Ecological justice

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“Today we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (Pope Francis: Laudato Si’)

Pope Francis

Laudato Si

Our approach to Ecological Justice

In an increasingly complex era of climate crisis, environmental degradation and rising social inequalities, new challenges towards building a just society are appearing. In this changing environment, Jesuit Social Services has also been changing.

Ecological justice is both social and environmental justice. Ecological justice rests on the principle that ‘everything is interrelated’, and that ethical action in the environmental sphere is central to equity at a social level. This is in keeping with Jesuit Social Services’ ongoing commitment to relational ways of working as demonstrated in our service delivery models, our advocacy and with the ecology journey our organisation has been on since 2008.

Communities and individuals already experiencing social and economic disadvantage now face ecological and environmental challenges. These populations are often the least responsible for ecological risks and threats but are the most affected by their emergence. As such, Jesuit Social Services is committed to prioritising ecological justice.

Ecological Justice involves an ethical transformation where healthy relationships of exchange, sharing and co-creating become a central principle of pursuing justice. It requires a practical reconciliation of the relationship between humanity and nature, and involves a multi-party approach that includes engagement with governments, businesses, schools, indigenous groups and the wider community. Justice is holistic, it is relational.

An integral part of the journey of ecological justice involves building communities of justice. This includes activating and engaging communities and joining others’ efforts.

Organisational transformation

Restoring healthy ecological relationships

Jesuit Social Services fosters an ecological culture where transformation starts with the personal. The Jesuit Social Services approach is to:

  • encourage shared values of personal relationships with ecology; and
  • integrate an ecological justice perspective into all programs and advocacy

In 2008 Jesuit Social Services began to incorporate ecological justice into our organizational culture, program delivery and advocacy. This emerged from our commitment to building a just society, our Jesuit heritage emphasizing reconciliation with creation and our work with the most marginalized in the community who are most likely to be affected by environmental degradation and climate injustice.

Acknowledging the interconnection between environmental and social issues has influenced our practice, policy, and organisational identity, and shaped our strategy to ensure we are equipped to address justice issues of the future. We are committed to achieving a just society that contributes to restoring healthy ecological relationships for all.

Our ecological way of proceeding

Jesuit Social Services used its original Way of Proceeding as a basis to develop its ecological approach. This Way of Proceeding recognizes three interconnected domains that must be considered in all aspects of the organisation’s operations.

  1. Human Spirit – Focusing upon essential anthropological and spiritual questions around what it means to be human and enquiries into the conditions within which humans thrive and have healthy relationships. This involves an informed and discerning process of understanding ourselves, our fellow humans and our relational context.
  2. Practice Framework – Developing a relational way of being and acting that reflects and lives ecological justice. This promotes environmental awareness and ecological justice across our practice areas and our advocacy including justice and crime prevention, settlement and community building, mental health support and wellbeing, and education, training, and employment.
  3. Business Processes – Adopting environmentally sustainable business practices and processes. Discernment in relation to our financial and other resources so they respect and contribute to, rather than harm, efforts to build a just society

Advocacy and policy

A new paradigm of justice

We are entering a new paradigm of justice. Ecological justice must now be integrated into all our advocacy and policy approaches.

On a global level, humanity faces increasing challenges, highlighting the need for reconciliation in its relationship with the environment. Scientists, world leaders, activists and academics warn that the transformation of our relationship with climate and earth needs to occur immediately and collectively. This transition will affect economic systems, land costs and distribution, energy availability, and community and governance capacities. In essence, the new paradigm of justice requires us to confront the reality that the causes and effects of injustice we have traditionally seen and defined as separate, local and with identifiable causes and effects, are now infinitely more complex and both local and global in their generation and impacts.

Ecological justice, expressing the unity of social and environmental factors, provides an expansive lens on issues such as energy, housing, employment and food security. Jesuit Social Services works with the most marginalised members of the community who are the least responsible for ecological risks and threats but the most affected by their emergence, which throws up new challenges for advocacy, policy and empowerment.