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Ecological Consciousness and Global Sustainability

Deepening and Broadening Our Commitment to Sustainability: A Community Process


For more than 20 years, the IHM community has been committed to “developing and acting out of an ecological consciousness.” In 2015, the IHM Leadership Council appointed the Sustainability Task Force to develop a process to help the community look at its commitment to sustainability with intentionality and in the context of IHM mission and ministry and to reignite IHM’s commitment to develop and act out of an ecological consciousness.

The Sustainability Task Force designed the community process and a timeline and began by identifying three foundational questions:

1. What are the signs that, as individuals and as a community, we have embraced the call to develop and act out of an ecological consciousness?
2. In what ways does this consciousness impact our decisions, ministries, prayer and lifestyle?
3. Do we recognize “ecological consciousness” as necessary for the systemic changes called for in this time?

The community process consisted of four elements, spanned 18 months and engaged the IHM community in reviewing what had been accomplished, reflecting on the needs of today, and discerning how to move forward. The process relied on existing governance and communication structures with additional opportunities as needed.

Elements 1 and 2:  “Celebrating and Deepening Our Growing Sense of Ecological Consciousness”

Element 1 began in December 2015 with a community survey that provided both direction and insight for the process and concluded in February 2016 with a celebration of our growing ecological consciousness where we creatively shared key findings from the survey.

Element 2, “Deepening Our Sense of Ecological Consciousness and Global Sustainability,” began in February 2016. One of the Sustainability Task Force’s assumptions was that the IHM community had done a significant amount of work learning about, reflecting upon and living out the commitment to ecological consciousness. The survey affirmed this. About 77 percent of respondents identified “ongoing education that connects the dots between Earth’s well-being and human behavior” as a most significant step for the IHM community to move forward in this commitment. So the task force invited the community to use the Lenten Easter Journey as a time for deepening this understanding and offered a process as well as a list of annotated resources.

Celebration of Our Growing Ecological Consciousness (PDF)

Annotated Resource List (PDF)

Element 3: Creative Thinking About Mission and Ministry Through the Lens of Ecological Consciousness”

The 2016 IHM Community Days were an invitation to creative thinking around mission and ministry through the lens of ecological consciousness. Members were asked to tap into their creativity and imagination and allow their visions and dreams to flow freely

Participants viewed the David Korten video presentation, Serving Money to Serving Life: A Sacred Story of Our Time, which encouraged us to shift our cultural view from “time is money” to “time is life.” As Korten explains, “to change the future we must change the stories that guide our lives and create a living economy for a living earth.”

IHM community members engaged in creative thinking conversations using the top two responses to the IHM Community Survey as the basis for the creative process.

  1. Ongoing education that connects the dots between Earth’s well-being and human behavior; and
  2. Look at our financial resources through the lens of ecological consciousness and discover possibilities for IHM to shift our practices in ways that impact the whole.

During small group sessions, facilitators encouraged the participants to welcome all ideas, dreams and visions regarding the topic. Each small group shared with the larger group one-three ideas that seemed the most inviting. The dreaming and visioning process concluded with a reflection and sharing session and an invitation to all who wanted to continue exploring the ideas that had emerged.

Element 4: “Walking to the Edge”

“Walking to the Edge” refers to that space where something ends and something new begins. In nature this is known as an ecotone – the plain ends and the forest begins to emerge. Or the edge of a cliff from which one gets a broader view of the landscape and sees the whole picture.

The intention of Element 4 of the community process was to explore the topics that surfaced and assess feasibility and implementation. Three Ecotone Groups (Food, Poverty and the New Story) were formed to assess the feasibility of an idea and what implementing it might look like.

The Ecotone Groups used biomimicry as a framework through which they explored their ideas asking:  “What do we really want to do?” and “How would Nature do it?” In May 2017, the Ecotone Groups gathered and shared the results of their exploration.

Food Ecotone Resources

New Story Ecotone Resources

Poverty Ecotone Resources