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Climate Change & Jesuit Higher Education: Reportback from Loyola Chicago #2

James Hug, S.J. is attending Loyola University’s Chicago’s Climate Change Conference and will be offering reflections over the next few days.

climate-changeThe morning session began with welcoming comments from the Loyola University provost.

Steve Mitten, S.J. then began the conference with poetic prophetic power:

Creating God, Big Love… global climate change? sea rise? who would have thought?
It’s not what our grandparents taught.
When it first came, we laughed, it couldn’t be the sea
In a wild-child’s dream it should fly, from some great cloudless height
Should cry like a hawk, red-tailed, high and sweet?
Who would have guessed it would first grab the feet like the sea?
It did we.

Greedy wave-fingers stealing sand from spots we thought it safe to stand,
Laid out our proud catch times before; watched them thumping like hearts ashore.
Like live bright coins we counted each but left them gasping on the beach
Until there was none.

Are we then done?

Now brash young fisher people’s tend their lines bullheaded to the end.
Should we shout “Run, while you still can?”

Indifference finished many a man.

The grandest catch will have us drown
Fighting as we go down.
Creative Love;
You’ve got our attention.
So we have come these three days, not in a belly of the whale, nor tomb,
but with hope nevertheless for a rising.
Send forth your creative spirit on us.
Awaken our eyes to new possibilities,
Strengthen our spine for greater courage and resolve
to swim against the tide of current consumer fashion,
Widened our arms to further out reach,
Open our hearts to an ever-embracing love
As we tend to our ever-suffering planet.

May your Love transform us and the world with new steps toward healing a hurting planet.
Transform us into fisher-folk of listening, of decision, of action.
We pray in the name of your son Jesus Christ on this feast day of Saint Joseph….


The conference’s opening session was designed to be foundational and informational. Dr. Nancy Tuchman, Founding Director of Loyola University’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability, welcomed the full house of nearly 160 participants from across the U.S. and Sweden, Spain, Indonesia and the Philippines. She highlighted the important link for Jesuit universities between climate change and social justice, noting that there are currently 10 million climate refugees globally and that there will be a projected 1 billion by 2050, a mere 35 years from now. She noted that universities around the world are stepping forward with courses, conferences, action and advocacy to address the issues of climate change and justice.

She then laid out the underlying question of this Climate Change Conference:

  • Given the unparalleled Jesuit educational network nationally and internationally,
  • with its professed mission and institutional commitment to social justice,
  • how can all its members speak out on climate justice with one voice?
  • How can the significant resources of this network be leveraged
  • to make a significant difference for the future of the planet?

The bulk of the morning session was then given to short reports mapping the “sustainability assets” of the universities represented. The first report identified four “General Assets” that provide valuable services for any campus. Many of the U.S. Jesuit universities participate in these programs.

The individual Jesuit universities represented in the conference then reported on the sustainability resources and activities on their campuses. These range from sustainability offices to courses and degree programs, environmental building criteria to summer camps, water conservation programs to faculty research, community gardens, student groups, alternative energy sourcing and more. A quick review of their websites will provide an eye-opening and encouraging picture of their engagement with climate change issues.

By the end of the morning session, there was only a short time to raise the questions of collaboration, developing a united voice, and leveraging these institutions’ academic and moral authority for social change. A list of contact people on each of the campuses is being compiled so that this question can be pursued after the conference. It is definitely the most critical and promising question of this gathering.

Upper Midwest Jesuit Universities’ Sustainability Efforts:

General Assets:

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