Faculty Focus

Unity professor analyzes pope's ecology encyclical

Doug Fox to join panel at St. Joseph’s College to discuss Laudato Si by Pope Francis

Douglas Fox

Unity College Professor Doug Fox says the papal encyclical on the environment issued this summer is “one of the best examples of a transdisciplinary approach to sustainability you will find anywhere.”

Fox will expand on his analysis of the landmark document when he takes part in a panel discussion titled “A Sustainability Scientist’s Look at Laudato Si’,” 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, in the Viola George Auditorium at Harold Alfond Hall, Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.

The talk – to take place in the wake the pontiff’s landmark visit to the United States last week — is part of a program sponsored by The Cultural Affairs Committee of Saint Joseph’s College called “Laudato Si’: Pope Francis and the Environment.” Saint Joseph’s College professor Dr. Dan Sheridan will also participate. The talk is free and open to the public.

In Laudato Si, Francis calls for an integral ecology that recognizes human beings as organisms in nature, Fox said.

In the encyclical, the pope “criticizes a scientific fundamentalism that confuses the methods of science with the worldview that only matter exists,” Fox said.

“He criticizes fundamentalism in economics when it measures success only as productivity or GDP, and [also criticizes] the fundamentalism of technocracy that believes that an increase in control of nature always amounts to progress,” he said.

“Francis maintains that by failing to take into account the entire reality of the human being, the discipline of ecology falls short of providing the insights into sustainable living needed today,” Fox said. “In fact, Francis sees overspecialization and compartmentalization of the disciplines as sources of an ‘ecological crisis’.”

“The pope is attempting to correct narrow historical fundamentalisms within the church, including the idea that stewardship and dominion means anthropocentric domination.”

Fox is a professor of sustainable agriculture who served as founding director of the Center for Sustainability and Global Change at Unity College, where for 25 years he has taught a variety of courses from ecology to green building and sustainable agriculture.

Fox has been invited to provide a sustainability scientist’s views on the papal encyclical in several venues. “As long as a community is interested in contributing to a vision of sustainable living, I am happy to help,” he said.

Unity College uses transdisciplinary sustainability science as its curriculum framework. Sustainability science draws on the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities to address global sustainability problems on a local scale to find solutions that are environmentally sound, economically viable, and socially responsible to the sustainability imperatives of climate change, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, and pollution.

“Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, makes strong claims about sustainability,” Fox said. “I’m honored by the pope’s visit to this country and by his attention to matters affecting humanity, and humbled to offer the perspective of a sustainability scientist on the Holy See’s analysis and recommendations.”

For more information, visit www.sjcme.edu.

Thursday, October 01, 2015