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  • Writer's pictureSean O'Leary

Healing the Earth Together

Earth's incredible diversity, varied landscapes and timeless beauty have long inspired human imagination. In Ireland, this basic truth is evident throughout our history. Whether it is the 5,000 year old passage tomb with its megalithic art created by Stone Age farmers in Newgrange, the 8th Century Book of Kells with its astonishing images of wildlife, or the insights of our writers, artists and scientists, we have always sought to interpret the meaning of life on earth.

Today, this sense of meaning has been marred by our growing awareness of a wounded earth caused by our own activities that have led to polluted rivers and oceans, deforestation, eroded soil and unclean air. These activities continue to threaten the stability of the world we live in through diminishing biodiversity, shrinking natural resources and a changing global climate.

A truly international online textbook Healing Earth aims to address these threats through a holistic approach that unites scientific, ethical and spiritual dimensions which form the core elements of an integral ecology. Ecologist and theologian Thomas Berry coined the phrase ‘integral ecology’ as a way of understanding the natural world that promotes the well-being of nature and human society. This concept later became a hallmark of Pope Francis' encyclical letter (2015) on the environment, Laudato Sí.

The innovative textbook unities the scientific approach of studying the structures and processes of the natural world, the ethical study of actions that contribute to the well-being of humans and the natural world, along with exploring the core convictions of our inner spirit that form the basis of our spirituality.

When we are captivated by the natural world, we are approaching what is sacred and appreciating a wholeness that lies beyond measurement. Experiences of wonder, awe and sacramentality are often life changing.

The freely available online textbook also examines the many beliefs and rituals that the world religions practice in relation to the natural world. In an era of increasing pluralism, it is important to understand how people of all religions and none relate to the natural world. The textbook covers the religious teachings and practices of Indigenous People, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity as they relate to the natural world.

The creation of the Healing Earth environmental science e-textbook has grown from the work of Jesuit networks who seek a deepening of our knowledge of self, society and the natural world. The most effective solutions to the world’s problems will come from people who are scientifically literate, ethically grounded, spiritually aware and motivated to act.

The textbook is suitable for upper secondary or early college level courses and the link is available at


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