Jesuit communities around the world have been asked to make their buildings more energy efficient, help farmers use sustainable agricultural practices and launch programs in their universities that promote both theological reflection and scientific research on protecting the environment. A 68-page special report on ecology, “Healing a Broken World,” published in Rome in mid-September by the headquarters of the Society of Jesus, calls on Jesuits and their collaborators to confront their own inner resistance and “cast a grateful look on creation, letting our heart be touched by its wounded reality and making a strong personal and communal commitment to healing it.”
The report calls for biblical and spiritual reflection on the gift of creation and an understanding of environmental protection as a justice issue, since it is the poor who suffer first and most severely from the destruction of environment. “Creation, the life-giving gift of God, has become material, extractable and marketable,” the document said. According to “Healing,” people have allowed technology and rationality to dominate the way they look at the physical world, “blunting our sensitivity to the mystery, diversity and vastness of life and the universe.”
The overuse of fossil fuels and the creation of greenhouse gases, the waste or pollution of waters, deforestation, polluting the ground with chemicals and the growing pressure put on the environment by increasing populations are issues that must be dealt with from a position of faith, personal responsibility and science, it said. “It is the very dream of God as creator that is threatened. It is the entire world, the one God put in the hands of humankind to keep and preserve, which is in real danger of destruction.”
Restoring a right or just relationship with God, with creation and with other people is not simply a matter of personal prayer and appreciation. It requires a real change in the way one lives, the report concludes. Religious communities may not have the technical know-how and resources to reverse pollution, but they do espouse the moral values that are needed to promote new relationships with the world God created and with the poor, who experience hunger, drought, landslides and flooding because of environmental destruction, the Jesuits said.
In practical terms, the report asks Jesuits worldwide to: conduct assessments of their energy use and consumption patterns, taking their vow of poverty seriously to reduce their own negative impact on the environment; consider the huge impact the environmental crisis is having on the poor and commit themselves to advocacy work on behalf of the poor; promote sustainable agriculture practices; look for ways to explain and promote the spiritual and practical motivations for environmental concern.
“Healing” asks Jesuit schools, universities, theology faculties and research institutes to immerse their students in “real-world environmental issues”; promote an “environmental ethic” on campuses by supporting recycling and energy savings; and develop courses in business, science, ethics and theology that include environmental responsibility and reflection. The report suggests that Jesuits living in environmentally vulnerable parts of the world develop projects bringing together social and pastoral work, advocacy and scientific research to help the local people.