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On the journey to a more ecologically just future

Jesuit Social Services has been dedicated to building a just society for more than 40 years.

Over the last decade, this approach has evolved to have a focus on ecological justice – that is the interconnection of social justice and environmental justice and the recognition that one cannot be achieved without addressing the other.

Effective ecological justice work requires a balance between urgently addressing the current climate emergency and ensuring the most marginalised members of the community are always included in solutions.

We invited Pedro Walpole SJ, Director of Research at the Institute of Environmental Science for Social Change in the Philippines to help us grapple with these issues by delivering a series of workshops to Board members and staff over a number of years. These workshops helped to expand our understanding of the impact humans are having upon the earth, the changes in climate and environment we are seeing as a result, and how those changes are most keenly felt by poor communities and nations around the globe.

A simple example of this is the rising sea levels threatening small pacific nations and driving forced migration. These poor Nations are not contributing to climate change but are bearing the brunt of its impact.

Since 2013, Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards has played a significant role internationally by leading the Jesuits’ Justice in Mining network.

The network aims to protect human rights and the environment and advocates with and for local communities affected by mining activities.

Locally, Jesuit Social Services has sought to improve its own practices and processes by establishing working groups to focus on sustainable business practices, ecologically aware program delivery and spirituality.

This process of introspection has led us to implement many changes in the way we go about our business and the way we relate with our participants and partners in the sector.

A few years ago we established an Ecological Justice Hub in Brunswick, Victoria to deliver hands-on work with individuals and groups to support people to lead more sustainable lifestyles and ultimately lessen the impact of climate change.

We also appointed Bronwyn Lay as Ecological Justice Coordinator.

Bronwyn’s work in ecological justice and climate change is recognised internationally. Her own study was in the issue of on international land governance and environmental law.

“The marginalised and vulnerable people and communities we work with are often the least responsible for ecological risks and threats – but the most affected by them,” says Bronwyn.

“These risks and threats create new classes of vulnerable people and disproportionately impact those already experiencing poverty, mental illness, housing insecurity and disability.”

Our ecological justice work also recognises that broad systemic reform is needed, and includes advocating for change at Federal and state levels.

“Our commitment to ecology is a commitment to a connection and care for our common home,” says Bronwyn.

As Pope Francis writes in Laudato Si, “Today we have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment.”

In an increasingly complex era of climate crisis, environmental degradation and rising social inequality, the challenges we must overcome to achieve a just and sustainable society are evident – but many of the solutions are still to be discovered.

We hope you will join us on our journey towards an ecologically just future.