Global challenges, global solutions
Loyola joins Jesuit institutions worldwide to collaborate on Healing Earth, an online textbook tackling modern ecological issues
Shrinking natural resources, a declining food and water supply, and the planet’s changing climate are among the pressing environmental challenges for people in all corners of the globe. And educating the next generation on how to understand and begin to address these issues is going to require a global effort.
Enter the International Jesuit Ecology Project (IJEP), a first-of-its-kind initiative that brings together members of the worldwide Jesuit education network for a shared mission. Realizing that educating students about these pressing 21st-century challenges necessitates a 21st-century resource, the IJEP have launched Healing Earth, a free, online environmental science textbook for upper-level secondary schools and beginning college students.
Led by a team from Loyola University Chicago, the project reflects the work of more than 90 scholars from Jesuit institutions across the globe with a wide range of expertise. Broken into six chapters—biodiversity, natural resources, energy, water, food, and global climate change—the book offers perspectives on modern ecological issues from a scientific, ethical, and spiritual perspective. Healing Earth also provides a platform for students around the world to share their perspectives on environmental issues in real time.
“We want students to learn more than the science behind our environmental problems—we want them to reflect on the complicated social issues these problems create,” says Michael Schuck, PhD, associate professor of theology at Loyola and Healing Earth co-editor. “Students want to be engaged as whole people; they want their minds, hearts, and spirits challenged, and they want to be mobilized. Healing Earth meets our students as whole people.”
With the support of Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., chancellor of Loyola University Chicago and secretary of the Jesuit Global Higher Education Directorate, and Patxi Álvarez de los Mozos, S.J., director of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat in in the Jesuit Curia, the IJEP was initiated in the fall of 2011. Soon after, Healing Earth was identified as the project’s major initiative. In October 2012, a team of 31 experts from 10 countries gathered at Loyola’s Retreat and Ecology Campus to conceptualize and outline the textbook.
“The Society of Jesus has identified environmental sustainability and ecological challenges—which disproportionately affect the lives of the poor and marginalized—as a major area of concern,” says Father Garanzini. “All Jesuit institutions, especially universities, have been called on to address these issues, something which we are uniquely qualified to do.”
The goal of the book is to provide students a holistic view of these problems and a hopeful, action-oriented response at the local level. As an online resource, the digital text can be updated with new resource links and video content. It will also unite students from around the globe and give them access to educational materials that may otherwise be unavailable.
For Keith Esenther, S.J., an ESL instructor at Arrupe College in Harare, Zimbabwe, that is a major benefit of the project. “In Zimbabwe, the Internet is much easier to access than printed textbooks,” he says.
“Healing Earth will help us understand how to use the world’s resources in a way that is fair and honest and recognizes their limitations, and its online format will allow us to deliver this information to students in the developing world.”
IJEP collaborators plan to create additional resources for educators, which will include forums for lesson plan sharing and a teacher’s manual. To accommodate a global audience, the textbook is being translated into multiple languages, including Spanish and French, which will be available later this year.