jesus. Scholars from Jesuit universities and social apostolates around the world are writing this text to heighten awareness of environmental issues. The text is a living text as it has a living and changing community of people who contribute, update, and refine the work coming from across the continents and sharing the different regional contexts.
In a recent workshop to advance the various chapters, Fr Garanzini addressed the group and shared the vision that this textbook is going to do something that other textbooks do not. It weaves together science, spirituality, and ethics so that science teachers and the students have a deeper human understanding of the world around us, and how we need to strengthen our knowledge and cooperation.
Bringing the knowledge and experience of these three fields together is risky as writers might earn the disrespect of others in any of these fields unless the methods and interrelations are well defined. “Trying to reach a global audience is trail blazing,” Fr Garanzini said, “and risking your reputations trying to do this.”
Dr Michael Schuck and Dr Nancy Tuchman take the lead in sustaining this work and the different teams involved. This is a text written by over 60 authors and no publishing house would take on such a challenge. With an editorial committee of 25, this would not be easy but for the dedication of so many people. It is a struggle to put minds together. The text is developing in three languages at this stage.
Trying to reach a global program that responds to 18-year-old youth in different parts of the world is a challenge. We see a global youth in all their diversity, yet they share a level of coherence in terms of popular culture, music, sports, and other interests. Transformative education, for which the living text of Healing Earth is designed, allows the youth understand more deeply the world around them beyond their common interests.
On its home ground, Loyola University Chicago recently opened the Institute of Environmental Sustainability to raise awareness of the environmental threats to the planet among our youth, providing opportunities for students to develop tangible solutions to local environmental problems. The institute’s facility is energy efficient. It is the largest geothermal facility in the Chicago land region and houses a large greenhouse for student learning and faculty research on urban sustainable agriculture techniques. In addition, there is a biodiesel laboratory where students make fuel for the campus shuttle buses out of waste vegetable oil from our campus cafeterias. These waste-to-energy projects give students the tools, as well as hope, for finding a way to reconcile these issues.
Since 2011 when the report on Healing a Broken World was shared and which called for a serious look at how our educators, students, and teachers are responding to the issues of sustainability, the issues have only become more obvious and serious. As a particular focus of the report, Jesuit institutions are asked to look at their schools, retreat houses, and works, and seek a level of commitment that makes a difference.
And as our attention to the economic and political complexity of these environmental issues often emerge later, an addendum on the economics and the politics might need to be written as another section in the future. Like a thesis, we are challenged to calculate our audience, focus, and winnow down, not to expand the text but to keep it manageable for the science teacher and the classroom.
Fr Garanzini gave a timeline, a real deadline, as the Jesuit universities meet in 2015 in Melbourne, Australia (along with the meeting of the Catholic universities in January) and is occasion for a real collaboration amongst Jesuit institutes with higher education, training women and men to transform the world. The clock is ticking, so it is an urgent time to present this project. We need to leverage the network on schools so it has a positive impact on the education apostolate. This is everybody’s concern and is an academic issue, as well as political, economic, and ethical.