Chair: Father George Coyne, McDevitt Chair in Physics (2015-2017)
The McDevitt Center's initiative devoted to Sustaining Earth is motivated by our sense of the urgency of the growing threats to our environment and by our conviction that a full understanding of these threats and effective responses to them must draw upon both scientific and broadly religious insights and perspectives. Through the public events in this initiative, we aim to provide a wide audience of students, faculty, and members of the regional community with accurate and up-to-date information about the threats, their causes, and measures to meet these threats.
Baba Brinkman on “Rap Guide to Climate Chaos”
Baba Brinkman is a Canadian rapper and award-winning playwright who is best known for his “Rap Guide” series of plays and albums. Brinkman has toured the world and enjoyed successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and off-Broadway in New York City. His latest work, Rap Guide to Climate Chaos, premiered in Edinburgh in 2015, after which it ran off-Broadway for five months.
Ronald Calvo on “Tourism, Sustainability and Responsible Development: Lessons from Costa Rica”
The ecology of Costa Rica is noted for its extraordinary biodiversity and an exemplary national commitment to using those natural resources as a foundation for a sustainable society. This talk traces the development from a centuries-long history of authoritarian government with colonial Iberian roots to the late-19th century advance of democracy in Costa Rica, particularly as contrasted with Nicaragua.
Despite the 1970s oil-price shocks and subsequent severe recession in both countries, the presentation will describe the seminal importance of the Costa Rica Institute of Tourism and the National Learning Institute in establishing ecotourism and the training of professional guides in expanding the economy beyond commodity-based agricultural exports.
Dr. Michael E. Mann (Penn State University) on “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Line”
A central figure in the controversy over human-caused (“anthropogenic”) climate change has been “The Hockey Stick,” a simple, easy-to-understand graph Professor Mann and his colleagues constructed to depict changes in Earth’s temperature back to 1000 AD. The graph was featured in the high-profile “Summary for Policy Makers” of the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and quickly became an icon in the debate over anthropogenic climate change.
In this lecture, Professor Mann will tell the story behind the Hockey Stick, using it as a vehicle for exploring broader issues regarding the role of skepticism in science, the uneasy relationship between science and politics, and the dangers that arise when special economic interests and those who do their bidding attempt to skew the discourse over policy-relevant areas of science. In short, Professor Mann will attempt to use the Hockey Stick to cut through the fog of disinformation that has been generated by the campaign to deny the reality of climate change and, in so doing, will reveal the very real threat to our future that lies behind it.
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Dr. John Hart (Boston University) on “Human Ecology and Socioeconomical Ethics: Complementary Sacred Commons Perspectives”
Pope Francis’ ecological justice encyclical, Laudato Sí, declares that Mother Earth and the poor cry for justice. Its human ecology theme teaches that people are interrelated and mutually interdependent with Earth and all living beings. A complementary insight is that Earth is a sacred commons in which community could be cultivated and conserved by socioecological praxis ethics: the integration of social justice – within and among human communities – with the well-being of Earth and all life. In this lecture, Professor Hart will explore ways in which human ecology and socioecological ethics, related in concrete contexts and complemented by Indian elders’ spiritual teachings, will stimulate creation of a holistic Earth community.
John Hart, Ph.D., is a professor of Christian Ethics at the Boston University School of Theology. Hart’s books include Cosmic Commons: Spirit, Science, and Space; Sacramental Commons: Christian Ecological Ethics; and What Are They Saying About … Environmental Theology? He has written numerous journal articles, been principal writer for regional Catholic bishops’ environmental statements, written the draft of a papal homily, and is the editor of The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religion and Ecology. Hart has worked on human rights issues with the International Indian Treaty Council, a nongovernmental organization accredited to the United Nations, and has lectured on the ecology-ethics-religion relationship on five continents, eight countries, and 35 U.S. states. He is a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute Focus Group on Astrobiology and Society.
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Dr. Sean Esbjörn-Hargens (MetaIntegral Associates) on “Integral Economies: The Crucial Role OF Multiple Forms of Capital in Fostering Planetary Health”
Current approaches to capital have done much over the last hundred years to create an unsustainable world and jeopardize planetary health. Thus, the transformation of economic systems lies at the heart of sustaining our Earth.
In this talk, Sean Esbjörn-Hargens, Ph.D., founder of MetaIntegral Associates, will focus on recently emerging models of capital that expand our understanding of capital to include many different forms (e.g., natural capital, human capital, psychological capital). He will examine the various metrics that are being used to measure these forms of capital and show how these more integral approaches to value creation can play a crucial role in fostering planetary health.
Dr. Christiana Peppard (Fordham University), Dr. Lawrence Tanner (Le Moyne College), and Dr. Jame Schaefer (Marquette University) on “Laudato Si’ and the Ethics of Climate Change”
Pope Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical Laudato Si’ has exceeded the expectations of almost everyone. Grounded in a deep engagement with a wealth of scientific findings and carrying profound political/economic implications, Francis’ call for action to meet the urgent ecological challenges facing our planet may well provoke one of the most important encounters between science and religion since the appearance of Darwin’s Origin of Species.
Laudato Si’ invites dialogue not only about the scientific, technical, and economic dimensions of climate change but also about its moral, ethical, and social dimensions. This set of assessments by leading experts in their fields will engage all of these facets of the encyclical’s positions and is intended to initiate informed and concerted action upon them.
Future of Being Human
Chair: Jennifer Glancy, McDevitt Core Professor (2015-2017)
In light of ecological crisis, rapid technological change, and widespread social alienation, what is the future of being human? Inaugurated in Spring 2015 and continuing through Spring 2017, this lecture series fostered a multidisciplinary conversation about what it means to be human in the 21st century.
Eula Biss on “Notes from No Man’s Land: A Reading and Conversation with Eula Biss”
Returning to questions of race, racial identity, and whiteness, critically acclaimed essayist Eula Biss reminds us that we are all interconnected – our bodies and our fates. Along with a reading by the author, the evening will include an exchange with sociologist Farha Ternikar, Ph.D., and conversation with the audience.
Eula Biss is the author of three books: On Immunity: An Inoculation (named one of the 10 Best Books of 2014 by The New York Times), Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism), and a collection of poetry, The Balloonists.
Donovan Schaffer (University of Oxford) on “You Don't Know What Pain Is: Affect, Animals, and the Lifeworld”
Affect theory considers how we interact with each other along registers that are not reducible to language. Like humans, animals arguably have rich religious worlds shaped by pre-linguistic textures of affect. Deprived of these lifeworlds, animals can be thrown into a state of trauma. In light of this, what are the ethical implications of the modern factory farm system, particularly the practice of mass confinement?
Donovan Schaefer, Ph.D., is departmental lecturer in science and religion at the University of Oxford. He is the author of Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power (Duke University Press, 2015).
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