Mapping the Path towards a Brighter Future
Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, speaks eloquently about the earth, our common home:
“Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.’”
As we care for the earth, thoughtful land-management strategies foster a clean environment, promote public health, address social justice concerns, add beauty to the world, support life in its many species, and allow us to glorify God through our care for Creation. The various institutions within the Catholic Church possess a large amount of land. If the Church adopts forward-looking land-use practices, it can put a huge dent globally in all the areas of environmental protection outlined in the encyclical Laudato Si’. Catholic communities across the world have an incredible opportunity to use their lands to lead not just by words, but also by witness. The mission of GoodLands is to help the Church develop a deeper geospatial understanding of itself and to leverage this knowledge to serve the Church’s mission to care for all creation. We are working towards a vision where Catholic conservation and sustainability can become the largest non-governmental global network of its kind, comparable to Catholic healthcare and Catholic education.
Mapping Catholic lands presents an exciting opportunity to develop a new way of looking at the Church, to explore the spatial patterns underlying its work and physical presence globally, and to devise creative strategies for the management of Catholic lands that can have a lasting impact on climate change. Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si’ that, “[the Lord’s] love constantly impels us to find new ways forward.” Understanding ourselves spatially, in relation to the environment, is part of our call to a renewed, more sustainable way forward in the face of climate change.
The starting point for GoodLands is the creation of a Living Atlas that will enable the Church to understand her operations spatially. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology has transformed maps from static Cartesian planes into a dynamic tool for spatial analysis and a way to formulate strategies for action and new narratives about the Church’s physical presence globally. A GIS allows massive amounts of information about land to be overlaid, analyzed, and spatially correlated. The possibilities for using existing GIS technology to increase our understanding of the Catholic Church’s land are numerous, and the potential for using this understanding for good is enormous.
The idea behind GoodLands is simple: overlay Church jurisdictions and lands holdings on powerful GIS databases to locate where small changes in the management of land can have a big impact on sustainability and justice goals. Then connect these high impact sites with appropriate resources to make those changes. We believe that having the Church understand, care for, and maintain her land is so important that we are dedicated to helping the Church lay the foundation for mapping and land-use planning. GoodLands has already secured the partnership of the leading academic departments pioneering the use of GIS, and the leading technology company in the GIS space. GoodLands represents an implementation strategy for Laudato Si’ that can measurably contribute to creating a more verdant and just future for all humanity. The path to a brighter and more sustainable future can easily be found--what we need to locate it is a map!