Bellarmine Forum 2021: Climate Change, Justice, and Health

The World Health Organization calls climate change the biggest threat to human health in the 21st century, and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report urging sweeping and immediate action to avoid catastrophic and irreversible impacts. As the most pressing issue of our time, the climate crisis warrants critical interdisciplinary attention. Thus, this year’s Bellarmine Forum will provide a space for engaging students, faculty, and staff from across the university in interdisciplinary dialogue on the social and economic drivers of climate change, the inequitable patterning of vulnerability to its effects, how communities are responding, and lessons from the past as well as other species.

Dr. Rachel Washburn, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Health and Society minor, proposed this forum as an effort to provoke an examination of how bodies, human and nonhuman alike, are imperiled by systemic arrangements that are unjust and unsustainable. An additional goal of the forum is to shine light on how the climate crisis is prompting new understandings of responsibility and relationality across species bodies, time, and place. “I have been deeply affected by stories about the devastating impacts of climate change on people, animals, and habitats around the world,” Washburn said. “Living in California, it’s very hard to ignore the clear impacts of climate change, whether it’s scorching hot summer days, mega fires, drought, or suffering forests, the markers are all around us. In directing this year’s forum, I really hope to bring a justice lens to thinking about climate change and the ways in which historic and contemporary practices of extraction and exploitation got us into this mess. While we know that all of us will be affected by climate change in some way, we also know that the impacts are being disproportionality felt by those who are socially and economically marginalized and/or vulnerable.”

Several events will take place across the 2021-2022 academic year, with the bulk planned for spring 2022. The Forum’s fall signature event is being co-sponsored by The William H. Hannon Library and will take place on September 23rd between 12:30pm-2:30pm. It will include a keynote address by Dr. Farhana Sultana titled, “Feminist Climate Justice in a World of Crises.” Dr. Sultana is an Associate Professor of Geography at Syracuse University where she specializes in climate justice and water politics, especially in the Global South. Her talk will be followed by the opening of “Storm Cloud: Understanding Climate Change Conversations through Historical Sources,” a special exhibition at the library curated by LMU English graduate student, Kemi Ogun (class of 2021).

On October 21 at 3:30pm, award-winning author and scholar, Dr. Jason W. Moore, Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, will give a talk titled Man, Nature and other Dangerous Words: Climate Crises, Class Power, and Civilizing Projects in the Capitalocene, 1450-2021. More information on this talk will be circulated early in the fall semester.

In addition to talks and other events taking place throughout the 2021-2022 school year, there will be four common courses offered in Spring 2022: Nature Writing (Prof. Evelyn McDonnell, Journalism); Sustainable Cities (Prof. Mona Seymour, Urban & Environmental Studies); Environments, Bodies, and the Climate Crisis (Prof. Rachel Washburn, Sociology and Health & Society); and Modern Global Environmental History (Prof. Amy Woodson-Boulton, History).

Visit the Bellarmine Forum website to learn more.