QUEZON City, Aug. 3, 2015 – Ateneo alumni on July 25 held a series of talks on Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home, at the Alberto Hurtado Hall, Social Development Complex of Ateneo de Manila University.
Organized by the Companions in the Ignatian Journey and the JVP Network of Leaders, the talks featured five speakers who stressed different points in the encyclical.
The first speaker, Dr. Tony La Viña described his visit to San Damiano Church in Assisi, Italy. Like St. Francis before him, La Viña also heard a voice from the cross, but this time telling him to pray the Laudato Si’. For 35 years, this prayer of St. Francis on creation has given him courage, as he fought for controlling mining, the banning of coal-fired power plants, the preservation of our fishing resources, and the forging of international agreements on climate justice.
Ateneo Chemistry professor Dr. Fabian Dayrit discussed how the Catholic Church, with its long track record for scientific research as represented by its prominent scientists and Jesuit observatories, must continue to invest in science in order to make sense of clashing scientific paradigms.
Dayrit cited the opposing views supported by different camps within the scientific community on nature vs. nurture: the individual’s unchanging DNA vs. the environmental effects on the individual’s genes (epigenetics).
According to him, the emergence of theories like the Big Bang and Darwinian Evolution gave way to new conflicts like the one between thinkers like Kuhn and Popper, raising the question on whether climate change’s claims need to be falsifiable through experiment in order to be called a science or whether evidences cited by its proponents are sufficient to establish the truth of the theory.
Green Research founding president Patria Gwen Borcena discussed how the encyclical describes humanity’s interconnectedness not only as a human society, but as part of the environment.
The environmental sociologist also critiqued the rapid growth mindset of the government without an environmental agenda for the common good. As a member of the Green Convergence Movement, Borcena shared how they fought against the Philippine’s importation of hazardous wastes from Japan under JPEPA and even now with Canada’s waste.
She agreed with the pope regarding the need for environmental impact assessment, interdisciplinary approach, and cost-benefit analysis.
Poetry of Laudato Si
Anthropologist Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ described the encyclical as “one big stroke of genius”, saying the document not only included the environment in its social teaching but also quoted non-Catholic thinkers – Orthodox, Islamic, and Protestant.
The Filipino Jesuit, who earned a doctorate degree in anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, said the “poetry” of the encyclical went beyond St. Francis’ poetic romanticism in Brother Sun and Sister Moon into the vision of the Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins: “a world charged the grandeur of God.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Donna Paz Reyes, Executive Director of Miriam College’s Environmental Studies Institute, shared about how Pope Francis, through his encyclical, provides “a voice for pressing environmental issues of our time” like environmental preservation, inter-generational equity, sustainable development, environmental education, climate change, disaster management, ecological balance, and biodiversity.
Reyes stressed the need for “a cultural revolution” to change paradigms on caring for the environment and the poor.
Dennis de la Torre moderated the talks, with Ateneo Alumni Association president Joey Pengson giving the opening remarks, and Fr. Bill Kreutz. SJ delivering a closing inspirational message. (Quirino Sugon Jr./CBCPNews)