Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2015


Santa Clara University


Not only was it a wild idea, it was someone else’s wild idea.

Having spent the three previous summers working feverishly on a book, I’d decided that I was due for a more restful interlude between spring and fall quarters. My summer was to be heavy on contemplation as I scratched together a prospectus for a new book. There was to be ample time for grant writing. In my spare time I would work on a sabbatical proposal. There was the pile of books I was eager to get to, heavy on obscure nature writers.

Then came an email from Santa Clara President Michael Engh, S.J., in early June announcing that a papal encyclical on the environment was on its way. He was inviting me to serve on a committee to host an academic conference in early November about this encyclical. Fr. Engh wanted to invite the cardinal who’d consulted closely with the pope during the encyclical’s composition. One of my colleagues, David DeCosse, came up with the wild idea that three of us from the new committee should awaken early in the morning on Thursday, June 18—the date scheduled for the encyclical’s release—download it from the Vatican website, read it carefully but quickly, and then collaborate on an op-ed that we’d publish that afternoon.



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