College debates theology of Climate Change

University-of-PortlandAwarding winning UP professors to talk about theological and scientific views of global climate change; set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7

By University of Portland

University of Portland professors Russell Butkus, theology, and Steven Kolmes, environmental science, will present “47 Years Later: Gaudium et Spes and Global Climate Change—the New ‘Signs of the Times’” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in Buckley Center, room 163 on the University campus at 5000 N. Willamette Blvd. Their talk will be the first of the spring 2013 Theology Thursdays lecture series sponsored by the University of Portland theology department. The event is free and open to the public.

Butkus and Kolmes coauthored Environmental Science and Theology in Dialogue, published by Orbis Books (2011), which won top honors by the Catholic Press Association in the category of faith and science (see

Their presentation on Feb. 7 will offer a contemporary interpretation of several aspects of the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World promulgated at Vatican II in 1965. The theological and scientific case will be made that global climate change is—in the words of the Council—a “problem of special urgency” and will include recent Roman Catholic efforts to this serious threat to humanity and the entire planetary commons.

Considered by many to be one of the mostdistinctive achievements of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes (The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) signaled a pastoral and methodological shift in the Church’s approach to the modern world. When Gaudium et Spes was promulgated in 1965 the deterioration of earth’s bio-physical environment was just beginning to emerge as a scientific concern and was not, consequently, identified by the Councilas a “problem with special urgency.” Forty-seven years later, as humanity navigates the 21st century, it would be impossible to criticallyreflecton“The Common Purpose of Created Things”withoutaserious discussion of the range of environmentalproblems that threaten creation, chief among which is the critical and growing concern over global climate change. Consequently, this presentation will argue in the spirit ofGaudium et Spes that global climate change is a major sign of the times and must be given special urgency by the Church and the human community it serves if potential devastatingconsequences are to be avoided.

Kolmes is director of the environmental studies program, professor of biology, and occupant of the Rev. John Molder, C.S.C., Chair in Science at the University. His interests are in the areas of salmon recovery planning, combining ethical and scientific analyses in environmental policy discussions, water and air quality issues, and the sub lethal effects of pesticides. He has served on government scientific advisory panels (NOAA-Fisheries Technical Recovery Team for the Willamette and Lower Columbia Rivers; Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Toxics Technical Advisory Committee) and on the Steering Committee for the Columbia River Pastoral Letter (The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good, 2001). Kolmes teaches courses in marine biology, invertebrate zoology, environmental science, animal behavior, and team-teaches with Butkus a course entitled theology in ecological perspective.

Butkus is an associate professor of theology and environmental studies and associate director of the environmental studies program at the University. His research and teaching interests are in the field of environmental theology and ethics. In collaboration with Kolmes, he is currently engaged in research on salmon recovery in the Lower Columbia River. He has also served as a theological consultant for the pastoral letter, and is the co-editor (with Carol Dempsey, O.P.) and a contributor to All Creation is Groaning, An Interdisciplinary Vision for Life in a Sacred Universe (Liturgical Press, 1999).

Kolmes and Butkus also coauthored a recent article, “Water Quality Standards: A Scientific and Theological-Ethical Analysis,” which was published in Environment, Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, Nov./Dec. 2012, vol. 54, no. 6.

For more information on their upcoming talk and future Theology Thursdays lectures, contact the University of Portland theology department at (503) 943-7274 or [email protected].

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