Written by Nicola Plate, class of 2015
Students, faculty, and staff packed the UP Bookstore on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 for the first Integrative Conversations Event hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences, the McNerney-Hanson Endowed Chair in Ethics, and The Catholic Studies Program. Dr. Russ Butkus (Theology), Dr. Greg Hill (Mathematics), Dr. Steve Kolmes (Environmental Studies), and Dr. Anne Santiago (Political Science) gathered in front of the fireplace to discuss the implications of climate change on the environment, society, and the entire world. This panel, and the student-lead Q&A that followed, drew over 100 UP students, faculty, and staff members.
“Integrative Conversations is about integrating disciplines,” said Dr. Michael F. Andrews, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the host of the event. “What we are doing tonight is learning to hold the tension between multiple lenses when exploring a complex issue. Integrative thinking is both method and goal of liberal arts education.”
Though climate change is often viewed as an environmental issue, the discussion proved that its effects reach much further. The topics discussed included environmental impact, political implications, gender issues, economics, power disparities, theology, ethics, anthropology, and many more.
Dr. Butkus focused primarily on the theological aspects of climate change, noting environmental justice is about living with and taking care of God’s creation. He said it is an example of the intersection between ecological justice and social justice. According to Dr. Butkus, many people in the theological discipline have reached a consensus that climate change is human-caused.
Dr. Santiago, though she focused on the political aspects of climate change, echoed this same sentiment. She discussed how political power disparities often results in a lack of effort to stop climate change. But the climate, as she noted, is a collective good. “It is an obligation of all states to handle the problem,” she said.
Dr. Hill noted that the change will start from the ground up, first with local communities before moving into the government. Though he thinks there are many changes that need to happen, he is more hopeful about the future. While gesturing to the students in the audience Dr. Hill said that the younger generation is going to motivate positive change.
Dr. Kolmes also discussed the future of climate change. “My generation failed,” he said, taking a more negative tone than Dr. Hill. Dr. Kolmes said that we have to ask if we have a right to destroy the planet, noting that climate change is not only an environmental problem, but also an ethical one.
Though the panelists started the event, the rest of the UP community got involved during the student-lead Q&A. Many students asked questions on a variety of topics such as gender studies, ethical practices, and the political implications of climate change. Rachel Macklin, an English major who attended the event, said that she enjoyed the Q&A. “I was impressed with the student engagement,” Macklin said.
Matthew Chavarria, a UP senior and a member of the College’s Student Advisory and Leadership Council (SLAC), said that the event was well received and helped bring the different CAS disciplines together. “We are the largest college yet we seem to have the smallest identity,” Chavarria said. He hopes that events like this will help build CAS identity. The SLAC members helped plan and host the student Q&A section of the event.
The Integrative Conversation on Climate Change was the first of its kind, but it will not be the last. In his closing remarks, Dean Andrews said that he hopes to have more Integrative Conversations in the future.