April 12, 2019

How can Catholics bridge the gap between the scientific and ethical imperatives of climate change? That was the question posed on April 3, at the Environmental Justice Symposium at Catholic University. William Dinges, professor of Religion and Culture at Catholic University, focused on this very concept during his talk about eco-social problems.

The event was curated by Brooks Zitzmann, clinical assistant professor, and co-sponsored by Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research, the National Catholic School of Social Service, and Georgetown University’s Law Center Campus Ministry. Topics discussed included the impact climate change has on people of color and displaced populations, the need for multidisciplinary action options, and available resources for individuals and organizations.

Dinges, along with speakers from the Georgetown Climate Center, Jesuit Refugee Service, Catholic Climate Covenant, and other organizations, was not afraid to stress the urgency of his concerns. “There is only one planet, one Earth, one common home, and it is in peril,” Dinges said.

When discussing the effect climate change has on those living in specific geographic regions, Dinges argued that social workers were perhaps the best equipped to understand these problems.

“Social workers understand where people live influences how they live,” he said, explaining that social workers can help protect overlooked populations from “contamination without representation.”

Many speakers drew inspiration from Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, which called upon Catholics to taking action to protect the environment. Pamphlets were distributed to attendees about everyday ways to help fight climate change.

Speakers also shared examples of students and activists around the world who are already answering the call and looking at new and innovative ways to combat climate change. Summing up the attitude of the day best was Astrid Caldas, a senior climate scientist from the Union of Concerned Scientists, who closed her presentation by saying, “Advocacy is not a dirty word.”

— Liz Shoemaker, B.A. 2020, Marketing and Communications Intern. For more information, contact communications@cua.edu.