Climate-Change & Encyclical Experts at USF

Pope Francis’ Encyclical Calls for Environmental Action

USF academics prepared to comment on “Laudato Si (Praise be to you), On the Care of Our Common Home”

SAN FRANCISCO (June 17, 2015) – The Vatican is expected to release Pope Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical on the environment tomorrow, June 18. The 184-page document is Pope Francis’ first encyclical, or major teaching letter, on climate change and its effects on the planet’s poor. Leading up to the June 18 release, the pope said the document was addressed to all people, regardless of religion.

The University of San Francisco (USF) is the city’s first university, and its Jesuit Catholic mission helps ignite a passion for social justice issues, including sustainability and environmental responsibility.

USF has a number of academic experts on campus prepared to discuss the encyclical and its various angles:

  • What is an encyclical and why is it important?
  • Why is this particular encyclical significant to Catholic social teaching?
  • What is the connection between religion and the environment? What are the moral dimensions of climate change?
  • What does science tell us about climate change and humans role in it?
  • What is being done to measure and reduce carbon footprints?
  • How will this encyclical challenge U.S. environmental policy, and the upcoming United Nations negotiations regarding emissions targets?
  • How is USF doing its small part to be an environmental change agent?

To set up interviews with any of the following academics, please contact Anne-Marie Devine Tasto at 415.422.2697 (mobile: 415.279.9137) or


John Callaway is a professor in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of San Francisco, where he also directs the Masters program in Environmental Management.  He teaches courses in wetland ecology and restoration ecology at USF, and he conducts research on wetland restoration, climate change effects on tidal wetlands, and wetland carbon dynamics. He can answer questions on what science tells us about climate change and humans role in it.

Deneb Karentz is a USF professor whose primary expertise is related to the ecological impacts of climate change in marine ecosystems. She has conducted research on the biological consequences of climate change in Antarctica for more than 25 years. She serves as the second US delegate to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, is an ex officio member of National Academy of Sciences Polar Research Board, and a science adviser for the US delegation to the Antarctica Treaty Consultative Meetings. All of these groups and organizations have a large focus on climate change issues on both local and global levels. Deneb also teaches a course on the science of climate change for the USF masters program in Environmental Management.

Gerard Kuperus is an assistant professor at USF specialized in the philosophy of nature and environmental philosophy. He can address issues of environmental ethics, environmental justice, and the moral dimensions of climate change.

Sam Mickey is an adjunct professor at USF with expertise in environmental ethics and the intersection of religion and ecology. He is available to discuss anything related to religion and the environment, including Catholic perspectives as well as perspectives from other major religious traditions. Sam can speak on multiple aspects of climate change (science, ethics, policy), the relationship between scientific and religious perspectives, the greening of religions, tensions between economics and ecology, and the relationship between care for the environment and care for the poor. Pope Francis uses the phrase “integral ecology” in the new encyclical, which is a prominent part of Sam’s research. Prior to USF, he worked for the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale.

Dana Zartner is an associate professor and chair of the International Studies Department at USF. Her relevant expertise includes global environmental law and politics in relation to the UN, international law, and the state response to international efforts. She can also speak on climate change, culture, and the environment. Dana earned her JD from Boston University with a concentration in International Law and her PhD from UC Davis in Political Science. 


John A. Coleman, S.J. is the associate pastor at Saint Ignatius Church on the USF campus, but was previously the Charles Casassa Chair in Social Ethics at Loyola Marymount University. He serves on the board of California Power and Light, and has written extensively on Catholic social teaching, creation care, and eco-justice.  Fr. Coleman will be participating in a conference call about the encyclical for national members of the Sierra Club on the evening of June 18.

Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J. is the president of the University of San Francisco and is available to comment on this encyclical and its significance to Catholic social teaching. Fr. Fitzgerald can provide a theological explanation on the importance of the teaching document and the timing of its release. He can speak about how the Catholic Church is a global entity and can help foster concerted action around the world, as well as the essential social justice component of the Pope’s message. Prior to USF, he served as Professor of Religious Studies and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Fairfield University. After joining the department of Religious Studies at Santa Clara in 1997, Fr. Fitzgerald taught courses and conducted research under the rubrics of both Systematic Theology and Sociology of Religion.

Vijaya Nagarajan is an associate professor who teaches courses on Hinduism, religion and environment, and community internships. She has been active in the American Academy of Religion and in the environmental movement in India and the United States. Vijaya can talk about the connection between religion and environment and the moral dimensions of climate change.

Vincent Pizzuto is an associate professor of New Testament in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco. Pizzuto explores the relationship between New Testament exegesis and Christian theology as they impact some of the most pressing issues in the Church and society today. He can address questions about the significance and importance of this encyclical.