Ethics/religion and society to host discussion

By Morgan Miles, Staff Writer

The Ethics/Religion and Society (E/RS) Program at Xavier University is co-sponsoring a lecture and panel discussion, in collaboration with the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue, called “Mindful Utopianism: Real Possibilities for Solving the Ecological Crisis” on Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. in the Kennedy Auditorium. 

The panel discussion will feature Drew Pendergrass, an environmental engineer who co-authored the book “Half Earth Socialism: A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change, and Pandemics.” 

Pendergrass’ publication spurred the panel’s creation. Its title refers to American biologist, naturalist and writer E.O. Wilson’s idea of restoring half of the Earth to a “rewilded” state, where the ecosystem is left alone to become balanced and biodiverse. Pendergrass is embracing “mindful utopianism” in light of the climate crisis.

Associate Professor of Sustainability and Global Cultures History Dr. Suparna Chatterjee and Director of the Philosophy, Politics and the Politics Honors Program Dr. Timothy Brownlee will join Pendergrass in the panel discussion.

Chatterjee and Brownlee will contribute to the conversation with their expertise in global politics and sustainable resource management. 

Panel speakers will consider practical possibilities of “’mainstream’ technocratic environmental approaches such as geoengineering,” according to the Green Umbrella website providing details on the upcoming event.

Thursday’s event is a part of a series hosted by the E/RS Program. 

E/RS’s Director Dr. James Helmer explains that the program’s current focus is environmental and sustainability issues and our response to the ecological crisis, such as developing new ways of thinking. 

“Ethical principles and ideals grounded in an Ignatian worldview and expressed in ideas of ‘ecological solidarity’ and ‘ecological justice’ can help inform our practical response to the ecological crisis,” Helmer said.

Dr. Bethany Henning, who currently serves as the Besl Family Chair for the E/RS program, originally suggested inviting Pendergrass to campus. 

“He is a young person with the requisite drive and expertise to engage in a global conversation that often seems hopeless,” Henning said. 

Henning’s response to the worsening ecological crisis involves considering how to retain cultural practices while disorienting shifts occur and encouraging thinking through complex questions on the global crisis and its problems. 

“The longer we put off… changes, the more lives we stand to lose in the coming decades,” Henning said.

“We have all considered some of the benefits and drawbacks to imagining utopias, and now we are in the midst of a serious global crisis that demands radical and ingenious answers.”

“What can we tolerate, and how can we compromise to protect one another as our life support systems become more fragile?”

All Xavier students, Henning mentioned, have or will have experience in utopian thinking because they are required to take PHIL 100, which has students navigate through utopian thinking exercises while reading Plato’s Republic.

The E/RS program is giving out free copies of Drew Pendergrass’ book Half-Earth Socialism to the first fifteen attendees of Thursday’s event. Attendance is free. 

For further information, please contact Henning ( or Helmer (