The LSRI Makes Key Integral Ecology Books Available Online
In March this year, the Laudato Si’ Research Institute launched its new Laudato Si’ Integral Ecology Collection.
This makes available for the first time a series of books in integral ecology, ecotheology, environmental ethics, and economics and international development. It will provide a valuable resource for lay readers, students, and those undertaking more advanced academic study. The collection is an important expression of the LSRI’s commitment to widening global engagement and participation in issues of integral ecology, especially with respect to previously-marginalised groups.
At the launch event, Adam Walton, a research assistant at the LSRI who has been instrumental in leading the project, described how the collection was developed following consultation with over 60 academics, ecological activists, church leaders, and students from 21 countries in 6 continents. This survey culminated in a report entitled Global access to integral ecology and theology resources (LSRI, 2020), which found significant restrictions on the majority of respondents’ access to books addressing these fields. In particular, academics from lower/middle income countries were more than twice as likely to lack regular access to the books and resources they need than their counterparts in higher income countries, significantly limiting their work in this field.
"While a wide range of approaches will be needed to address the systemic injustices that underlie this problem,” Adam explained, “both the LSRI and respondents to the survey favoured the creation of an open access collection of books on integral ecology as a key step the LSRI could take to support global dialogue about integral ecology.”
A highlight of the launch was hearing the personal accounts from individuals who had participated in the survey on how the open access collection could be a useful resource in their respective contexts.
Cheryl Dugan, from the Laudato Si’ Movement, Philippines, described the challenges she faced in accessing academic texts on integral ecology. “The context in my region [Asia Pacific] is that these books are difficult to find, both online and offline, and it's very hard to find books that help build one's knowledge about Laudato Si’ and about integral ecology. The cost of the books in general in most countries in the region is also prohibitive. And in most places we do not have extensive public and private library systems. Therefore, making these books available will be very beneficial to our network”.
Peter Knox, from Hekima University, Nairobi, said of the collection itself: “I'm very pleased that this library has introductory level works because I think that's the level at which most African readers are going to be able to engage with the material in the library, and I'm certainly going to be putting some of the books on the bibliographies of my courses in the future”.
Adrian Beling, from the Red Universitaria por el Cuidado de la Casa Común, Argentina, spoke of the service dimension of the collection in the context of Latin America. “We're living in a network society. This network character provides new opportunities for furthering the idea of an integral ecology and for contributing to an ecological conversion or an ecological transition of our world. If we're really serious about this ecological transition, then we need to prioritize the interface between religion and the rest of the world. […] I think this library collection will serve in a very decisive manner to advance and to bridge these different worlds”.
Perhaps the most surprising benefit of the collection was highlighted by Xavier De Benazé, from the Campus de la Transition and the Centre Sèvres in Paris, who explained that having access to texts in PDF format allowed for easy translation through translation software like Google Translate. As he explained, “most of the research today in eco-theology is published in English. All students can use these books and even if they don't really have the level of English [required], they have easy access to translation software. So the PDF format is very useful for that”.
The open access collection was developed with the help of Knowledge Unlatched, and with generous contribution to the co-funding of the programme from Georgetown University’s Environmental Justice Programme and the University of Notre Dame.
A full recording of the virtual launch can be viewed here.