The relationship between the world’s poor, ecological degradation, and climate change has received renewed attention since the release of Laudato Si’. In a recent forum, Fordham University explored these topics and more.
On November 3, the University’s Center on Religion and Culture hosted a panel entitled: “Our Planet’s Keeper?: The Environment, the Poor, and the Struggle for Justice”. The forum engaged religious and secular perspectives on “the twin challenges of ecological devastation and global poverty”. The speakers included:
- Óscar Andres Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; former president of Caritas Internationalis, a global confederation of Catholic humanitarian organizations.
- Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University; special advisor on millennium development goals to the United Nations secretary-general.
Moderated by Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of Catholic Relief Services, the panel brought to the table essential insights into Catholic social teaching, environmental in justice, and the encyclical in general.
On Laudato Si’ and its potential to change the world, Sachs responded by citing a historic example of the political and perhaps life-saving power of Catholic social teaching. He reminded us of the impact that Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris had on former President John F. Kennedy, the Cold War, and international nuclear policy. Sachs cited the seemingly coincidental relationship between the publishing of the encyclical, JFK’s commencement speech on peace at American University, and the signing of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation:
“The encyclical played a fundamental role in shifting the world. And here we are today. It’s happening again.”
Cardinal Rodriguez spoke on Pope Francis’ authority on the matter of environmental injustice. In response to critiques that the pontiff should not meddle in political or scientific affairs he said:
“This is wrong. The encyclical talks about global warming in passing. Its main argument is that the earth is our common home. And every house needs maintenance—especially when we live in a house that is a little old.”
How is your campus engaging environmental justice? Let us know!