The 14th International Summer Course in Bioethics “Bioethics, Environmental Issues, and Human Ecology” was held from June 30 to July 10, 2015. The course was organized by the School of Bioethics of the Regina Apostolorum (APRA) and the Faculty of Bioethics of the Universidad Anáhuac Norte, in collaboration with CESAB (Center for Research in Environmental Sciences and Biotechnology), the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights, and the Institute of Religion and Science of APRA.
The course offered a broad range of international participants the opportunity to study today’s headline-grabbing environmental themes from a rich interdisciplinary and multicultural perspective. The course came began only two weeks after the public release of Pope Francis’ widely-discussed encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home and only a few months before the world turns its attention toward France for the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference.
Aside from the hours spent in lectures, small-group discussion, and informal meetings between events, the participants were able to learn about marine biodiversity first hand through a guided visit to the aquatic park “Zoomarine di Torvaianica” in Rome. Students also enjoyed an encounter with the internationally renowned bioethicist Metropolitan Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, Anthony Colin Fisher, O.P and with Monsignor. Jean Laffitte, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Although bioethics since the 1970s has addressed issues tending toward the biomedical, it had in its origins, in the thinking of some of the pioneers, a strong interest in environmental issues. The deepening ecological crisis necessitates, again and decisively, that this modern science examines this question. The course is therefore intended to deal with an interdisciplinary methodology on such issues of great public interest as pollution, resource management, the energy issue, climate change, biodiversity, environmental biotechnology, and animals. It is evident, however, that if these issues are the responsibility of bioethics, solutions cannot and should not be completely of a technical nature. To go to the roots of the environmental crisis and then to find the guidelines for effective solutions, we must broaden our vision to include ethics, anthropology, theology: what is the place and role of man in the environment; how to discern the ethical nature of human behavior towards animals; and ultimately, where is the foundation of respect we owe to the non-human world. The course finally highlighted the Christian vision of the environment, which provides valuable guidance to the balance between conservation and development within the pastoral care of creation in respect of that original mandate to man to “till and maintain.” The course affirmed that where human ecology is respected, the environment is the prime beneficiary.