Agriculture News

September 30, 2016

Purdue professor speaks at Vatican conference on economics and society

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue agricultural economist Dominique van der Mensbrugghe spoke Sept. 21 at a conference on economics and inequality hosted by the Vatican. He spoke alongside Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton and professor Jean-Paul Fitoussi of Rome's LUISS Guido Carli University in the Vatican's Courtyard of the Gentiles.

The conference, "Towards a More Human and Just World: A New Inclusive Economic Paradigm in the Context of Growing Inequalities," was a joint initiative between the Italian Embassy to the Holy See and the Pontifical Council for Culture. It was intended to prompt reflection in political and academic circles about the relationship between economics and society.

"Pope Francis' encyclical letter, Laudato Si' On Care for Our Common Home, is an incredibly rich document exhorting humans, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to re-examine their priorities, be less self-centered, and focus on the greater good of their fellow beings as well as all living creatures and the planet," said van der Mensbrugghe, research professor in Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics and director of the Center for Global Trade Analysis. "Human-induced climate change is a small, albeit important, piece of Pope Francis' letter. My presentation focused on climate change as perhaps the single biggest threat to the planet, and one that requires urgent and drastic correction."

Van der Mensbrugghe's presentation also discussed the challenge of mitigating climate change while also raising people out of poverty. While the percentage of poor has never been lower in world history, there are still large pockets of poverty. In 2012, according to the World Bank, there were 900 million people living on less than $1.90 per day - of which 400 million live in sub-Saharan Africa and another 300 million in South Asia.

"Combating climate change entails radical changes to the way today’s global economy uses energy. This can hinder the poor as harnessing energy is a key source of improvement in livelihoods," van der Mensbrugghe said. "However, there are policies we might adapt, such as a carbon tax that could be used to help with the transition to a clean energy system as well as finance access to energy for the poor."

The "Courtyard of the Gentiles" Foundation is an initiative led by the Pontifical Council for Culture and its president, Cardinal Ravasi. It follows a suggestion by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, to encourage dialogue between believers of all faiths and nonbelievers, often in the form of discussions between Ravasi and secular professors. 

Writer: Jessica Eise, 765-494-0974, jeise@purdue.edu

Source: Dominique van der Mensbrugghe, 765-496-0076, vandermd@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Dominique van der Mensbrugghe has returned from Italy and can be reached at 765-496-0076, vandermd@purdue.edu 

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-8415;
Darrin Pack, dpack@purdue.edu 
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