Boston College Joins Dialogue on Climate Change in Hosting Four Day Conference

Pope Francis may be leaving the United States today, but his challenge to stem the tide of climate change will remain a prominent issue at Boston College. The largest academic event in the country on Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Laudato si’, begins tomorrow on BC’s campus. This conference, entitled "Our Common Home: An Ethical Summons to Tackle Climate Change," spans four days and is free and open to the public.

Talks about having an event on the Pope’s encyclical began even before Laudato si’ was published this spring. Soon professors from across disciplines were talking about one big event on the encyclical.  What was originally supposed to be a single day conference quickly became a much bigger event.

“It went from a one day panel to--alright--we need three days on these big topics, on basically the encyclical itself, on policy looking to [the United Nations Climate Change Conference] (COP21), and then also on the theology of the encyclical and environmental ethics,” said Tara Pisani Gareau, an environmental studies professor on the conference’s planning committee.  “And then all of a sudden, we said we need another day too to look at, what can we do at BC? And how do we engage our community?”

The conference was strategically planned to take place immediately following the Pope’s visit to the United States and before COP21, which will take place November 30 to December 11.

Photo courtesy of Boston College/bc.edu

Photo courtesy of Boston College/bc.edu

Planners of the event hope participants will walk away understanding that climate change is an issue that should be taken up by faith communities and people around the world. “If you read the encyclical you see that Pope Francis is asking the entire world community to do something about climate change because human beings are impacting the planet in negative ways and the world’s poor are being affected the most,” said Brian Gareau, a sociology professor who worked on grant writing for the event.

The event embodies the spirit of a truly interdisciplinary conference because of the wide variety of speakers and events. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey will give one of the opening lectures on September 28 and later that day Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, who played a big role in developing the encyclical, will also give a lecture.

Tuesday will include a panel with Maryanne Loughry of the Jesuit Relief Service and Edouard Tetreau, a French economist and essayist. On Wednesday morning there will be a media panel discussion featuring Andrew Revkin, a New York Times reporter, and Grant Gallicho of Commonweal Magazine.

Thursday will provide students with an opportunity to engage with one another about the issue of climate change and includes a reflection organized by Campus Ministry which will be a time for students to dialogue.

In addition to lectures and panels, there will be displays around campus related to the events, including a collection of books on the third floor of O’Neill Library and a series of infographics in Higgins all week. On Thursday a fair will take place on the campus green.

The interdisciplinary nature of the conference points to the type of approach the planning committee believes will be necessary for tackling the issue of climate change. “The encyclical makes clear that climate change is a social problem, and it’s not for a certain kind of person who has a particular major. It’s not for a certain faculty member who happens to study large-scale climate events," said Gareau.

"It’s for everybody. Everybody needs to participate in resolving this most serious of global problems."

For more information on the Our Common Home conference and a complete schedule of events, visit bc.edu/commonhome. See an event you want to attend but have a scheduling conflict? Videos of all the events will be posted online at the web address above.

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