Laudato Si’ and the emerging contribution of
Catholic research universities to planetary health

This paper has been published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health and is the outcome of the collaboration among academics in the SACRU Working Group Laudato Si’

Climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss stem from human misuse of the Earth’s natural resources, especially fossil carbon. The paper emphasizes how these threats to planetary health fall disproportionately on minority and marginalized communities. Technical and legal solutions to planetary health are necessary and frequently effective, as seen in the sharp declines in the manufacture of chlorofluorocarbon resulting from the Montreal Protocol. However, the researchers underline how all these solutions have been just reactive, and none of these policies offer durable protection against hazards yet to come and go beyond the GDP logic.

To this extent, the paper recalls the engagement of the Holy Father Pope Francis through his 2015 encyclical letter, Laudato Sì: On Care for our Common Home, which examines the current planetary crisis, offering insights into their root causes and suggesting strategies for planetary restoration going beyond one-off solutions. To implement this vision, Pope Francis has developed a 7-year implementation plan inviting everyone to take concrete and scientifically informed actions to advance lasting and fair solutions to the planetary crises.

In response to this challenge, Catholic universities are forming interdisciplinary institutes designated to generate new knowledge about planetary threats and their impact on human health and wellbeing. The Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU) is an example of this cooperation, as the Alliance conducts basic, applied, and transnational research grounded in the concerns of the communities. For instance, to translate science from the academy to the world and advance equitable food policy, SACRU has established a collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Going forward, SACRU is well positioned to nurture the profound realignment of people’s relationship with the planet and each other, which Pope Francis calls for in Laudato Si’ and which the world urgently needs.

Full paper here