Higher education for social transformation in Europe

Higher education for social transformation in Europe

The HEST ecology and environmental challenges cluster wants to do research to contribute to the needed ecosocial transformation.
The HEST ecology and environmental challenges cluster wants to do research to contribute to the needed ecosocial transformation.

Jaime Tatay SJ and José Carlos Romero

In the context of COP23 where ecological concerns are at the front and center, the ecology and environmental challenges cluster of the Higher Education for Social Transformation (HEST) met in Bonn and wants to collaborate with the larger Ecojesuit network in building a narrative based on Laudato Si’ and GC36.

HEST is a program promoted by the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials.  It is envisioned as a pan-continental, cross-disciplinary endeavor that aims to: (1) provide meaningful and quality research and design a solid dissemination and advocacy strategy for each cluster; (2) pressure for greater multinational cooperation in reforms and activities that would understand the structural causes of poverty and inequality in the world and promote changes; and (3) strengthen the Jesuit identity of higher education and social institutions.

HEST’s long-term objective is to produce meaningful and quality research on seven practical topics that can be communicated to a range of audiences to promote progressive advocacy in each area: ecology and environmental challenges; economy, poverty and ethics; Christian-Muslim relations; dialogue, science, and religion; Ignatian studies; anthropology; and migration and refugees.

In the face of climate change and environmental decline, the migration and refugee crisis, the rise of nationalistic politics, and the continuing problems with our regional economies, Europeans may be tempted to despair, and ask: “Where can we turn for renewal?  Who can inform the major questions of our day?”

The university can be one site for the dialogue required to tackle these problems.  The best research seeks answers to everyday problems and, if universities understand their vocation clearly in terms of commitment to the common good, they can become centers for change that help Europe come to terms with the challenges it faces.  It is with that hope in mind that the European Jesuit higher education institutions and social centers have come together to launch HEST, an ambitious 15-year plan to target their research towards these pressing questions in the daily lives of Europeans.

2017_11_11_Blog3_Photo2As such, the HEST ecology and environmental challenges cluster agreed to focus on the following research questions:

  • What is the specific contribution that Jesuits can provide in these matters?
  • Of the Jesuit values in this regard, which provide added value, what is unique, and what has been done elsewhere?
  • Are all Jesuit values covered by previous literature and research?  How can we place environmental science in a broader societal context?
  • How can our different institutions foster greater collaboration among themselves and beyond, learning from the larger network experience in environmental advocacy?
  • What has been done about the social implications of environmental problems which is also a part of environmental justice?
  • How can we incorporate Jesuit values, the option for the poor, and justice into real policy decision? (e.g. energy)

All these questions remain open and are waiting to be answered. This is precisely the objective of the meeting, to identify the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of our cooperative work towards developing research activities in the service of the necessary ecosocial transformation.

Jaime Tatay works at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas, where José Carlos Romero, HEST Coordinator, is finishing his PhD studies.

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