GoodLand Project

GoodLand Project

This month, FHTE is featuring a group working to build off the momentum of Pope Francis’ epic encyclical.

The mission of the GoodLand Project is to increase the Catholic Church’s understanding and ecological planning of its landholdings through geographic information technologies and community involvement in order to demonstrate how these lands can be a means for positive global environmental and social change.

We hope to transform a sense of ownership of land into a sense of stewardship amongst communities through top-down planning efforts combined with bottom-up community involvement. We will use graphics and mapping to increase environmental data transparency and literacy, educate about the impacts of climate change, and reveal high-impact land-based solutions to help promote regional ecological health and positive social change.

Currently, Molly Burhans of the GoodLand Project is working with a student at Yale to develop models for habitat fragmentation. This will help identify Catholic-affiliate properties that are playing vital roles in the landscape, such as by contributing to connectivity or interior patch habitat, and provide suggestions for the protection of these areas. She is also working at a larger scale, developing a global dioceses classification system. This will enable GLP to provide information, such as climate change vulnerability assessment results, that can help other Catholic aid organizations approach dioceses with a more preventative lenses for soon-to be pressing concerns for the people and environment in these areas. GLP has also prototyped three different types interactive mapping applications that will allow them to collect information about Church properties and involve communities in crowd-sourced data collection, information sharing, and crowd-funding.

This project has enormous potential, given that the various institutions within the Catholic Church, such as the Vatican, dioceses, religious communities, universities, hospitals, cemeteries, etc., possess a large amount of land. We believe that if the Church adopts forward-looking land-use practices, it can put a huge dent globally in all areas of environmental protection.

About Molly: I recently received a M.S. degree in Ecological Design from the Conway School of Landscape Planning and Design in Conway, Massachusetts. I was my class’ Sustainable Communities Initiative Fellow, given to a student(s) each year that shows exceptional concern for human ecology. Through my education, I designed a universally accessible urban farming and education center with at risk youth, created a city-wide pollinator vision plan for Portland, ME, and did agriculture and water infrastructure planning in the Sahel in Mali, Africa (witnessing desertification impacting people, firsthand, in Mali and listening to personal narratives that almost perfectly aligned with the climate data I had studied prior to field work was a very sobering and moving experience). Prior to this, I received a BA in philosophy at Canisius College and studied Ignation spirituality under the guidance of a Jesuit. I also worked in molecular biology for a handful of years, have occasionally done professional scientific illustration since I was 14, was involved in some service and activism for environmental and economic justice concerns, and co-founded a worker-owned cooperative vertical farm in Buffalo, NY (GroOperative) to help repurpose industrial space, increase food security, and try to build a near-closed-loop production system.


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