BY JAMES HUG SJ | August 29, 2013
As you return to school this fall, let me suggest a challenge that could inspire your whole educational and professional effort for years to come, even for a lifetime — something far more significant than trying to guarantee a viable future for yourself and your family.
You’ve probably seen the flurry of news reports the last couple of days about the leaked draft report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It claims 95% certainty about the role of human action in causing climate change and details some devastating pictures of disasters that will hit you and/or your children and grandchildren in the next several decades.
“Emissions at or above current rates would induce changes in all components in the climate system, some of which would very likely be unprecedented in hundreds to thousands of years,” [the report] states. Those changes are likely to occur “in all regions of the globe” and affect the water cycle, rising ocean acidity and changes in the water cycle.
“Climate change sticker shock: Arctic thaw could cost $60 trillion.”
Will we really be ready to pack up by the end of this century and say goodbye to the 5 cities most vulnerable to flooding: Guangzhou, Miami, New York, New Orleans and Mumbai? Some media accounts even draw disturbing analogies between the path we’re on and previous mass extinctions on Earth.
Does tackling that threat sound worthwhile? Urgent? The issues it raises cut across all the disciplines of higher education – the variety of physical sciences, all the arts and other elements needed to bring about cultural change, politics, theology, philosophy — it doesn’t matter what your interests and talents are, this challenge is calling to you to get involved.
But Wait! That’s only part of the picture. More than 1 in every 7 people on the planet live in debilitating poverty right at this moment. We can’t turn our backs on them – and yet how do we fight poverty without creating even more Green House Gases and accelerating destructive climate change?
How can we go about creating a world where everyone can live a decent life and do it sustainably – and peacefully? What really is an authentically decent human life? How do we all need to change and work together?
Isn’t that a vision and a set of challenges worth haunting your education and your life with?
James E. Hug, S.J., has a long history working in social ethics and social justice advocacy in the Catholic community. He served 24 years as the President of the Center of Concern, a Washington, DC based social justice institute rooted in Catholic social tradition, working for greater economic, social, and ecological justice globally. He holds a doctoral degree in Christian ethics from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in Christian spirituality from St. Louis University.
Fr. Hug’s research has focused on issues of faith and economic justice and he has lectured and directed workshops throughout the U.S. and in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Currently he serves as sacramental minister for the Adrian Dominican Sisters and writes on issues of spirituality for social transformation in these difficult times. His blog, “Truth that does Justice,” can be found on the website for the Dominican Center: Spirituality for Mission, www.dominicancenter.org.
Past publications have included Catholic Social Teaching: Our Best Kept Secret, Social Revelation: Profound Challenge for Christian Spirituality, and Tracing the Spirit: Communities, Social Action, and Theological Reflection. Jim has also written chapters for Globalization and Catholic Social Thought: Present Crisis, Future Hope and The Pastoral Circle Revisited: A Critical Quest for Truth and Transformation.
Fr. Hug’s research has focused on issues of faith and economic justice and her has lectured and directed workshops throughout the U.S. and in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. He was the editor of the Center of Concern’s “Catholic Social Teaching: Our Best Kept Secret, author of Social Revelation: Profound Challenge for Christian Spirituality,” and the editor of “Tracing the Spirit: Communities, Social Action, and Theological Reflection.” Jim has also written chapters for “Globalization and Catholic Social Thought: Present Crisis, Future Hope” and “The Pastoral Circle Revisited: A Critical Quest for Truth and Transformation.”