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Experts available to speak on pope’s encyclical on environmental issues

Pope Francis
Pope Francis is anticipated to release an encyclical on environmental issues, and DePaul experts are available to comment on the theological, ecological, spiritual and economic implications of the pope’s discourse. (Photo by Alicia Reyes)
CHICAGO — DePaul University faculty experts are available to provide commentary on Pope Francis’ encyclical on environmental issues, which the Vatican reports will be released June 18. Experts can discuss a wide range of subjects including the theological, ecological, spiritual and economic implications of the pope’s discourse on climate change, poverty and stewardship of the environment.

Environmental scientists, policy and business experts

Mark Potosnak, assistant professor of environmental science. Potosnak is an environmental scientist and researcher who serves as a climate ambassador, helping fellow Catholics recognize the impact of climate change and care for God’s creation. Potosnak is a member of the Catholic Climate Covenant and talks to Catholic parishes, schools, hospitals and colleges in the greater Chicago area. His research focuses on interactions between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere. Specifically, he studies how trace gas emissions from plants affect atmospheric chemistry and how climate change will impact this interaction in the future. He can be reached at​ or 773-325-7867.

Hugh Bartling, associate professor of public policy. Bartling has been researching United Nations climate negotiations for the past decade, took students to the 2009 Copenhagen negotiations and blogs on the issues. “Pope Francis’ encyclical is being looked on with great anticipation by those eager for a new international agreement,” said Bartling. His current research involves how cities and local governments are responding to the climate issue and how they might help transition to a low-carbon economy. He can be reached at​ or 773-325-4960.

Christie Klimas, assistant professor of environmental science and studies. Klimas can speak about the economic and environmental impacts of consumption, anticipating that excess consumption will be a piece of Pope Francis’ encyclical on environmental issues. She also can speak about economic strategies that can help businesses and others move toward reduced emissions. Her expertise focusses on population ecology, resource valuation, and tropical forest management and conservation. She can be reached at​ or 773-325-8423.

Kathy Dhanda, professor of management. Dhanda can speak about sustainability, corporate social responsibility, carbon markets, cap and trade and green supply chains. She can be reached at​ or 312-362-8846.

James Montgomery, associate professor of environmental science. Montgomery is an environmental scientist who researches urban ecology with particular emphasis on the role of urban soils in supporting green infrastructure. “World economies are dependent on the natural capital and services provided by ecosystems, such as pollination, filtering of rain water, and detoxification of pollutants by soil. The economy is a subset of our ecology, and our ecology is finite. Sustainability directly implies that we must live within our means – in this case, within the constraints of our ecosystems. The world is becoming increasingly urbanized, and climate change may be a driver in this process. Rampant urbanization is stretching the ability of many cities in the developing world to provide basic services such as clean water, sanitation and food. Understanding the impacts of global climate change on urban society requires fundamental research into and understanding of urban ecology,” said Montgomery. He can be reached at​ or 773-325-2771.

Catholic, theological and spiritual experts

Gina Orlando, instructor, School for New Learning. Orlando serves on the Archdiocesan Encyclical Working Group committee and been active with environmental issues since 1970, as well as interfaith exploration, connections and programming since 1982. The upcoming encyclical on the environment “is a game changer for the planet,” she said. Orlando teaches two science and spirit courses, where students explore whole health including body, mind and spirit. “We get indications that Pope Francis will bring science and spirit together in the encyclical, in that he has a science background, and will be challenging carbon-based economics within a spiritual context,” she said. Orlando has examined what Pope Francis has previously published and preached on the topics of the environment, poverty, green energy, green jobs and the spirituality of mercy and compassion for the poor. She can be reached at​ or 708-524-9103.

Michael Budde, professor and department chair of Catholic Studies. Budde can speak on the Catholic Church and economics, ecology and development. He can be reached at​ or 773-325-1974.

William Cavanaugh, professor of Catholic Studies and director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology. Cavanaugh is the author of books on political theology and social ethics. “The pope has emphasized that the abuse of the earth usually happens when people try to appropriate the earth, which has been given to us all in common, for their own greedy purposes. In response, Pope Francis calls us to walk more closely with the humble people of the world, and to tread walk lightly in the beautiful and fragile creation that God has given us,” Cavanaugh explained. He can be reached at​ or 773-325-7680.

Barb Willard, associate professor of communication. Willard’s background is in environmental communication. She teaches units on the environment and spirituality. She also plans to incorporate the encyclical into her course on promoting sustainable practices. She can be reached at​ or 312-362-7468.

Scott Kelley, assistant professor of religious studies. Kelley can discuss how individuals’ mindsets about sustainability might be influenced by Pope Francis’ encyclical and the challenges and biases that prevent people from finding sustainable solutions. He can be reached at​ or 312-362-6674.

Scott Paeth, associate professor of religious studies, peace, justice and conflict studies. Paeth can speak about economic ethics and applied ethics, including ecology. He is also an expert in ecumenical theology and Christian ethics. He can be reached at​ or 773-325-4447.

James Halstead, O.S.A., associate professor of religious studies. Fr. Halstead’s areas of expertise include contemporary Catholicism and Catholic ethics. He can be reached at​ or 773-325-7386.

Stan Chu Ilo, assistant professor of Catholic studies. Ilo’s areas of expertise focus on Catholic social teaching including ecology, development issues, poverty, migration and women issues especially from the perspective of the Global South and Africa in particular. He can be reached at​ or 773-325-4157.


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