Melting Ice; Mending Creation

On October 3rd, Dr. Ben Jordan (Director of the Living Learning Communities) hosted an interfaith discussion group to talk about a Catholic approach to climate change in honor of this year’s Feast of St. Francis program highlighting the Pontifical Academy of Science’s Working Group report titled Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene. The program featured the photographic evidence of melting glaciers as documented by James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey. Balog is the science photographer behind the recently released documentary film Chasing Ice.

Whiteout Glacier, Alaska, June 13, 2008

James Balog, Whiteout Glacier, Alaska, June 13, 2008

“The mixture of students, Christian Brothers, staff, and faculty of different faiths made for an engaging discussion for the ‘Melting Ice, Mending Creation’ event,” Dr. Jordan said. “I was particularly intrigued by the comments that science’s data about glaciers melting and global temperature rising might help convince people that there is a climate change problem, but that linking those concerns to faith and spirituality can often do a better job of motivating more people to take action. The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, hosts a national event like this each year in honor of the Feast of Saint Francis for schools, colleges, and churches – so I look forward to another good event next year that allows CBU folks of different faiths to explore how spirituality shapes our understanding of the environment and sustainability”

logo_covenantAs the Catholic Climate Covenant states on their webpage, “Catholics are called to respect God’s creation and deal with environmental issues, particularly as they affect the poor. Vatican and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statements have highlighted the moral imperative for Catholics to care for God’s creation and its impact on those least able to respond. These statements are based on scientific evidence and public discourse which have converged in making climate change such an urgent moral imperative.”

Also in attendance for the discussion was Biochemistry major and Lasallian Fellow, Anna Birg. She had this to say: “For many, religion is a means to gain moral insight and to help one another. In this case, the moral issue at hand is rising environmental temperatures, which are causing glaciers to melt, promoting high and unsafe sea levels. Although I am neither Catholic nor a Christian, I do recognize that religion, spirituality, and faith can all be means for people to realize the negative effect pollution is having on the world and to make changes. For example, Catholic values encourage people to become more environmentally friendly because the religion emphasizes that the Earth is God’s creation and that society must care for and protect it to show their gratitude. Additionally, as the group discussed, the Lasallian values of faith, community, and service tie in to the need to improve the community’s surroundings, particularly through education, institutional practices such as recycling, and CBU’s September of Service.”

Students interested in studying this theme further may want to take Dr. Mary Leigh Pittenger’s new Spring RS 292 class on “Environmental Theology.” CBU also offers a Minor in Sustainability Studies.