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Jesuit Universities Unite to Respond to Climate Change

By BCEEAN Newsletter Staff

In March, 2015, Loyola University of Chicago hosted its second annual Conference on Climate Change for Jesuit colleges and universities.  The six Jesuit universities of the upper Midwest -- Loyola (Chicago), Creighton (Omaha), John Carroll (Cleveland), Marquette (Milwaukee), University of Detroit Mercy (Detroit), and Xavier (Cincinnati) –cosponsored the 3-day conference, titled “To Tend the Earth: Responding to the Global Climate Change Crisis.”  

The gathering had both short and long-term goals.  The immediate  aim was to foster interdisciplinary reflection on the ethical principles, policies, and actions needed to combat the crisis of global climate change. A longer-term objective was to lay a foundation for the loose network of Jesuit higher education institutions to work more closely and effectively on climate change, offering an educational statement to the nation and a model for concerned and committed institutions, organizations and corporations of all kinds.

Dr. Nancy Tuchman, Founding Director of Loyola University’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability, welcomed the full house of nearly 160 participants from across the U.S. and Sweden, Spain, Indonesia and the Philippines.  She highlighted the important link for Jesuit universities between climate change and social justice, noting that there are currently 10 million climate refugees globally and there will be a projected 1 billion by 2050, a mere 35 years from now. 

Tuchman observed that universities around the world are stepping forward with courses, conferences, action and advocacy to address the issues of climate change and justice. She cast the challenge for Jesuit institutions in clear terms: “Given the unparalleled Jesuit educational network nationally and internationally, with its professed mission and institutional commitment to social justice, how can all its members speak out on climate justice with one voice? How can the significant resources of this network be leveraged to make a significant difference for the future of the planet?”

Conferees reported on the sustainability resources and activities of each participating campus.  They shared curricular ideas and resources, discussed best educational practices, and developed collaborative projects and research in response to climate change. (Conference materials can be viewed on the website for the Loyola University Chicago Institute of Environmental Sustainability at www.luc.edu/climate.)

Two working groups formed to meet monthly and develop reports. One is tasked with developing a Climate Action Pledge – that is, a proposed statement to be submitted for ratification to the Presidents of the 28 American Jesuit Colleges and Universities.  The statement would express, in a common voice, concern about climate change and create a pledge for campus sustainability actions.  A second group is exploring ways to share curriculum across the network of American Jesuit colleges and universities. Reports from both working groups will be discussed at the 2016 Climate Change Conference, scheduled to be held at Loyola March 17-19, 2016. 

Loyola is an appropriate locale for the gathering: the Chicago university has been named the fourth greenest college in America by the Sierra Club. It boasts, like Boston College, a new environmental studies major and a host of green initiatives. For example, cooking oil from the school cafeteria is being turned into diesel fuel, hand soap and windshield washer fluid; an on-campus aquaponics system provides a self-sustaining ecosystem where fish produce waste that feeds plants harvested by humans. Sustainability efforts for the other Jesuit universities can be found at the links below.

 

Upper Midwest

Jesuit Universities’ Sustainability Efforts

Creighton University

John Carroll University

Loyola University Chicago

Marquette University

University of Detroit/Mercy

Xavier University

 

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