Global Citizenship and Environmentally Responsible Travel: A CST Approach

Courtney VanHuffel

Sustainable Travel

I am studying the Catholic Social Tradition (CST) behind the concept of responsible environmental travel in the global world, with Notre Dame’s International Summer Service Learning Project (ISSLP) as a specific case study. I believe it is important to address the tension between being an active global citizen and environmentally responsible travel.

Ever since I flew to and from Uganda through Notre Dame’s ISSLP, I have been struggling with the concept of continuing to pursue global engagement while trying to lower my carbon footprint. Flying around the world to become a globally active individual comes with environmental consequences. There is an element of hypocrisy for those who care about the global issue of the environment but who travel all the time anyway, and I wish to explore this topic further, both personally and academically.

The crux of my capstone project is to research the CST behind environmentally responsible travel in the global world, with the ISSLP as a case study within this research. In it, I will lay the groundwork for how global travel has negative consequences on the environment. I will research CST principles to justify assertions on what environmentally responsible travel looks like, particularly under the context of global citizenship.  

Turning to the ISSLP, I would discuss what it does well (and why based on CST teachings) and what it could work on. These assertions will be based on interviews with:

  • the ISSLP Director, Rachel Tomas Morgan
  • the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) and Catholic Social Tradition Director, Bill Purcell
  • Professor Margaret Pfeil, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Theology and the CSC
  • and the Sustainability Minor Director, Rachel Novick.

These interviews are meant to give the case study of the ISSLP a nuanced perspective, where a simple justification for or against the program is avoided. Rather, the complexity of the topic will be addressed, especially as CST does not have a clear and direct answer on the topic.  Visualizing Global Change is a course taught by Professor Tamara Kay, where a documentary video is made under her guidance as a final project. She has approved for me to use the topic of my sustainability capstone project for her course, so this research and these interviews will be turned into a documentary video and will become an available resource for ISSLP students.