The need for radically different and environmentally sustainable practices and policies has never been clearer or better understood. We can see our global impacts on the environment in many different ways, including climate change and increasingly disruptive and unpredictable weather patterns; sea level rise and ocean acidification; deforestation; and increasing rates of species extinction. 

Taking into consideration the combined magnitude of humanity’s environmental impacts inescapably leads us to the realization that environmental sustainability is not just an urgent priority, but the definitive global challenge of our era. It is a challenge magnified and made all the more difficult when we recognize that nearly all of the practices of modern life are organized around unsustainable modes of production, distribution, and consumption. Compounding the problem is an urgent issue of justice: our brothers and sisters who are most profoundly impacted by these ecological changes are among the most politically vulnerable and economically disadvantaged.

In his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis argued that we cannot continue to merely pursue ameliorative technological fixes. As he explained,

Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system. (Section 111)

As a Catholic liberal arts institution, Loras College has a unique obligation and capacity to respond to Pope Francis’s call to deconstruct the reigning technocratic paradigm, which has given rise to our present ecological crisis, and to nurture in its place the development of a new form of subjectivity—an ecological subjectivity.

This is no small task. The call for a new and radical form of subjectivity implies a profound adjustment to our affective, cognitive, and normative capacities. In other words, it involves changing how we feel, what we see and understand, and how we judge, value, and act. 

This online mini-conference is devoted to exploring the challenge of climate justice and how the humanities can intervene in the ecological crisis. It constitutes a small part of a broader effort on the part of the faculty of Loras College to examine how educators, students, and the broader pubic can engage in the task of nurturing the development of a truly ecological subjectivity and effectively respond to the injustices associated with climate change and environmental degradation. Our inaugural theme is Radical Climate Justice and the Humanities, and we are pleased to host guest lectures by Dr. John Foran (Sociology) and Dr. Ken Hiltner (English), both of whom hold positions at UC Santa Barbara.

The event is organized by the faculty of Loras College’s Sustainability Track as part of a curriculum-development project, “Building Ecoliteracy,” which is funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Humanities Connections grant.

Instructions for Participants

From Wednesday, November 29 through Thursday, November 30, you are encouraged to view the prerecorded lectures delivered by Dr. Foran and Dr. Hiltner (links below). We invite you to leave questions for the speakers on each page, or to share on social media using #CJH17.

Conference address by Dr. John Foran (UC Santa Barbara): “Climate Justice: ‘The two most important words we may have’: Finding Pathways toward a Better Future”

Conference address by Dr. Ken Hiltner (UC Santa Barbara): “Climate Humanists”

On November 30 at 7:00 PM (Central), Dr. Christoffer Lammer-Heindel and Dr. Benjamin Darr, co-directors of the Loras College Sustainability Track, will moderate a live Q&A session with Foran and Hiltner. Participants will have an opportunity to ask further questions at that time. Registration for the Q&A session is open until 2:00 PM (Central) on Thursday, November 30.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this {article, book, exhibition, film, program, database, report, Web resource}, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Loras College.