Michael Taylor: A teacher of Laudato Si’—and Aquinas, codfish, and bees.

Next in an occasional series introducing Catholic eco-leaders, we meet a man on the front-lines of innovative Catholic eco-education

A new opportunity to learn about the Church’s take on nature and eco-protection offers the chance to introduce Michael Dominic Taylor, an up-and-coming teacher on the foundations and implications of all things Catholic ecology.

Mike contacted me before Christmas about an online course coming next month. “Introduction to Integral Ecology: the Ecological Vision of Laudato Si'” is an interdisciplinary exploration of our world and its current environmental crisis. It’s been developed to examine Laudato Si’ and its roots with the aid of contemporary authors such as Wendell Berry, Pablo Martinez de Anguita, Stratford Caldecott, and Joseph Ratzinger, as well as classical authors from Aristotle and Plato to Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas.

When Mike asked if I’d help spread the word, I couldn't refuse. This sort of learning opportunity is critical for a solid understanding of the Church’s long, long understanding of nature—in the fullest meaning of that word. And such an understanding will help us all live God’s calling to better tend his garden, our common home.

Mike’s unique background makes him a perfect fit for teaching this kind of course.

He has degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies (Bowdoin College, USA) and Philosophy (Università Gregoriana, Roma). He lived in Latin America for five years where he was intimately involved in non-profit and social work. He also holds a Master’s degree in Bioethics from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (Madrid). His thesis, which is available here, was Towards an Integral Ecological Ethic: The Renewal of Metaphysics in the Thought of Stratford Caldecott.

Mike is currently a doctoral candidate in Environmental Ethics and lives in Granada with his wife.

Having taught this course in person, Mike said he’s excited about the opportunity to work with Saint Joseph's College of Maine to offer it online to anyone, anywhere in the world.

“I hope that we have a very diverse group of students with unique perspectives that will really enrich our discussions,” he recently told Catholic Ecology.

The course is entirely online but students will not be on their own, Mike said. “Weekly discussions will keep the course very connected and will be a key aspect of the course.”

Ultimately, the course's intent is to consider becoming “the kind of people who love all of reality and make good choices because of it."

The readings, while loosely following the encyclical Laudato Si', will be diverse—from Aristotle to John Muir, to Aquinas and Wendell Berry. The goal is to present and delve into the different worldviews we humans tend to adopt—consciously or unconsciously—towards the natural world around us and within us.

“The dominant of these worldviews is the technological paradigm that, at the end of the day, sees nature as a machine that we are only extrinsically related to,” Mike said. “On the other hand we find a noble sentiment of connectedness to nature but that does not have the philosophical finesse to prevent us from seeing man as a virus. The end goal is to explore man's true calling to be caretakers of nature and of others in a way that is far more fulfilling than just recycling or riding a bike.”

Ultimately, the course's intent is to consider becoming “the kind of people who love all of reality and make good choices because of it. With that said, the course is more philosophical than theological and is open to anyone from any or no belief system.”

Using a technical term about one’s understanding of existence itself, Mike explained that the focus of the course is on the “ontological vision” we adopt—that is, “what we take to be the true nature of reality, and from there, critiquing ourselves and our societies.”

And if you think, from reading that, that this course will be some untethered philosophical flight in the heavens, be assured that all of this will be aimed at appreciating the everyday things of the world—as you would expect from someone like Taylor, who’s educated in philosophy, ethics, and the natural sciences of biology and environmental studies.

“Along the way, we’ll discuss important philosophical concepts, as well as lobsters, codfish, birds of paradise, rhinoceroses, and bees in a fully interdisciplinary course that sees the importance and interconnection of ideas, people and creatures.”

Interested in other posts on Catholic eco-leaders? Check out this one on Molly Burhans of GoodLands.

This kind of course, taught by this kind of Catholic eco-leader, will be a great benefit for all those eager to understand a Catholic—that is, universal—view of ecology.

And that means it’s an important course for anyone eager to help nurture and protect the world gifted to us by God.

Course information is below. For now, please keep Mike and his family in your prayers as he continues what we hope will be a long career bringing the beauty and wisdom of Catholic ecology to a world in dire need of it.

“Introduction to Integral Ecology” is a three-credit graduate course offered completely online through Saint Joseph’s College, an institution of higher education accredited by New England Commission of Higher Education. The course runs from February 1 to April 26, 2019. Tuition is $1,095 USD. You need not be a student of Saint Joseph's College to sign up. See the course page for more information.

Registration is between January 7th and the 25th. The online registration form is here.

"Introduction to Integral Ecology" is taught through the Laudato Si' Institute for Care of Creation, based in Granada. The institute's president is Arcchbishop Javier Martínez Fernández, Archbishop of Granada. Students who sign up through the Laudato SI’ Institute will receive a 10% discount.

Photo: Used with permission

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.