Eco-Bites December Editorial
It is easy to scan “green” announcements in the academic sector and move on, but these reflect the achievement and dedication of people who want to make our relationship with the earth more clearly understood.
Academic life has a reputation for being ‘political.’ It is not a pleasant reputation to have. It suggests endless conspiracies, entrenched factions, personality clashes and all those human quirks which make it difficult to get things done. Perhaps what goes on in the corridors of academia is more toxic than elsewhere. One could argue that the world of academia is that bit removed from the urgency of running a business or a state, the innate rivalry and aggression humanity will always find its outlet.
Perhaps the academic reputation for ‘politics’ is a comment on the contrast between the ‘objectivity’ which academics are expected to espouse and the passion which they bring to their research and their teaching. For all the talk of objectivity, it is the passion which really shapes their world – and ours. Those of us who have had any experience of third level education know the difference between the lecturer who simply ‘reads’ and the one who really knows how to teach.
We talk about a passion for truth and, if the academic world is to be of value, it must reflect that passion. One sure sign of that passion is change. If there is no change it means the ‘readers’ have the upper hand. How do curriculums change? How do new ‘faculties’ or ‘schools’ get established? The path of change in academia is littered with reports, findings, proposals and committee meetings which only really make sense to those who participate in them.
These realities which appear so remote from ‘reality’ play a key role in relating ideas to the way we live. The ecological crisis which we are facing remains at the level of the notional until people decide that they want to do something about it and nothing of consequence can be done until people make it a focus of academic enquiry and analysis. For that to happen someone needs to make space for these issues in centres of learning – and not just physical space.
Two items of news from different sides of the Atlantic feature in this edition are worth noting. First, at Loyola University Chicago, the Institute of Environmental Sustainability has become the School of Environmental Sustainability. Secondly, the Pontifical University of Camillas has launched “Sustainability and Ignatian Values. A joint Massive Online Open Course from worldwide Jesuit universities.” It’s easy to scan these announcements and move on, but they both reflect the achievement and dedication of people who want to make our relationship with the earth more clearly understood. By steps like these our thinking and our world is changed.
Edmond Grace SJ
Secretary for Ecology