Pope Francis issued his second encyclical, Laudato Si’ (Praise Be to You): On Care for Our Common Home on June 18. Running 192 pages, the papal letter squarely addresses climate change, and urgently calls for Catholics, the Catholic Church and practicing Christians to turn away from consumerism as a prevailing ideology, and to recognize the devastation wrought on the environment as a result of reliance on fossil fuels and human activities:
“This sister [Earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”
On September 21, University of Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins, CSC, responded to the pope’s message, announcing that the University will cease burning coal entirely within five years, and cut its carbon footprint by more than half by 2030, according to a University press release.
“In recognition of both Pope Francis’ encyclical and his visit this week to the United States, Notre Dame is recommitting to make the world a greener place, beginning in our own backyard,” Father Jenkins said. “Of greater importance, however, are the contributions our faculty and students are making across disciplines to find sustainability answers, especially for poor countries in most need of development and the most vulnerable to climate change.”
Father Jenkins also announced that Notre Dame was planning to invest $113 million in renewable energy sources and projects, including a hydroelectric project, solar power and geothermal fields both on and off campus. Collectively, these efforts will reduce CO2 emissions by 47,500 tons.
In a previous address to the Notre Dame faculty, Father Jenkins said that Pope Francis “presents us with a comprehensive moral vision about the environment, technology, the character of our communal lives, our responsibility to the poor and marginalized, the dangers of a compulsive consumerism and the need for global solidarity. It is a challenging moral vision, but one for which, I believe, our world is hungry, and no university is better positioned to respond.”
Father Jenkins cited a lengthy list of environmental initiatives at the University, including the Climate Investing Conference organized by the Mendoza College of Business, that reflect Notre Dame’s commitment to discovering new approaches and technologies to address the challenge of climate change.
The efforts include reducing carbon emissions from the campus combined heat and power plant by eliminating use of coal. This will entail the increased use of natural gas in the short term. In the long term, the University will install new technologies, such as gas-turbine technologies, geothermal systems, solar energy, hydropower and heat recovery.
Notre Dame currently generates about 50 percent of the University’s electrical energy needs, with the other half coming through the purchase of power from Indiana Michigan Power.
Read more about the University’s energy plans at green.nd.edu. Excerpted from Sept. 21 press release: Notre Dame goal: No coal