Ecojesuit, as a network of apostolic works across the six Jesuit Conferences is reviewing its purpose, commitments and collaboration, its governance, coordination and communication.
In the light of the Jesuit call for clear Universal Apostolic Priorities, a good starting point for review are the Recommendations originally presented in 2011 in a Special Report on Ecology, Healing a Broken World by the Task Force on Ecology (Promotio Iustitiae No 106 2011/2), and at the end of the document, was signed by Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, then Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
These recommendations are worth reviewing from the Conference level to the kitchen. Advances have been made and there is much greater global awareness and collaboration. Even if the challenges have grown enormously with greater awareness, so too has the challenge of Laudato Si’ with deepening gratitude, humility and hope.
69) Principles to inspire our actions
These recommendations are inspired by a number of principles listed below:
i) Our faith in God‘s love and fidelity manifest in the gift of life calls us urgently to change our attitudes, and practices, to be steadfast and caring towards creation. The call of GC 35 for reconciliation draws us to establish right relationships with God, neighbour and creation, opening for us opportunities to delve deeper in our faith and challenging us to find ways of healing our broken world.
ii) Our commitment to follow Jesus Christ in poverty, the seriousness of the ecological crisis and the cry of the poor who suffer the consequences of environmental degradation calls us all to stop and reflect. Jesuits, members of the Ignatian family, and those responsible for our apostolic institutions are all invited to reflect seriously on the way in which our functional values driving our everyday decisions and actions remain consumerist at the core. Creation‘s groans, growing louder and louder as nature is destroyed, challenge us to adopt simpler lifestyles. In the fulfilment of this task we are inspired by many people worldwide who want to create a new world based on a just relationship with creation.
iii) We need a deep change of heart. This is the only radical way to face the present ecological challenge We must, therefore, renew the sources of our Ignatian spirituality, a spirituality that invites us to acknowledge, give thanks and commit ourselves to the life present in creation. In that renovation we will find ourselves affectively linked with other religious traditions, which also contain very valuable spiritual experiences for the defence of creation.
iv) This challenge goes far beyond our capacities, but we are not alone. There are many social, cultural and religious movements that are already committed to ecology. We are invited to collaborate with them, learning from them while contributing our own resources.
v) All the recommendations included in this document are considered important and many are already in practice. They are proposed as invitations to be discerned in community and in our apostolic works, according to the richness of local identities and contexts rather than as external rules to be adopted.
70) Addressed to different levels of governance
Though we are all responsible as a body for the universal Society, it seems practical to assign responsibility for implementing these recommendations at different levels:
i) At the level of the Province, the recommendation is generally meant for, or addressed to, individual Jesuits, communities, and institutions (apostolic works).
ii) At the regional level, the recommendation is meant for, or addressed to, a Conference of Provincials or an Assistancy.
iii) At the level of the universal Society of Jesus, the recommendation is meant for, or addressed to, the Society as one body, that is, members, institutions and apostolic works.
iv) Many recommendations, although addressed to specific apostolates of the Society, should be taken up by all Jesuits and partners in mission; e.g. all are responsible for communicating, not just our media and communications (net)works.
71) Variety of purposes or goals
i) Increasing awareness and knowledge of the issues or aspects regarding the environmental crisis; this may also include an understanding of the root causes of the problems and their effects.
ii) Increasing our spiritual and human motivation to change ourselves and respond to God‘s call.
iii) Increasing our engagement with strategic programmes, projects, actions and activities locally, nationally and globally.
72) RECOMMENDATION 1
Jesuit communities and apostolic works are invited to discern the management of our own institutions and to exchange and develop practices for more ecologically sustainable lifestyles in our communities. [level: Province, purpose: engagement]
73) Basic Principles
Sustainability should be a primary goal of our individual and collective activities. Our vow of poverty can be a source of inspiration to live simply and in a sustainable manner. Living with integrity by being consistent and honest with ourselves is important if we are to raise our own and others‘ consciousness and change our lifestyles.
74) Suggested action/activities
Promote prayerful discernment in our communities and institutions to examine our lifestyle and work environment in the context of our religious commitment to a life of poverty and simplicity.
75) RECOMMENDATION 2
All Jesuits and partners in mission are invited to address the effects of the environmental crisis on the poor, marginalised and indigenous peoples. [level: Province/Conference; purpose: engagement]
76) Suggested action/activities
i) Given the environmental challenges we face, there is a need for a conscious and active citizenship to pressurize governments to adopt necessary bold political decisions. The Society of Jesus should participate in social movements that generate environmental awareness to influence public policy both at the national and international level.
ii) The preferable way for the Society to be involved in civil society initiatives is through existing networks: faith-based (such as the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commissions at diocesan, regional and international level); networks within the social sector (e.g. through the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network) and at university level (such as networks promoted by AUSJAL), as well as networks that are local (such as the Equipo Itinerante in Amazonia, and ESSC in Mindanao). In many cases our involvement will also be with secular organizations (such as SAPI in India). Our spiritual and theological tradition will always inform our public positions.
iii) Appoint an institution in each Conference to map the work done and establish coordinating mechanisms at various levels. This may include the following:
iv) Preparing a full protocol for disaster management response
v) Engaging with the issue of ecological refugees, especially through Jesuit Refugee Service
vi) Strengthening projects that promote models of alternative development related to sustainable agriculture, ecological services and cultural practices concerning forests, providing energy at affordable cost, disaster reduction and climate change adaptation
vii) Contribute to the Jesuit work with marginalized and indigenous peoples to affirm and articulate their own culture and identity, to have security of livelihood and be able to relate to the world without losing their uniqueness
77) RECOMMENDATION 3
Those in charge of communication and media are invited to develop ways of increasing the awareness and motivation for action among Jesuits and all those involved in various apostolic ministries. [level: Province; purpose: awareness]
78) Suggested action/activities
Strengthen the different media and communications networks of the Society so that they can raise awareness about ecological issues. Examples include our network of radio stations, DVD production centres, publishing houses, journals, provincial news bulletins and websites.
i) Collaborate with our network of schools (primary, secondary and Fe y Alegría) in developing programmes for our students
ii) Collaborate with pastoral centres and parishes to introduce environmental awareness as part of our catechetical instruction
iii) Examine the possibility of developing a simple series of booklets or videos, based, for example, on the GC 35 fact sheets; and making available resources from other religious congregations and civil society organisations
iv) Involve as many young people as possible since they are likely to be more open to, and more engaged in, this issue
79) RECOMMENDATION 4
Jesuit higher education institutions, theological faculties, business schools, research and capacity-building centres are invited to engage students in transformative education and to explore new themes and areas of interdisciplinary research. [level: Conference; purpose: engagement, awareness]
80) Suggested action/activities
i) Inspired by youth who want to create a new world based on a just relationship with creation, we commit ourselves to an experiential learning environment where students are immersed in real-world environmental issues, learn to develop solutions and leave the university transformed by the experience.
ii) Develop on campuses an environmental ethic where students, faculty, staff and administrators participate in lowering consumption and increasing reuse and recycling, and are committed to reducing the campus environmental footprint and greening the campus. These practices empower the students while becoming socially normative so that when students graduate, they take these changes into society, and lead by example.
iii) Develop curricula that address sustainability issues and impart a certain level of environmental literacy. This may involve developing an ethics of fair consumption, promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on environmental issues in business schools, and establishing a resource base (e.g. teaching materials) for incorporating the environment as a dimension in non-environmental courses.
iv) Root university teaching, research, and service activities in social and environmental justice issues of the region to inform policy-making. This should include student and faculty engagement in developed and developing countries, and accompaniment in reflection, research, action and advocacy.
v) Support long-term partnerships between institutions strengthening student engagement in research related to ecological and social responsibility.
vi) Faculties of theology can play a critical role in strengthening the Society‘s understanding of the need to face the ecological crisis through deeper reflection. In this way the dialogue with youth can be strengthened, deepening the foundation of their hopes and commitments to a sustained life-giving reconciliation with the ecology they inherit.
81) RECOMMENDATION 5
Centres of theological reflection, spirituality, social and pastoral works are invited to develop the spiritual sources motivating our commitment and fostering our celebration of creation. [level Conference; purpose: motivational]
82) Suggested action/activities
i) Encourage Conferences to appoint an institution (theological centre, retreat house or pastoral centre) to implement this recommendation. This may involve:
- Seeking deeper communion with creation and learning from other religious traditions
- Setting up an agenda of critical topics to be researched
- Supporting retreat centres and those persons involved in the retreat movement to organise eco-spirituality programmes and retreats
- Encouraging pastoral centres to develop simple material for homilies, liturgies, catechetical courses, and social and cultural programmes
- Encouraging social and pastoral centres to jointly organize seminars, workshops or training courses to promote ecological awareness founded in a deep faith experience
ii) At Conference, Provincial or local level, a celebration of creation should be established. This celebration exists already in most local churches; some are ecumenical or even interreligious; where possible it would be better to join an already existing initiative.
83) RECOMMENDATION 6
The Governance structures of the society are invited to review our Jesuit formation in the light of environmental concerns. [level: Conference; purpose: engagement]
84) Basic Principles
All Jesuits are called to witness Christ‘s presence in Creation today. We are confronted with painful and creative personal experiences deepening our affectivity and our acknowledgement of the struggle and groaning of Creation. Our need for attitudinal change and reconciliation with Creation comes from a welling up of our faith and human integrity that also affirms our rational and scientific analysis of the problems.
85) Suggested action/activities
i) At each stage of formation, Jesuits are encouraged to commit themselves to establishing right (just) relationships with creation. Novices should be introduced to sustainable habits of life; regents should be sent to institutions engaged with ecological issues and with communities suffering the impact of ecological degradation. Ongoing formation programmes urgently need to be made available to Jesuits and members of the Ignatian family.
ii) The curricula and programmes in Jesuit centres of Philosophy and Theology need to be reviewed so as to deepen our reflection on the fundamental issues behind the ecological crisis. For example, a required course on environmental ethics and courses integrating the environment with philosophy and theology can create a basis for environmental commitment.
iii) Increase the skills and capacities of scholastics so that they can make use of the information that they already have. Encourage scholastics to learn from non-governmental and people‘s organisations working in the field of ecology.
86) RECOMMENDATION 7
All Conferences are invited to explicitly include the theme of ecology in their apostolic plans. [level: Conference; purpose: engagement, awareness]
87) Suggested action/activities
i) Conferences may select local geographical areas to develop integrated plans (socio-pastoral, cultural, advocacy, scientific etc) that concretise their environmental commitment. In selecting the geographical areas the existence of regional priorities already decided upon needs to be honoured. As examples we propose the following:
- Appalachian Mountains and Tar Sand areas for North America
- Amazonian region for Latin America
- Democratic Republic of Congo (mining & equatorial forest) and Malawi (deforestation) for Africa and Madagascar
- The Adivasi-dominated region of central India or the Northeastern states of India for South Asia
- Mekong Watershed, Mindanao and Pacific Islands for Asia-Pacific
- Sources of energy and their sustainability for Europe
ii) Conferences should be invited to appoint an institution to be in charge of promoting these initiatives, monitoring the progress made and evaluating the steps taken. In some cases, a commission could assist the President in formulating a policy on ecology.
iii) At the provincial level, apostolic plans and activities should include local and regional environmental concerns.
iv) The Presidents of the Conferences should select areas / themes of inter-conference collaboration in specific ecological projects.
88) RECOMMENDATION 8
The Central Government of the Society is invited to develop a mechanism which can help Fr. General to follow up and evaluate implementation of the GC 35 mandate to establish right relationships with creation as expressed in these recommendations. [level: Universal; purpose: engagement]
89) Suggested actions/activities
i) Establish a mechanism that would include Counsellors and Apostolic Secretaries to monitor and evaluate the implementation of these recommendations. This may be done by ensuring a broader accountability through periodic auditing of activities and responsibilities.
ii) The Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) should have the capacity to carry out, among others, the following functions:
- Animate and coordinate the plans and activities of the various Conferences on issue related to ecology
- With the help of an interdisciplinary group, offer technical, political and ethical advice on critical issues regarding ecology and the environment
iii) At an appropriate time, the directors of apostolic works and the major superiors may be asked to report in the annual ex-officio letters the progress they have made in implementing the directive of GC 35 on this issue.
i) Examine our pattern and levels of consumption and firmly commit ourselves to a reduction in consumption.
ii) Make the establishing of right (just) relationships with creation a theme of prayer in Jesuit communities. There is need to develop and share relevant texts and materials for common prayer or for community retreats.
iii) Provide orientation to Jesuit and lay staff of our institutions on ecological perspectives, resources, and shared practices.
iv) Provide tools and concepts that may help the community or the institution to plan for more sustainable ways of living: measurement of ecological footprint, buying from local markets, etc.
v) Develop eco-heritage sites at provincial level.
Mobility and communication (Travel)
i) Examine modes of travel and actively search for alternatives. For example, limiting the use of cars and favouring public transportation and the use of cycles.
ii) Offset the carbon “debt” from air travel by investing in Jesuit ecology projects.
iii) Provide facilities for video or Skype conferences instead of air travel.
Living spaces and buildings (Energy)
i) Carry out energy audits and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and Environmental Resource Assessments (ERA) to assess the ecological footprint of our community, work and province.
ii) Act on them by establishing environment management plans that look closely at the running of our works, and obtain available certification of our (new) buildings
iii) This may lead us to invest in energy efficient heating/cooling systems, in appropriate electrical appliances, solar energy and other forms of renewable energy etc.
iv) In all our communities and works, and especially houses of formation, there should be a simple and constant practice of recycling perishable and imperishable materials.
v) Wherever applicable, we should recommend architects and engineers who are conscious of environmental issues and can help provinces in drafting building plans.
vi) Any new construction of Jesuit institutions should examine eco-toilets, interlocking blocks, solar energy for heating water and allowing natural light into the building, water catchment and storage, biogas, and grey water.
i) Offer training courses to learn about ways to render more sustainable our practices of buying food: promote organically grown, local and seasonal fairly traded food.
ii) Reduce food wastage as much as possible and compost organic kitchen waste.
iii) Encourage vegetarian (meat-free) days or weeks in all communities, especially (but not exclusively) during Lent.
iv) If possible, do not use bottled water.
v) Communities with outdoor space may want to grow vegetables.
Electronic devices, household appliances and other non-perishable goods
i) Follow the three Rs: reduce, recycle, and re-use in all our works and communities.
ii) Examine our tendency to accumulate gadgets; ask always the question: Do I really need this item?
iii) Recycle appropriately all broken or unused consumer electronics.
iv) When buying new devices/appliances, pay special attention to energy efficiency and longevity.
v) Use re-chargeable batteries.
vi) Unplug your electronic devices. Don‘t leave them in standby mode.
vii) When buying clothes, make sure they are made of natural, organically grown fibres and/or fairly traded.
i) Use biodegradable cleaning products, especially if there are problems with waste water treatment.
ii) Use paper-based hygiene products made from recycled materials.
iii) Use cloth that can be washed rather than thrown away.
i) FACSI could allocate some funds for environmental projects in the Society worldwide.
ii) Provinces should invest with socially and ecologically responsible criteria.