Notre Dame Forum Highlights the Importance of Care for Our Common Home

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The 2021–22 Notre Dame Forum, “Care for Our Common Home: Just Transition to a Sustainable Future,” opened on September 10 with a groundbreaking announcement: Notre Dame is committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, with a 65 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, said President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

While powerful, the announcement was in keeping with Father Jenkins’s leadership. In partnership with the Vatican, he has convened energy and investment sector leaders for dialogue on the energy transition and the role of business leaders in mitigating climate change. He has also championed Notre Dame’s green roof and solar projects, reductions in food waste, and installations of geothermal and hydroelectric energy sources.

But the announcement was just the beginning of a year-long discussion on the realities and responsibilities associated with the climate change crisis. The Forum theme was largely inspired by Pope Francis’s influential Laudato Si’. In it, Pope Francis wrote, “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.”

As part of the discussions, in September, Anne Thompson, NBC News’ chief environmental affairs correspondent and a Notre Dame alumna and Trustee, and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, came together to host a conversation about the political and social implications of climate change.

“The question is not whether to transition to a cleaner, more sustainable future, but how and how quickly.”

Father Jenkins

In the spring, a series of virtual, interactive conversations about “The Worsening Water Crisis” took place at Global Gateways and Centers to showcase partners and research around the world. The Rome Global Gateway also hosted the newly inaugurated Catholic University Consortium as it launched a two-year study on environmental justice and the goal for a more sustainable future. Researchers from diverse backgrounds and areas of study came together to share research.

But it wasn’t all scientific. The Snite Museum hosted the exhibit Earth Kid (Boy) by Yinka Shonibare, an artist known for addressing social and political issues like climate change, while the Yusko Ward-Phillips Conference brought together key thinkers to consider ecological collapse, migration, and ecological literature.

These events, among others, all contributed to the University and Forum goal to “transition to a cleaner future where the burdens of change are equitably borne and not simply sloughed off to the poor and powerless.”

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“The question is not whether to transition to a cleaner, more sustainable future, but how and how quickly,” Father Jenkins 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.”

Established in 2005, the Forum invites an annual, campus-wide dialogue on an established topic ranging from immigration to women in leadership to the crisis of disaffiliation in the Church, which was titled “Rebuild My Church: Crisis and Response.”