The spiritual dimension for more sustainable behaviours in higher education institutions

 


Creativity emerges as the response of different higher education institutions to the challenge launched by the United Nations and Laudato Si’…It is based on a more holistic pedagogical change that considers not only technical skills, but also the promotion of internal and transversal competences, aiming at sustainable development including the interaction between the self, the micro and the macrosystem.


The new forms of the individual’s relationship with nature have aroused interest both in the sphere of discourses and in the various practices of sustainable development. Examples of this are the New Age Movement (of a spiritual order) and the Laudato Si‘ (of a religious order).

Thus, aware of the importance of taking Science outside the Academy, this post results from the multiple reflections made in a paper presented at the 4th Sustainable Campus Conference.

When we refer to religious institutions, Pope Francis stands out as an influential Voice in the call for the protection of the planet – our common home – to achieve sustainable and integral development. Through a disturbing but encouraging message, he reveals that all together (human family), regardless of ideals or religions, must collaborate for the construction of the common home.

According to Singh and Judith Steinau-Clark (2016), a new global partnership for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is only possible if religions are involved. Thus, the importance of the major religions – Bahá’í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, indigenous traditions, Islam and Judaism – are a way to respond to the pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for universal peace and the eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions.

There are several studies reporting the need to investigate how religion and spirituality precede sustainable behaviours and attitudes; and the achievement of the SDGs (e.g. Hedlund-de Witt, 2011; Burford, et al., 2013; Lves & Kidwell, 2019; Lves et al., 2020; Muñoz-García, Lestar & Böhm, 2020; Villena-Martínez, 2020).

Thus, it becomes crucial to explore whether the response to sustainable development can/should be underpinned by higher education governance initiatives and practices based on values such as compassion, empathy and generosity. It is important to understand how each individual’s greater inner knowledge shapes more integrative behaviour towards the environment, improving social systems.

Considering previous studies with literature review supporting the importance of the spiritual dimension and the inner knowledge of each individual for changing mindsets, education for ecological spirituality, advocated by Pope Francis (Francis, 2015) and eco-spirituality (Lestar and Böhm, 2020), was explored as it can serve as a development for greater ethical and spiritual awareness for sustainability in higher education institutions.

Creativity emerges as the response of different higher education institutions to the challenge launched by the United Nations and Laudato Si’, based on the assumptions presented here. It is based on a more holistic pedagogical change that considers not only technical skills, but also the promotion of internal and transversal competences, aiming at sustainable development including the interaction between the self, the micro and the macrosystem.

Photo by Freepik

How to act? The initiative proposals:

Although universal, but applied in the specific context of higher education, we present initiatives inspired by the spiritual dimension of human development, which contribute to a change in mentalities towards more humanised and sustainable behaviour.

The spiritual dimension in the transition towards more sustainable behaviours in the extension of higher education institutions

Aiming for a different lifestyle Development of initiatives that promote the adoption of sustainable lifestyles among the academic community and within the scope of its activities on the different campuses.
Educating for an alliance between humanity and the environment To promote in the academic community skills for environmental education, ecological ethics, sustainable development, integral ecology and the goals of sustainable development.
Eco-conversion Stimulation of the Ecological Conversion Foci among the whole academic community.
Joy and peace To foster Sobriety and Humility through music, art, contact with nature and meditation.
Civil and political love Fostering universal brotherhood based on love of society and commitment to the common good (on the political, economic and cultural levels).

Adapted from the Encyclical Laudato si’ (Francis, 2015)

In a society where having is increasingly predominant, education, particularly higher education, should set an example through practices, in line with what Schumacher (1974) and Pope Francis (2015) advocate.

Under the motto “small, is beautiful”, the initiatives proposed by the Encyclical Laudato si’ may constitute a reality to be adopted by educational institutions through a top-down strategy, continued through a bottom-up approach.

Future steps should be based on empirical studies leveraged on the eco-spirituality perspective (Lestar & Böhm, 2020), which support the shift towards internal and social factors rather than central focus on technical specificities to study the role of spirituality in this context.

It will be necessary to identify the lessons learned that increasingly inspire this sustainable attitude.

References

Aleixo, A. M., Leal, S. & Mano, M. (2022). The Spiritual dimension in the transition to more sustainable behaviors in the extension of higher education institutions [Poster]. Poster presented at the 4th Conference Sustainable Campus 2022, Instituto Politécnico de Leiria (Leiria), October 2022, https://ccs2022.ipleiria.pt/sessao-de-posters-3/

Burford, G., Hoover, E., Velasco, I., Janoušková, S., Jimenez, A., Piggot, G., … & Harder, M. K. (2013). Bringing the “missing pillar” into sustainable development goals: Towards intersubjective values-based indicators. Sustainability, 5(7), 3035-3059

Francis, Pope (2015). Encyclical Letter: Laudato si’ of the Holy Father Francis on the Care of the Common House. Vatican, Rome, 24 May 2015, available: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/pt/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html, accessible 27 February 2022

Hedlund-de Witt, A. (2011). The rising culture and worldview of contemporary spirituality: A sociological study of potentials and pitfalls for sustainable development. Ecological Economics, 70(6), 1057-1065.

Ives, C. D., & Kidwell, J. (2019). Religion and social values for sustainability. Sustainability Science, 14(5), 1355-1362.

Ives, C. D., Freeth, R., & Fischer, J. (2020). Inside-out sustainability: The neglect of inner worlds. Ambio, 49(1), 208-217. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-019-01187-w

Khushwant Singh & Judith Steinau-Clark (eds.), Voices from Religions on Sustainable Development (Bonn: German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation [BMZ], 2016), 159 pp. No ISBN. May be ordered from ReligionMatters@giz.de.

Muñoz-García, A., & Villena-Martínez, M. D. (2020). Sustainable Behavior among Spanish University Students in Terms of Dimensions of Religion and Spirituality. Sustainability, 12(2), 470. https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/2/470

Schumacher, E.F (1973). Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered; Blond & Briggs: London, UK, 1973; ISBN 9781446468364.

Tamas Lestar & Steffen Böhm (2020). Ecospirituality and sustainability transitions: agency towards degrowth, Religion, State & Society, 48 (1), 56-73, DOI: 10.1080/09637494.2019.1702410

* Cover Image Creative Commons License Type (photos by Freepik)

**Please find the version in portuguese on the next page

**Por favor, aceda à próxima página para a versão em português da publicação 

 


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