Every morning, Mallika Ganpati wakes up at her small home in Varanasi, India and walks a mile to the river Ganges, also called the Ganga, to collect water for her family. Mallika is one of 784 million people worldwide who walk long distances every day to access the water they need to survive. We revisit Mallika’s story in the context of World Water Day, which we celebrate on 22nd March every year.
Mallika’s story is intertwined with the story of the Ganges, the holy river of India, on which so many people, animals, plants, depend for their lives. Their story forms part of a case study in the chapter on Water in the Healing Earth, the “living textbook”.
Healing Earth integrates environmental science texts with ethics, theology, and spirituality into the curriculum to deepen the learning experience through reflection and action. It is geared toward upper-level secondary school students, beginning college students and adult learners and it has already been used in classrooms in at least 17 countries, 20 secondary schools and more than 30 universities.
After the e-textbook was published in January 2016 two schools shared on Educate Magis a couple of student projects on Healing Earth. One from Saint Louis University High School (MO, USA) entitled”Presenting Missouri“ who also participated in the piloting of the textbook, and the other one hailed from San Jose Jesuitak (Durango, Spain) who created a blog focusing environmental issues in the Basque Country entitled “Biodiversity in the Basque Country”.
This online resource, while a brilliant blended teaching resource also helps link schools as a global network on environmental concerns. In October 2017, students at the Jesuit secondary school “Colegio del Salvador” in Zaragoza, Spain, were studying hurricanes. At the same time, their peers in Puerto Rico were living through the aftermath of one. The students from Zaragoza “wrote letters of support to the students of Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola in San Juan, Puerto Rico, who remained in the midst of recovery from the devastating destruction brought by Hurricane Maria a month earlier” (Brian Roewe).
The e-textbook features six chapters — introduction, biodiversity, natural resources, energy, water, global climate change — with each written by an interdisciplinary team of scholars and teachers. A third of the writers were faculty from Loyola University Chicago and about an equal number of contributors came from outside the U.S., including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Spain and Zambia. The book’s editing team continues to make updates, including a forthcoming chapter on food, a synthesis chapter tying together all the issues addressed from a macro level, and more global case studies. They also plan to polish up the Spanish translation and eventually produce a French version. (Source: Brian Roewe).
Chapter 4, simply entitled “Water” sets out with a number of learning objectives, it continues with a case study on the River Ganges, followed by four sections on Water and Science, Water and Ethics, Water and Spirituality, Water and Action. It also offers Reflection Questions and Explorations alongside some additional resources. Please see this chapter here.
For example, the section on Ethics asks the question: “What ethical challenges do we face in protecting the quantity and quality of Earth’s water resources?” While the Water and Spirituality segment presents the spiritual and symbolic power of water in different cultures and religions. The e-textbook does not stop at recounting facts, it invites students to a whole experiential journey to be taken with a critical and questioning mind and spirit.
There are clear connections between Healing Earth and the integral ecology that Pope Francis emphasized in his encyclical Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home”. The word “water” is cited forty-seven times, which demonstrates the significance of this topic in the encyclical.
The encyclical emphasises that the poorest suffer the most from water problems:
“One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality.” (Section 29)
The encyclical goes further and remarks:
“Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. (Section 30).”
The spirit of Laudato Si’ and Healing a Broken World, the Jesuit document which provides the spiritual basis of Healing Earth challenges us by saying we are “in need of a change of heart.”
Let us celebrate this World Water Day keeping in mind the significance of this gift, that is water. Learning more about and reflecting on the different dimensions of how water, or its absence thereof, affects our lives and challenges us to act – as individuals, as a classroom, as a school community and as an interconnected global network of Jesuit and Ignatian schools.
If your school is doing a Healing Earth project, you are welcome to share it with the Educate Magis community.