The following is a guest post from Michael Schuck, Professor of Christian Ethics in the Theology Department at Loyola University Chicago, who has been leading the universities working group of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
Michael and his team have invited students to submit their own videos about what the Laudato Si’ Goals mean to them. These videos are a wonderful representation of the students themselves—their emotions, their passions, and their voices united in the care for our common home.
Michael’s community leadership is an example of the difference that each of us can make by coming together in unity with others. Please feel free to browse these videos to inform and inspire your own Laudato Si’ Week experience.
My name is Michael Schuck, and I am the director of the University Pathways website, and the leader of the universities working group of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
The group’s work is concentrated on furthering the outreach of Laudato Si’. We focus on the journey as an active concept, inviting other university presidents to commit their universities to the journey. With over 130 committed universities from around the world, there is lots of person-to-person contact, which is critical for community building and exactly the kind of ground-up engagement we need for substantial change.
Almost all the committed colleges and universities have been giving attention to sustainability in their institutions, not only getting their physical campuses sustainable but also immersing sustainability into the curriculum. Laudato Si’ is a practical way for universities to try out an environmentally sustainable plan because, although everyone thinks about divestment and solar panels, the seven Laudato Si’ Goals think in a wider scope.
“Universities are not only getting their physical campuses sustainable but also immersing sustainability into the curriculum.”
The Laudato Si’ Action Platform is helping universities achieve their goals to care for our common home through a two-step process. Starting with a commitment letter and enrollment in the platform, institutions are invited to assess where they stand today and to review suggested actions. This leads participants into the reflection process, with the end game being an early statement of how the Platform and Laudato Si’ Journey match up with the institution’s mission. From there, universities are well poised to get their feet right into the groove to figure out how to plan this out—what are we going to do as a university in year 1? What about in year 2? And so on.
It is urgent and necessary to take action now on this journey towards full sustainability in the holistic spirit of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical because the time window is pretty drastic. The climate change crisis is upon us, and the urgent need to get off fossil fuels can’t be pushed hard enough. Habitat destruction is affecting human health, and the more we extinguish species and deforest, the more we will be exposed to diseases and germs we were sheltered from before.
Maintaining biodiversity, slowing species extinction, and getting off fossil fuels are huge initiatives, but I am seeing activity and hope within the younger generation. This is the first year I’ve had all my students in my courses tell me they’ve been aware of environmental problems since grade school. There are far more students now involved in environmental action than five years ago, but we need to reanimate their passion because they’ve heard it so long it’s become a drone in their life.
“This is the first year I’ve had all my students in my courses tell me they’ve been aware of environmental problems since grade school.”
Many people today sense a profound imbalance, which drives them to frenetic activity that makes them feel busy. We must stop and listen to nature amidst all this noise. There is no substitute for the exercise of calm and prayer, which can be accomplished through something as simple as gardening.
One thing a group or organization can do today to begin its journey toward integral ecology is to commit to the process of divestment. Some easy-to-implement ideas include getting rid of trays in the cafeteria. Another is to ban bottled water on campus. A longer-tail idea universities can explore is requiring a course in environmental awareness. Every student who comes to Loyola has a required course in environmental awareness as a curricular necessity.
“To answer the call for integral ecology, the Laudato Si’ Action Platform is a tool of accompaniment to take a college or university from curiosity to commitment to action.”
The Laudato Si’ Action Platform and the 7-year ecological journey is the perfect way for a university to engage with the mission of the Catholic Church.