Climate Justice Panel
Climate Justice Panel
Moderator: Jame Schaefer, Associate Professor, Marquette University
Presenters: William French, Associate Professor, Loyola University Chicago, Lisa Sideris, Associate Professor, University of Indiana, and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Senior Lecturer, Yale University
Dr. William French, PhD: Justice and Prudence in an Age of Planetary Emergency (Dr. French's complete presentation).
Debates about climate justice often center in claims about how nations, like the United States, who are historically most responsible for the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide have a responsibility to contribute a proportionately high level of funds toward a global effort to help poorer nations cope with advancing climate change impacts and help them shift to a solar and wind power path of energy production. This presentation will examine the ways these concerns for justice were voiced at the recent climate conference in Lima, Peru, and will examine the way the massive impact of climate change raises fundamental obligations of justice owed to future human and nonhuman generations. I will discuss, too, how ecologists consider prudence also to be a critical moral principle for understanding what is at stake in mobilizing timely response to climate change threats. I will argue that national and global ecological prudence warrants significant national spending on a crash program to build solar and wind power capacity as a matter of raw national and global security. In order to help push this shift from fossil fuel consumption to a wind, solar and non-carbon based energy path we need “justice” in our market pricing of our fossil fuels even as we need ecological prudence as a central priority in our national security stance. Currently as many ecologists and economists note the price we pay at the pump for a gallon of gas fails to come close to the “full costs” imposed on our ecological and climate system that is being paid now and will be paid at higher levels by future generations. It is a matter of economic and political justice and economic honesty that consumers of gas, oil and coal today be asked to pay the full costs of such use. A “just pricing” of fossil fuels should play an important role in incentivizing a global turn to solar and wind and non-carbon energy options.
Dr. Lisa Sideris, PhD: ‘The New Heaven and the New Earth’: Wonder and Ethics in the Anthropocene
In 1958, Rachel Carson penned a remarkable letter to a friend in which she described the launch of Sputnik as a turning point in humans’ mastery of Earth and space. “Man,” she worried, “seems actually likely to take into his hands—ill-prepared as he is psychologically—many of the functions of God.” Carson’s concern that humans were assuming a godlike position vis-à-vis nature resonates strongly with our current discourse on the Anthropocene as a new geological era dominated by humans. Two years earlier, Carson had written a magazine essay called “Help Your Child to Wonder,” later published posthumously as The Sense of Wonder (1965). 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of The Sense of Wonder. It is an appropriate moment to reflect on wonder’s continuing relevance for humans’ unprecedented control of nature, made manifest by climate change, widespread species extinction, and other dire global transformations. What role might Carson’s sense of wonder play in Anthropocene ethics and in light of humans’ emerging position as what some are calling “the God species?” Carson believed that wonder fosters an ethic of humility rather than arrogance. Is a humble form of wonder still possible in this age of human domination and anthropogenic climate change? Some commentators worry that the global, collective vision of humanity entailed by the Anthropocene is too broad and indiscriminate to discern the differential claims to justice made by the rich and poor. Might wonder help to refocus our ethical commitments on the particular people, places, and organisms disproportionately impacted by climate change?
Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, PhD: Wonder Ignites Action
Climate change will require new sources of energy - physical and spiritual - for the flourishing of the Earth Community. One of the most renewable sources of energy for the human spirit is awe and wonder, something shared by scientists and religious people alike. Our response to the beauty of the Earth and the complexity of the universe can be a source of empowerment for the Great Work of transformation ahead. Journey of the Universe is trying to evoke this energy for a sustainable future. The vision of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry have shaped Journey and continue to inspire people around the planet to work for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. We will highlight the empowering vision of Teilhard and Berry as a grounding for this engaged work.