As a part of continued efforts to further sustainability efforts at the university, Loyola was represented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and recently committed to the Vatican’s Seven Year Journey for Integral Ecology.
“The Pope inspires us towards environmental sustainability and having a relationship with the environment,” said Nancy Tuchman, the founding dean of the School of Environmental Sustainability.
This commitment accompanies other efforts made by the university this year, such as the new Sustainable Investment Policy announced in October 2021 which pledges to divest from fossil fuels, The Phoenix reported.
Loyola professor of theology, Michael Schuck, has led the Universities Working Group of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development since March 2021, The Phoenix reported.
“We started organizing universities and developing a website and trying to think about how Jesuit universities could promote the seven goals of the project,” Schuck said.
Between March and November 2021, Schuck said the group has secured over 100 signatures from university presidents to join the Journey from the United States, Canada, Africa, Latin America, Europe, Oceania and South Asia.
“Universities are invited to commit to this journey and then over a period of seven years, show some measurable increases and impacts on their global footprint, their sustainability, activity, and environmental footprint,” Schuck said.
Along with the new Laudato Si’ commitment, Loyola was also involved in the Conference of the Parties or COP26. This conference was the 26th annual climate summit, which brought together countries to discuss plans to combat climate change.
Loyola’s Director of Sustainability, Aaron Durnbaugh, attended the conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
“There were youth, indigenous leaders but also faith-based groups, seniors, labor unions, and all kinds of people coming together to have their voice heard by the parties inside COP,” he said.
During the conference, climate scientists detailed emissions in the atmosphere and where policies needed to be improved to meet the pledges made to combat the effects of climate change.
“To solve climate change, to think it’s going to get solved in Glasgow, we’re wrong, it has to happen at all different levels,” Durnbaugh said.
These levels of action can range from larger groups like governments to smaller groups like universities that can make an impact on their communities.
At the university level, Loyola is focused on “integrating the seven Laudato Si’ goals into our university strategic plan so that it really becomes institutionalized and meeting those goals,” according to Tuchman.
These goals include adapting sustainable lifestyles, ecological education and economics, ecological spirituality and community resilience and empowerment.
During the first year of commitment, the committed universities will create an action plan to submit to the dicastery.
“Right now, the administrators and Dean Tuchman and others… [are] working on how to bake these goals into the strategic plan of the entire university,” Schuck said.
This strategic plan will come to fruition during the first year of the commitment.
“As far as the plan goes, universities have a year to get strategized, identifying what they’re going to do,” Shuck said. “The expectation is years two through six universities are implementing the ideas and assessing and changing and upgrading.”
The seventh year of the plan is designed to celebrate progress and get formally identified as a Laudato Si’ university by the Vatican.
Universities around the world have committed to the Vatican’s Seven-Year Journey to Integral Ecology and through the Universities Working Group, Schuck has led a group of 130 people from different regions in their path to integral ecology. Other Chicago schools in this group include DePaul University and Saint Xavier University.
“Being the leader of the group, for everyone in the international community, it’s like Loyola University is a really helpful university globally,” Schuck said. “It’s wonderful to feel like Loyola University Chicago in the middle Midwest is able to be a fulcrum for international conversation.”