Priest-climatologist to speak at seminary Feb. 12

By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald

Carmelite Father Eduardo Scarel, a Catholic priest and atmospheric scientist, will speak on “Environmental Justice as Seen through the Lens of Laudato Si,” Feb. 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Notre Dame Seminary’s Schulte Auditorium, 2901 South Carrollton Ave.

Father Scarel’s visit is sponsored by the New Orleans-based Carmelite NGO (non-governmental organization), a worldwide group of Carmelites that supports programming and curricula promoting justice, peace and care for God’s creation.

Father Scarel has visited New Orleans annually over the past five years at the invitation of the Carmelite NGO to offer presentations, workshops and times of reflection to youth and adults on environmental issues, including climate change.

“As an attendee at three of Father Eduardo’s past events in New Orleans, I can say that he speaks clearly to the ordinary person about very complex climate issues and their connection to spirituality, justice and ‘Laudato Si,’” noted Marianite Sister Gretchen Dysart.

Caretakers, not just users

Written in 2015 by Pope Francis, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” is the first encyclical in church history focused exclusively on the environment. In the encyclical, Pope Francis reminds the faithful that they are not simply the heirs of creation but actors in God’s creative scheme and stewards of a place on which all depend for survival.

Father Scarel, a native of Argentina, advised Pope Francis, his fellow countryman, on the science portion of “Laudato Si.” The priest is the chair professor and researcher at the School of Astronomy and Geophysics at Argentina’s State University of La Plata.

He earned a master’s degree in atmospheric sciences and a doctorate in atmospheric and oceanic sciences at Buenos Aires State University, and a theology degree from the Salesian Theology Institute in Buenos Aires. For his postdoctoral fellowship at Argentine Pontifical Catholic University, he researched troposphere and stratosphere climate variability.

“The earth is the only home we have – we cannot go somewhere else. We have to monitor it,” said Father Scarel, addressing students during a 2016 visit to Mount Carmel Academy. Rather than saying human beings are separate from nature, Pope Francis notes in “Laudato Si” that we are part of nature, part of the process of evolution and the caretakers of that process, Father Scarel said.

“When we read the Book of Genesis, we learn that the whole of creation is a gift to human beings. We’ve been placed in a garden called Eden,” Father Scarel said.

“We are responsible for the garden; we are responsible for the geographical place we are placed in; and we have to look after it. The more we do that, the more we are like God.”

Lectures are data-based

A trained climatologist, Father Scarel supports his presentations with fact-based data, such as how the current extinction rate is 100 times higher than the natural rate of extinction, and how global warming, also known as “climate change,” closely follows trends associated with the increased burning of fossil fuels over the last half-century.

Father Scarel said the speed of climate change has been so great that ancient ecosystems, such as the Pacific coral reefs, are dying. Planetary warming has caused sea levels to rise an average of 20 centimeters since the beginning of the 20th century. Father Scarel speculates that rising sea levels have not caught the attention of many Americans because the rises currently are unevenly distributed across the earth.

Father Scarel’s Feb. 12 presentation is free and open to the public. The day before – on Feb. 11 – he will speak to history, physics and religion classes at St. Mary’s Dominican High School and to students at Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans.

Beth Donze can be reached at bdonze@clarionherald.org.

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