Planet & Climate

Molly Burhans

Illustrated picture of Molly Burhans, white woman smiling with glasses

Transforming how the Catholic Church manages its land

What does the Catholic Church have to do with creating a regenerative world? As the largest non-governmental land-owner, it turns out there's a lot they can do to ensure we live within planetary boundaries. Ashoka Fellow Molly Burhans is paving that path forward. She founded GoodLands to help the Catholic Church manage their land for good, and leverage it for climate action. Molly created the first global map of land owned by the Catholic Church, enabling her to steer them into purposeful stewardship. Their goal is to bring Catholic conservation to the scale and impact of Catholic health care globally. This means working with dioceses across the country and world to help their leaders programmatically align facility usage with the goals and the mission of the Church. Practically, this means that their team surveys the properties, assesses how they are functioning, including how they contribute to local ecosystems and the community. Then they build a robust, dynamic map that’s essentially a powerful database that helps dioceses, religious orders, and other large landholders make informed decisions about land use. GoodLands' approach is both local scale and ultimately global across all Church properties.


In 2016 GoodLands developed the first global data-based maps of the Catholic Church.

GoodLands’ uses state-of-the-art remote sensing and mapping technology combined with scientific expertise to help clients identify parcels that can have the greatest positive impact on ecosystems health if placed into conservation easements.

In 2017, GoodLands mapped abuse cases involving Catholic priests. Their work demonstrated that dioceses with formal policies to protect minors resulted in a dramatic decrease of cases.

Acknowledging the connection between climate change and migration, GoodLands works with the Church to leverage its under-used facilities to address human migration.

Interesting fact from Molly:

"There is no way that we will address the climate crisis or biodiversity loss in any sort of timely manner if the Catholic Church does not engage, especially with its own lands and property."