As we look forward to 2017, I hope we will all embrace the magis of caring for the earth. Magis is a term often associated with the Society of Jesus, and it refers to the Jesuit motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam, or, “for the greater glory of God.” Understanding the magis of the earth requires discerning what our land can do for us and for our world. This includes utilizing land to address pressing social and environmental justice issues that are central to the papal encyclical Laudato Si’. GoodLands recently addressed this issue by developing a broader understanding of where Catholic landscapes can do more in the United States. We assessed the green infrastructure value for tens of thousands of Catholic-affiliate properties in the U.S. to help Catholic leadership and communities with environmental planning. This included an analysis of conservation/connectivity values and climate change risks. Goodlands collaborated on this project with a team from Esri, the world’s largest developer of geographic information systems (GIS). This team recently completed the EPA/Esri Nation-Wide Green Infrastructure mapping project. This collaboration is one of a number of truly ground-breaking projects we have recently completed. The information we developed will help communities of faith to better understand and manage their landholdings in the spirit of Laudato Si’s call to care for creation.
Our collaboration with Esri has enabled us to create the largest geodatabase of Catholic information in the world, including the first digital maps of ecclesiastical jurisdictions in history. We have connected these maps to narratives about climate change, health, age, electricity access, language, and poverty. Any other attributes that can be associated with locations on a map can be integrated into the maps we have developed.
In the coming year, we hope to significantly increase funding for our next phase of development, which includes building out a Catholic Enterprise GIS, the Catholic Geographic System, so that the tools and maps we have created can reach the Catholic communities who will benefit from them. The GIS will enable organizations to customize our tools and maps to meet their needs, and will enable data sharing among users if desired in a manner that is respectful of privacy and security needs. Catholic NGOs, religious orders, and dioceses will have access to the resources they need to effectively manage their landholdings, enabling them to carry out their mission-critical work, to better care for the earth, and to potentially realize significant cost savings in the process. If you are interested in donating, learning more, or talking about our work I would be happy and grateful for your support and/or interest. Donations are tax-deductible and will help us to reach the next phase – developing the data infrastructure that will put our tools to work in Catholic communities around the world.
All that we accomplished in our first year was done with an operating budget of $35,000 in direct donations; enormously generous in-kind donations of world-class technology, staff, housing, office space, and the consulting and development services of global leaders in GIS technology; and the volunteer services of a large network of supporters. A significant increase in resources is required to create a permanent infrastructure for Catholic mapping to move forward and to support our mapping and planning work with a communications team from the Vatican. We also need to hire a small, dedicated staff to create and manage these resources. I am confident that we can make any donation go further than you could imagine. GoodLands is not just about making maps – it’s about land that’s verdant and giving for generations to come, it’s about doing everything we can in our power every day to tend the magnificent planet that is our common home.
Understanding precedes action. There are vacant churches and schools on street corners in cities around the world. We have the largest refugee crisis in history unfolding and millions without homes. There are crumbling monasteries on mountainsides and vast landholdings supporting delicate ecosystems and endangered species, in many cases unknown to those on-site. Critical habitats may be lost to development when religious communities vanish unless thoughtful planning is undertaken in the next few years. Maps allow us to see the connections among communities, resources, peoples, the environment, buildings, and the context in which all of these exist together. Maps are a tool that enables us to scale our planning efforts from the smallest project to worldwide yet locally relevant action. Maps allow us to make a measurable impact. Maps provide us with the understanding required for effective action.
Professionals in environmental conservation, large-scale real estate development, and planning know that maps are invaluable tools for coherent, sustainable, planning of any sort, and we are the only organization focused on using GIS technology to help Catholic communities plan for a better future. There is no way to bring about the vision of Laudato Si’ without maps.
We all have a responsibility to be better stewards of our properties and to plan for a better future with the resources we have. I hope you can support us as we help communities meet their stewardship goals in a way that benefits all of humanity.
Executive Director, Founder