Articles tagged with: Environment

Young Adults in a Climate Changing World

on Tuesday, 09 January 2018. Posted in 2017, Issue 81 Young Adults in Ireland Today, Current

Young Adults in a Climate Changing World

Catherine Devitt

It’s going to impact the rest of my life; the kinds of decisions I can make, the kind of world can live in. It’s going to augment other social problems which we already have. Our lives are not going to look like our parents’ lives, because of climate change.1

The young adults of today will mature in a world different to that of their parents’. In the decades ahead, climate change and widespread environmental degradation present the biggest threats to human health, progress and wellbeing, regional peace and security, sustainablelivelihoods, and to the overall health and diversity of our planetary ecosystems.2 This article considers the future challenges that will be faced by today’s young adults in a climate changing world, and more broadly, outlines some of the considerations, particularly for education, that need to be addressed to help prepare young adults for a climate changing world.

Working Notes • Issue 79 Editorial

on Sunday, 11 December 2016. Posted in Issue 79 Justice in the Global Economy

December 2016

Issue 79 front cover


In February 2016, the Jesuit Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology and for Higher Education in Rome published a Special Report on Justice in the Global Economy. The Report was compiled by an international group of Jesuits and lay colleagues in the fields of social science and economics, philosophy and theology. It understands itself as part of the thrust of the pontificate of Pope Francis with his insistence, particularly in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (2013), and his Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’ (2015), on the need for action in the face of ongoing poverty, growing inequality, and severe environmental degradation: 

‘We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.’ (Laudato Si’, 2015, § 139)

This issue of Working Notes is a response to the Report, focusing specifically on two major themes: the changing nature of work and the implications for inequality and social justice, and the unattended fragility of our common home.

Justice in the Global Economy: What It Means for Earth-Care

on Sunday, 11 December 2016. Posted in Issue 79 Justice in the Global Economy, Environment, Economics

Catherine Devitt

pdfJustice in the Global Economy: What It Means for Earth-Care

The Report, Justice in the Global Economy, highlights the inter-relationship between environmental justice and economic justice. It points out that ‘the rate of extraction of natural resources cannot be sustained’ and warns that if consumption continues at the current pace ‘we face severe menaces to both ecological stability and human well-being’. It notes also that: ‘The harmful consequences of over-use and misuse of resources are ... unequally distributed’.1 

Justice in the Global Economy: A Theological Reflection

on Friday, 09 December 2016. Posted in Issue 79 Justice in the Global Economy, Economics, Church

Gerry O’Hanlon SJ

PdfIconJustice in the Global Economy: A Theological Reflection

Justice in the Global Economy is a concise account of the crisis which humanity is currently facing: ‘We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental’ (Laudato Si’, § 139). Of particular interest is the recommendation that Jesuits and colleagues have direct engagement with poorer communities and, in particular, that we turn ‘our institutions into instruments for economic justice’.1 The latter is spelled out in terms of harnessing research resources and advancing knowledge in favour of poorer people, networking to focus on policy issues, lobbying in this direction, and realising the potential of our professional schools in faculty, students and alumni to bring about changes to the status quo.2

Climate Change and Population Displacement

on Tuesday, 26 April 2016. Posted in Issue 78 The Search for Refuge, Environment

PdfIconClimate Change and Population Displacement

 Catherine Devitt


The September 2015 issue of Working Notes had as its main theme, ‘Caring for our Common Home’,1 exploring aspects of our relationship with the natural environment, while providing a strong moral argument for taking urgent action in response to threats to our environment, including those arising from climate change.

Simply put, climate change is the altering of the Earth’s climate due to human-induced atmospheric and terrestrial changes, with significant implications for weather patterns, biodiversity, agriculture, and economic and social systems in general.  

This article opens with an outline of the main ramifications of climate change, followed by a focus on the relationship between climate change and population displacement. The status under international law of people displaced by climate change is considered next, and the article concludes by indicating some of the key issues involved in preventing and responding to climate-related displacement. 


on Sunday, 04 October 2015. Posted in Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home, Environment


Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home, the first papal document devoted entirely to ecology, has generated considerable interest and debate since its publication in June 2015. The encyclical is at once an exploration of the various environmental crises facing the world, a radical critique of current economic models, a call to action, and a reminder of the values which underpin Christian concern for the environment. 

Ecological Economics and Politics in the Ecology Encyclical

on Sunday, 04 October 2015. Posted in Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home, Environment

PdfIconEcological Economics and Politics in the Ecology Encyclical

Donal Dorr

The ecology encyclical, Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home, issued by Pope Francis in June 2015, is a very wide-ranging document. It is a call for ‘an ecological conversion’ in the areas of economics and politics – and also in the spheres of spirituality, theology, culture, and education. In this article, I shall focus only on the pope’s challenge to governments and to all of us to establish an ecologically oriented economics and politics.1

Ecological Economics

At the heart of the transformation called for in the encyclical is the replacement of the present-day market-dominated economics by a truly ecological economics – or what Francis calls an ‘economic ecology’ (§ 141). He is calling for a rejection of the ‘deified market’ (§ 56). This is a term which he later explains by referring to ‘a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals’. (§ 190)

In the same paragraph, he points out that, ‘Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about … the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.’ In that situation, he adds, ‘biodiversity is considered at most a deposit of economic resources available for exploitation ...’. (§ 190)  

An important account of one crucial aspect of an ecological economics comes in the following passage:

Preparing the Road to Paris

on Saturday, 03 October 2015. Posted in Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home, Environment

PdfIconPreparing the Road to Paris

John Sweeney


Some of the younger activists at a recent United Nations Climate Conference sported tee shirts which read: ‘You have been negotiating about climate change since before I was born!’. Indeed, the seemingly intractable negotiations which began with the First Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Berlin in 1995 have been in essence a spectacular failure. These negotiations have been unable to deliver a global agreement capable of offering hope to the next generation that the inexorable rise in greenhouse gas emissions can be contained at a level that does not endanger their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the entire planet. 

This kind of agreement is, however, at last within reach – or is it? The forthcoming 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, from 30 November to 11 December 2015, is eagerly anticipated as offering the prospect of an agreement capable of bringing about reductions in carbon emissions sufficient to limit the rise in global temperature to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. A rise in temperature in excess of this would commit the world to unavoidable ‘dangerous climate change’. 

Careful ‘choreography’ has produced an expectation that, at last, what Pope Francis referred to as the ‘Care for Our Common Home’ will be prioritised over narrow national self-interests and powerful vested interest groups. The background to this prospect and the chances of success are addressed in this article. 

Environmental Initiatives by Church Groups in Ireland

on Friday, 02 October 2015. Posted in Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home, Environment

PdfIconEnvironmental Initiatives by Church Groups in Ireland

A previous issue of Working Notes devoted to environmental questions (Issue 72, October 2013) included articles describing initiatives by four Church groups in Ireland aimed at protecting and enhancing the natural environment. 

In this issue, we publish articles outlining the ecology work of a further six groups. The first article describes the work of the Presentation Sisters in Ireland. Following this, there are articles on four church communities (Carrigaline Union, Church of Ireland; Clonakilty Methodist Church; Fitzroy Presbyterian Church; Rathfarnham Quaker Meeting) which have received an ‘Eco-Congregation Ireland Award’, and on a fifth (Balally Catholic Parish) which is shortly to receive an Award. The Eco-Congregation Award is open to church groups throughout the island of Ireland which have been working on ecology issues for a minimum of two years. Applications are assessed on the basis of environmental work undertaken under four headings: spiritual, practical, community and global. 

Eco-Congregation Ireland is an all-Ireland, inter-denominational project, which aims to provide information, resources and support for individuals and church groups wishing to become involved in awareness-raising and practical action in relation to environmental questions. The initiative is supported by the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Methodist Church and the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland (Quakers) (see:; see also, Catherine Brennan, ‘Eco-Congregation Ireland’, Working Notes, Issue 72, October 2013


The Role of Social Enterprise in Renewable Energy Production

on Thursday, 01 October 2015. Posted in Issue 77 Caring for Our Common Home, Environment

PdfIconThe Role of Social Enterprise in Renewable Energy Production

Gerard Doyle


Natural resources – water, energy and fertile soil – are fundamental to our life on earth. Many environmentalists – for example, Tim Jackson1 – believe that at the heart of the environmental crisis we are experiencing, and which is manifesting itself in so many ways, lies over-consumption of the earth’s resources. In 2009, for example, it was estimated that humans were extracting and using in excess of 50% more natural resources than was the case thirty years previously.2 

This level of consumption is leading to deforestation, species extinction at an alarming rate, shrinking of our natural water resources and climate change. In order for people in both developed and developing countries to live fulfilled lives, there is need to reduce over-consumption wherever it occurs and, in essence, to live more sustainably. Failure to do so will lead to increased pressure being exerted on ecosystems and may ultimately result in large swathes of the earth becoming uninhabitable.3

In his encyclical letter, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis documents the relationship between environmental degradation and global inequality.4 He speaks of the requirement to replace the culture of consumption with a more humane and ecological model of economic development which meets all of humanity’s essential needs.

This article asserts that social enterprise can play an important role in addressing many aspects of the environmental crisis. The particular focus of the article is the contribution which social enterprise can make towards combating climate change through the development of renewable energy projects.

Climate Change: Economics or Ethics?

on Tuesday, 29 October 2013. Posted in Issue 72 Protecting the Environment, Environment, International Issues

Atmospheric pollution through industrial emissions

The Nation State and Individual Self-interest

A recent text dealing with the issue of climate politics coined the term ‘cancer of Westphalia’ to describe the current ailment of the international logjam in addressing what has been described as the greatest problem facing humanity in the twenty-first century.1 It is a rather strange evocation of the peace treaty of 1648 which ended the Thirty Years War of religion in Europe.

Will the Government's Climate Bill Work?

on Tuesday, 29 October 2013. Posted in Issue 72 Protecting the Environment, Environment, International Issues


The outline of the Government’s proposed climate legislation (Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2013: Draft Heads) published in February 2013, was the subject of three full days of hearings by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment in July 2013.1 The Committee’s report to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, is due this autumn and the Government has promised to introduce its proposed legislation in the Dáil before the end of 2013.

Protecting Ireland's Birds and Biodiversity: Time for Action

on Tuesday, 29 October 2013. Posted in Issue 72 Protecting the Environment, Environment, International Issues

The Curlew: an iconic bird under threat

The Call of the Curlew

Many Irish people will be familiar with the call of the Curlew, a wading bird that breeds in rushy pastures and upland bogs through the summer months. For generations, it has been a cherished and familiar bird of Ireland’s farmed and coastal landscapes. In 1990, Ireland still had a sizeable population of Curlew, at around 5,000 breeding pairs. Now, however, it is estimated that there may be fewer than 200 pairs left. Such has been the decline of the Curlew that its extinction as a breeding bird in Ireland now seems certain unless urgent action is taken. It has become one of two bird species nesting in Ireland that are globally threatened (the other is the Corncrake).

Water for All of Life

on Tuesday, 29 October 2013. Posted in Issue 72 Protecting the Environment, Environment, International Issues

Irish river landscape


Water is vital to all of life. All living creatures, including humans, need enough water, of sufficient quality, to survive and thrive. We in Ireland are fortunate: most of the time, our citizens have access to a clean, healthy, supply of water for drinking and sanitation. Around 768 million people, one tenth of the world’s population, do not have this.  

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The Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures Report (2014-2020) sets out a realistic vision for the future of children and young people in Ireland. This vision is for ‘Ireland to be one of the best small countries in the world in which to grow up and raise a family, and where the rights of all children and young people are respected, protected and fulfilled; where their voices are heard and where they are supported to realise their maximum potential now and in the future’. Read full editorial

Working Notes is a journal published by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The journal focuses on social, economic and theological analysis of Irish society. It has been produced since 1987.