Changes to the global climate, due in recent years primarily to greenhouse gases released largely as a result of human activity, have led to devastating wildfires, intensified storms, severe drought and other consequences around the world. As catastrophic as these phenomena are, the transition to a more sustainable future through behavioral adaptations and cleaner forms of energy, as well as the response to climate crises that will arise in the near future, will bring about vast and costly economic, social and political disruption.
As Pope Francis wrote in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”
The University of Notre Dame seeks to contribute to a transition to a cleaner future where the burdens of change are equitably borne and not simply sloughed off to the poor and powerless. During the 2021-22 academic year, the University, through its annual Notre Dame Forum, will engage in a series of conversations devoted to the theme “Care for Our Common Home: Just Transition to a Sustainable Future.” Inspired by Laudato Si’ and the Holy Father’s continued emphasis on these issues, the forum will feature a wide range of discussions and events over the coming year.
“The question is not whether to transition to a cleaner, more sustainable future, but how and how quickly,” Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame, said. “As a university community whose work is the education of the next generation who will inherit these challenges, and as one with a Catholic mission calling us to seek justice and serve the common good around the globe, we turn to these urgent and complex questions.”
Among many initiatives already underway at Notre Dame, the University has co-sponsored with the Vatican a series of conversations on energy transition with executives from among the world’s leading energy producers and investors, resulting in 2019 with participants signing statements of support for carbon pricing and disclosures on climate change risk. Through programs such as Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative and ND Energy, University scholars and researchers work to find solutions to society’s complex environmental challenges that acknowledge and address the importance of both human welfare and environmental health and help the world move toward a more sustainable future.
On campus and in the local community, the University has in recent years dramatically expanded its sustainability measures, including ending the use of coal at its power plant and making substantial investments in geothermal energy, hydroelectric power, solar projects, green roofs and more, all of which have resulted in a more than 50 percent reduction in its carbon footprint. The Office of Sustainability works with a wide array of student groups and partners across campus to ensure that the University is a leader in sustainable operations, education and research.
Since its establishment in 2005, the Notre Dame Forum has featured major talks by leading authorities on issues of importance to the University, the nation and the larger world, including the challenges and opportunities of globalization, the role of presidential debates, immigration and the place of faith in a pluralistic society.
More information about upcoming forum events will follow.