Global warming, climate change, just transition and sustainability are hardly new topics on campus. For years, various groups of academics, administrators, students and staff at the University of Notre Dame have faithfully tackled questions related to these subject matters through campus events and initiatives, coursework, clubs, strategic plans, research pursuits and working groups.
This academic year, these conversation threads and pockets of activity across campus — and around the world — were drawn together in an unprecedented way through the 2021-22 Notre Dame Forum’s theme, “Care for Our Common Home: Just Transition to a Sustainable Future.”
“This year’s Notre Dame Forum theme resonated so strongly, building bridges across campus,” said Jennifer Tank, director of the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative and the Ludmilla F., Stephen J. and Robert T. Galla Professor of Biological Sciences, who was among the forum’s planners. “I was amazed at the diversity of activities — everyone found a thread of inspiration which made for a tapestry of events that enriched our Notre Dame community in ways we never could have predicted.”
More than 40 events filled the calendar for Notre Dame Forum — which drew on Pope Francis’ call to action in his encyclical Laudato Si’ — illuminating efforts already underway on campus, amplifying and expanding ongoing conversations and serving as a catalyst for promising new partnerships and initiatives.
One such forum-inspired initiative concerns the newly formed Consortium of Catholic Universities (CCU). The CCU, initiated by Notre Dame International, is made up of 10 Catholic universities around the world and will launch June 16-18 at Notre Dame’s Rome Global Gateway with a conference focused on “The Catholic University, Environmental Justice, and Research for a Sustainable Future.” Co-sponsored by Notre Dame International, the Office of Research, the Tantur Ecumenical Institute and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the conference will focus on promoting sustainability through research, student learning and sharing best practices. “The CCU’s inaugural conference is very much a forum-inspired event,” noted Rev. Robert Dowd, C.S.C., vice president and associate provost for interdisciplinary initiatives.
“My hope is that the CCU’s collaborative efforts on sustainability issues will continue well into the future,” Father Dowd said.
Notre Dame Forum provided a platform for the University to announce its commitment to become a carbon neutral campus by 2050 through an aggressive decarbonization plan that includes continued investment in geothermal, solar and hydroelectric fuel sources; emerging technologies; and conservation efforts.
Through the 2021-22 Forum, the University also:
- Welcomed His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, to campus. His All-Holiness received an honorary degree from the University and offered an address on environmental sustainability and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Invited an audience of alumni and friends into the campus conversation through an interactive virtual series, “Global Dialogues: The Worsening Water Crisis,” from locations around the world. The series was presented by Notre Dame International and ThinkND.
- Brought together faculty from 17 departments and all seven colleges and schools to discuss the encyclical and opportunities for teaching and research collaborations on sustainability initiatives.
- Inspired units on campus to find new ways to engage in sustainability efforts. For instance, Notre Dame International formed a working group to identify ways to increase the sustainability of international operations, programs and facilities.
- Convened an international panel of scholars for a flash panel to discuss the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in August. This landmark report captured international attention by painting a bleak picture of the planet’s future, warning that hotter global temperatures are now unavoidable.
“Throughout this academic year we have deepened our understanding of the global climate crisis and renewed our commitment to be more caring of our common home and of one another,” Father Dowd said. “We have become increasingly aware that all too often the poorest and most vulnerable people in our midst, whether near or far, are affected disproportionately by short-sighted policies and practices that pillage and pollute our planet.
“We have learned about the important work that our students, faculty, staff and alumni do to promote greater respect for human dignity and the integrity of all creation. We have also come to recognize we have much more work to do in order to appropriately care for all of God’s people and the planet that is our common home.”
One thing made clear during this year’s Notre Dame Forum is that caring for the planet and its people takes action on the part of each of us, whether that be through research, scholarship or sustainability efforts. Help where and how you are best able. There are several places to get involved. Here are just some of the offices, laboratories and initiatives at Notre Dame with work directed to care of our common home:
- Center for Civic Innovation
- Center for Environmental Science and Technology
- Center for Social Concerns
- Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences
- Environmental Change Initiative
- Environmental Humanities Initiative
- Environmental Research Center
- Global Adaptation Initiative
- GLOBES Certificate Program
- Institute for Advanced Study
- Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility
- Minor in Energy Studies
- Minor in Environmental Earth Sciences
- Minor in Sustainability
- ND Energy
- Office of Sustainability