Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Atlanta Campus Partners with Harvard To Explore Ethical Implications of Climate Change

What are the ethical implications of climate change? What can people do to confront and solve this mounting challenge? How can we better care for God’s Creation? More than 250 students, faculty and staff from Mercer University will be looking for answers to those questions when they gather at a conference, titled “Caring for Creation: Ethical Responses to Climate Change,” on Feb. 27 and 28 on the University’s Atlanta campus.

Mercer, in partnership with Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, will hold the multidisciplinary conference in the Atlanta Administration and Conference Center. The event is organized by the Atlanta Campus Quality Enhancement Plan Team as part of a campuswide effort to examine ethical issues.

“Caring for Creation is a moral obligation incumbent on every human being. It should be especially important to Christians and other people of faith who recognize that Creation belongs to God and that we are called to be good stewards of it,” said Dr. David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and conference organizer. “Climate change is recognized by scientific authorities around the world as one of the leading long-term threats to the well-being of Creation — especially to human beings, our health and our civilizations. This conference will bring together some of the world’s leading experts on climate and on Creation care to explore these critically important issues.”

The conference will be highlighted by presentations from several prominent climate change scientists, including Dr. Paul Epstein, a professor at Harvard Medical School who has written extensively on the impact of climate change on human health; Dr. Judith Curry, a professor at Georgia Tech and an expert on climate modeling and climate change; and Dr. Howard Frumkin, director of the National Center for Environmental Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Friday, Feb. 27, the program will begin at 7:30 p.m. following a dinner, with a welcome from Dr. Gushee and Dr. Epstein. Three plenary addresses will follow, moderated by Michael Battle of the Interdenominational Theological Center. The addresses include: “The Science of Climate Change,” by Dr. Curry; “The Health Effects of Climate Change,” by Dr. Frumkin; and “Religious and Ethical Reflections on Climate Change,” by Cheryl Bridges Johns of the Church of God Theological Seminary. The evening will conclude with a discussion.

On Saturday, Feb. 28, two groups of breakout sessions will be held from 9 to 10:15 a.m. and from 10:45 a.m. and noon. Breakout sessions will include: “Basic Climate Science,” with Dr. Curry; “Local Environmental Policy” with Michael Battle; “Climate Change and Human Health” with Dr. Frumkin; “National and International Climate Policy” with Dr. Epstein; “Greening the Campus/Lifestyle Changes,” with Richard Bohannon and Corrine Williams; “Religious and Ethical Issues,” with Bridges Johns and Dr. Gushee; and “Sustainable Agriculture” with Daron Joffe, or “Farmer D.” The conference will conclude with a lunch discussion beginning at noon.

Attendees are reading Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson’s book, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, prior to attending the conference.

The QEP Atlanta mission is to enhance interdisciplinary reflection on ethical issues at Mercer through seminars and other events. Previous QEP seminars have focused on dimensions of moral decision making. This year’s conference marks a departure from past events, with its sustained attention to one issue: the environment, and, in particular, climate change.

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