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Laudato si'

On Care for Our Common Home

Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Dr. Anthony Annett, and Dr. William Vendley

What is “ Laudato si' ”? First presented by Pope Francis – spiritual leader to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics – to his faith-based cohort, it is a call to action addressed not only to Catholics, but to all people of the world. Laudato si': On Care for Our Common Home raises the profile of the grave ecological crisis that humanity has created and issues a moral clarion call for urgent action to protect the earth and its inhabitants from ruin.

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What is “ Laudato si' ”? First presented by Pope Francis – spiritual leader to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics – to his faith-based cohort, it is a call to action addressed not only to Catholics, but to all people of the world. Laudato si': On Care for Our Common Home raises the profile of the grave ecological crisis that humanity has created and issues a moral clarion call for urgent action to protect the earth and its inhabitants from ruin.

This short course provides an overview of the main themes and messages of Laudato si'. No affiliation or prior familiarity with Catholic teaching is required, nor any prior knowledge of the sustainable development agenda. Students are guided through the basic structure of the Laudato si' message – diagnosis of the ecological crisis, an overview of its theological and philosophical underpinnings, evaluation of the human behavior at its root, the need for institutional solutions, and the call for personal action. Issued in the months leading up to adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, Laudato si' can be read as a moral charter for sustainable development. It provides a firm ethical foundation for actions that need to be taken urgently at all levels – global, national, local and personal, too. This is what makes it so important.

This course is for:

  • Anyone new to the concept of sustainable development who wants to understand its importance and the rationale for their own personal commitment to its principles
  • Graduate students and advanced undergraduate students interested in a core principle in their study of sustainable development – the interplay of various stakeholders in achieving the agenda
  • Those in faith-based communities interested in the relationship between faith and action to protect the planet

What's inside

Learning objectives

  • An overview of the human roots of the ecological crisis
  • Global, national, and local solutions to the ecological crisis
  • Grassroots to policy-level solutions
  • What is laudato si'? the origins of pope francis’ call to action

Syllabus

Module 1: Pope Francis & the Encyclical
Cardinal Turkson, one of the chief architects of the encyclical, discusses the context in which Laudato si' was conceived and released. Importantly, Laudato si' was designed to address a broader audience - beyond the Catholic faithful – in all parts of the world and representing all belief structures.
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Module 2: On Care for Our Common Home
Professor Jeffrey Sachs provides a discussion of the content covered in the first chapter of the Laudato si' , titled “What is happening to our common home?” In this part of the encyclical, Pope Francis covers issues such as pollution and climate change, inequality, water, biodiversity loss, and the breakdown of society and the quality of human life. All are presented as integrated parts of a collective whole that need to be address in harmony.
Module 3: Theology, Philosophy & the Encyclical
Bishop Sorondo delves into the second chapter of the Pope’s encyclical. ‘The Gospel of Creation,’ as the second encyclical chapter is entitled, provides the start for a broader discussion of the theological and philosophical foundation for the Laudato si'.
Module 4: Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
Dr. Anthony Annett illuminates the third section of the Pope’s encyclical, which highlights the roots of the existing crisis. The Pope discusses the many social and environmental challenges facing the planet as part of a single crisis, brought on by a corrupt collective mindset and singular focus on power and profit.
Module 5: Global, National & Local Solutions
Professor Sachs discusses the fifth chapter of the Pope’s encyclical, titled ‘Lines of Approach & Action,’ looking at the global down to the local scale of aciton.
Module 6: International Ecological ConversionBeyond the steps that humanity should take collectively to address the challenges of ‘Integral Ecology,’ a personal transformation is also needed. Dr. William Vendley discusses this in the context of Ecological Conversion, a concept discussed throughout the Pope’s encyclical.

Good to know

Know what's good
, what to watch for
, and possible dealbreakers
Provides a starting point for understanding the importance of sustainable development
Explores the links between faith-based communities and action for planet protection
Helps learners understand how the crisis has a global, national, local, and personal dimension
Examines the roots of the ecological crisis and its human causes
Taught by instructors with experience in various fields, such as religion, science, and development
Covers topics relevant to a range of learners, including graduate and undergraduate students, faith-based communities, and laypeople

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Career center

Learners who complete Laudato si': On Care for Our Common Home will develop knowledge and skills that may be useful to these careers:
Environmental Justice Advocate
Environmental Justice Advocates work to address environmental injustices, such as disproportionate exposure to pollution and lack of access to green spaces. This course may be useful to someone in Environmental Justice Advocacy, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will also cover key concepts in environmental justice, such as environmental racism, climate justice, and just transition.
Environmental Scientist
Environmental Scientists study the environment and develop solutions to environmental problems. This course may be useful to someone in Environmental Science, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as an overview of the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will also cover key concepts in environmental science, such as pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss.
Environmental Planner
Environmental Planners develop and implement plans to protect the environment. This course may be useful to someone in Environmental Planning, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will also cover key concepts in environmental planning, such as land use planning, environmental impact assessment, and community engagement.
Environmental Policy Analyst
Environmental Policy Analysts analyze environmental issues and develop policies to address them. This course may be useful to someone in Environmental Policy Analysis, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will provide an understanding of the complex issues involved in environmental policymaking.
Conservation Scientist
Conservation Scientists study and protect biodiversity. This course may be useful to someone in Conservation Science, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will also cover methods and tools used in conservation science, such as survey design, data analysis, and project management.
Environmental Economist
Environmental Economists analyze the costs and benefits of environmental policies. This course may be useful to someone in Environmental Economics, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will also cover key concepts in environmental economics, such as environmental valuation, cost-benefit analysis, and market-based instruments.
Renewable Energy Engineer
Renewable Energy Engineers design and develop renewable energy systems. This course may be useful to someone in Renewable Energy Engineering, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will also cover key concepts in renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and biomass.
Sustainability Manager
Sustainability Managers develop and implement sustainability plans and programs for organizations. This course may be useful to someone in Sustainability Management, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will also cover key concepts in sustainability management, such as stakeholder engagement, life cycle assessment, and environmental reporting.
Environmental Educator
Environmental Educators teach people about the environment and how to protect it. This course may be useful to someone in Environmental Education, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will also cover key concepts in environmental education, such as curriculum development, teaching methods, and assessment.
Climate Policy Analyst
Climate Policy Analysts develop and analyze policies to address climate change. This course may be useful to someone in Climate Policy Analysis, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will also cover key concepts in climate policy, such as mitigation, adaptation, and finance.
Nonprofit Manager
Nonprofit Managers oversee the day-to-day operations of nonprofit organizations. This course may be useful to someone interested in a career in Nonprofit Management, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. This course will help prepare for the role by teaching about the importance of mission-driven work and the unique challenges that nonprofits face.
Philanthropy Officer
Philanthropy Officers manage and distribute funds for charitable organizations. This course may be useful to someone interested in a career in Philanthropy, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. This course will help prepare for the role by teaching about the importance of giving back and the ways that charitable organizations can help address some of the world's most pressing challenges.
Environmental Lawyer
Environmental Lawyers help clients comply with environmental laws and regulations, and represent them in environmental litigation. This course may be useful to someone in Environmental Law, as it covers the legal and ethical issues involved in environmental protection. The course will also develop an understanding of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability, which can help Environmental Lawyers better advocate for their clients.
Social Entrepreneur
Social Entrepreneurs use business principles to solve social and environmental problems. This course may be useful to someone in Social Entrepreneurship, as it provides an overview of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability as well as the human roots of the ecological crisis. The course will also cover key concepts in social entrepreneurship, such as social innovation, impact investing, and community development.
Sustainability Consultant
Sustainability Consultants help organizations and individuals implement and improve sustainability plans, policies, and initiatives. This course may be useful to someone in Sustainability Consulting by teaching them the theological and philosophical underpinnings of sustainability. The course will also provide an overview of the human roots of the ecological crisis, which can help Sustainability Consultants better understand the challenges facing their clients.

Reading list

We've selected 15 books that we think will supplement your learning. Use these to develop background knowledge, enrich your coursework, and gain a deeper understanding of the topics covered in Laudato si': On Care for Our Common Home.
This report provides an overview of the progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It useful reference for understanding the current state of the world and the challenges that need to be addressed.
This report provides a detailed analysis of the economic costs of climate change. It useful reference for understanding the economic implications of climate change.
Provides a detailed account of the current mass extinction of species. It sobering reminder of the impact that humans are having on the planet.
Classic work of environmental literature that helped to raise awareness of the dangers of pesticides. It valuable resource for understanding the history of the environmental movement.
Provides a powerful account of the impact that humans are having on the natural world. It wake-up call that we need to take action to protect the planet.
Provides a detailed analysis of the factors that lead to the collapse of societies. It valuable resource for understanding the challenges that we face as a global community.
Provides a comprehensive overview of the future of life on Earth. It valuable resource for understanding the challenges and opportunities that we face as a global community.
Provides a comprehensive overview of the nature of religion. It valuable resource for understanding the role of religion in human society.
Provides a comprehensive overview of the ecological thought. It valuable resource for understanding the history and development of ecological thought.
Provides a comprehensive overview of the environmentalism of the poor. It valuable resource for understanding the history and development of environmentalism.
Provides a comprehensive overview of the limits to growth. It valuable resource for understanding the challenges and opportunities that we face as a global community.
Provides a comprehensive overview of the water crisis. It valuable resource for understanding the challenges and opportunities that we face as a global community.

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