EarthConnection

Call to Action

Faith for Earth: A Call for Action

Several months ago a new book was published entitled Faith for Earth: A Call for Action. It was co-authored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Parliament of Religions. The message from the Faith for Earth Initiative in the opening pages notes that “We need a common ethical system of values no matter what religion we believe” (UNEP) and that “The context in which we will make our choices must include the full panoply of faith, science, and social institutions. If these institutions are to become agents of sustainability, they will need to be enabled by knowledge and inspired by faith.” (Parliament of World’s Religions). The scriptural writings of each tradition as well as quotes from wisdom figures clearly articulate each faith’s concern for the environment and a commitment to honor care for creation not only in words but by actions.

The section on Catholicism notes that Laudato Si’ was written by Pope Francis to every person living on the planet and that it encompasses the fields of economics, politics, education, theology, and spirituality. It also states that “Since it was published, public perception of climate change as a moral issue has increased significantly and more people have been motivated to take action.”

Laudato Si’ provides a roadmap for navigating the very uncertain times in which we find ourselves today. We are facing an ecological crisis which is both a profound moral and cultural crisis. We have both separated ourselves from nature and placed ourselves above nature with disastrous consequences. Laudato Si’ calls us to an ecological conversion, an integral ecology which recognizes that everything is connected. The document Faith for Earth…quotes the work of Father Johstrom Kureethadam which sets forth a concrete means of working towards an ecological conversion both personally, but also as a community.

Father Ksureethadam uses the see-judge-act method of analysis to reflect on Laudato Si’. Long a part of Catholic Social Teaching, this method invites us to take a moment to stop and look at a situation with eyes wide open, then judge the situation in light of what our faith calls us to do and then act by determining how we can best be a bridge between what is and what our faith says should be. The following provides a structure that calls us to allow Laudato Si’ to move us from reflection to action – to ecological conversion.

Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’

See

  1. Earth, our common home, is in peril. Take care of it.
  2. Listen to the cry of the poor who are the disproportionate victims of the crisis of our common home.

Judge

  1. Rediscover a theological vision of the natural world as good news.
  2. Recognize that the abuse of creation is ecological sin.
  3. Acknowledge the human roots of the crisis of our common home.

Act

  1. Develop an integral ecology as we are all interrelated and interdependent.
  2. Learn a new way of dwelling in our common home and manage it more responsibly though a new economics and a new political culture.
  3. Educate toward ecological citizenship through change of lifestyles.
  4. Embrace an ecological spirituality that leads to communion with all of God’s creatures.
  5. Care for our common home by cultivating the ecological virtues of praise, gratitude, care, justice, work, sobriety, and humility.

Faith for Earth: A Call for Action is free to download by simply googling the title.

Caroljean Willie, SC, Ph.D.
February 6, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Climate Team

New Climate Team

January 10, 2021

President-Elect Biden has a very ambitious plan to confront climate change directly and re-engage with the world community by once again signing on to the Paris Agreement. The President-elect touted his ambitious climate plan, which seeks to end carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 and proposes broader public investment in green infrastructure, including $2 trillion for clean energy projects. He spoke about creating jobs, modernizing the nation’s water, transportation and energy infrastructures, turning the country toward electric vehicles and lowering the nation’s carbon emissions.

He announced shortly after being elected” I’m pleased to announce a team that will lead my administration’s ambitious plan to address the existential threat of our time, climate change… Like their fellow Cabinet nominees and appointees, members of our environmental and energy team are brilliant, they’re qualified, tested and they are barrier-busting.”

Rather than write about each of his team members, I would like to introduce them using their own words.

Deb Haaland, Secretary of Interior nominee

“Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. My life has not been easy. I struggled with homelessness. I relied on food stamps and raised my child as a single mom. These struggles give me perspectives though, so that I can help people to succeed. My grandparents, who were taken away from their families as children and sent to boarding school in an effort to destroy their traditions and identities, maintained our culture.”

“This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the interior once proclaimed his goal to, quote, civilize or exterminate us. I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology. I also stand on the shoulders of my ancestors and all the people who have sacrificed so that I can be here.”

Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy nominee

“My commitment to clean energy was forged in the fire. I was governor of Michigan, as the President-Elect said, during the great recession when it struck and pushed our auto industry, which is the life blood of Michigan, to the brink of utter collapse. Workers were losing their jobs through no fault of their own, banks wouldn’t lend, people were losing their houses. Our unemployment rate in Michigan was 15%, in Detroit it was 28%, but then, thankfully, as now, help was on the way. Joe Biden and the Obama administration worked with us to rescue the auto industry and the million jobs that are attached to it.”

“The path to building back better starts with building, and manufacturing, and deploying those products here. Stamping them, made in America, and exporting them around the world. We can win those jobs for American workers with the right policy. We can. And I know what those jobs will mean for both the planet and for those workers and families.”

Michael Regan, EPA Administrator nominee

“Growing up as a child, hunting and fishing with my father and grandfather in eastern North Carolina, I developed a deep love and respect for the outdoors and our natural resources, but I also experienced respiratory issues that required me to use an inhaler on days where pollutants and allergens were especially bad. I’ve always been curious about the connections between our environment and our health. How the world around us contributes to or detracts from our enjoyment of life.”

“We’re going to ensure that EPA is once again a strong partner for the states, not a road block. We will be driven by our convictions that every person in our great country has the right to clean air, clean water and a healthier life, no matter how much money they have in their pockets, the color of their skin or the community that they live in. We will move with a sense of urgency on climate change, protecting our drinking water, and enact an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities.”

Brenda Mallory, chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality nominee

“I grew up in the working-class community of Waterbury, Connecticut, a town not so different from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I know the faces of the marginalized and I appreciate the challenges of urban pollution. While the words climate change and environmental injustice were not part of the vernacular back then, the evidence of their impacts was all around. In that setting, there was plenty of opportunity to work to make a difference in people’s lives.”

“It is essential that we deploy smart and humane policy to help communities pull themselves back from the edge and improve the health, security and prosperity of all people. The Build Back Better plan is poised to breathe new life into the Council on Environmental Quality. CEQ will work with a broad range of partners on a broad range of issues to tackle the full breadth of climate change, preserve the natural treasures of our nation, center environmental justice, and help more communities overcome legacy environmental impacts.”

Gina McCarthy, National Climate Adviser appointee

“All I can think of is back when I was in grammar school and the nuns used to jump up and say, run, close the windows in your classrooms because when the rubber factory across the street started to spew chemical stenches into the air, it would come wafting into our classroom and that smell kept us from recess more days than I or my teacher ever cared to remember. So I figured out early there was just an intrinsic connection between our environment and our health. And that understanding drew me into a very long career of public service, which I will never regret and always cherish.”

“And I did it because I was trying to help families and communities just like mine and those who are facing certainly much steeper and more insidious legacies of environmental harm so they could overcome the challenges that were holding them back. Environmental protection is part of my moral fiber. It’s what I live for. And I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made across the United States and I’m proud of the work that I did for many years at local and state governments as well as at EPA to make sure our air and water were cleaner, to make communities safer and more livable and begin to confront the crisis of climate change. And I’m here today because climate change is not only a threat to the planet, it is a threat to our health and our wellbeing. It’s a threat to people everywhere and the precious natural resources that we depend on.”

Ali Zaidi, Deputy National Climate Adviser appointee

“When my parents moved from Pakistan to Pennsylvania, they brought two little kids and a few suitcases of dreams. Dreams their kids are living today … my brother, a doctor on the front lines of the Covid crisis, and me, moving to the front lines of the fight against climate change. To be healthy, to have purpose, to be able to give back, that is how our parents taught us to define the American dream.”

President-elect Biden has also created a new cabinet level position and appointed John Kerry as his special presidential envoy for climate.

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The Realities of Climate Change

The Realities of Climate Change

One of the recent webinars EarthConnection hosted was entitled “The Realities of Climate Change (and how to respond to climate change deniers)”. Because this topic is so important and not everyone had the opportunity to view the webinar, I am going to use this blog to present some of the information.

There is sometimes confusion between “weather” and “climate”. Weather is short term, in a limited area, can change rapidly, and is sometimes difficult to predict. Climate, on the other hand, is long term, covers a wide area, refers to seasonal changes, and is measured over long periods of time. It is the difference between what’s happening outside your window (weather) and what is happening to the planet as a whole over decades (climate).

There has always been a natural greenhouse effect which, for thousands of years, showed a balance between solar radiation entering Earth’s atmosphere during the day and at night when Earth’s surface cools releasing some of the heat back into the air. The greenhouse effect is actually one of the things that makes life on our planet possible. As long as there is a balance between the heat coming to earth and that released back into the atmosphere, optimum conditions for life on Earth remain.

However, human activities, primarily the use of fossil fuels, have increased the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere. This traps more heat on the Earth’s surface and causes global warming.

The term climate change refers to all of the changes that are taking place on our planet as a result of global warming. These include the following: stronger storms, damaged coral, rising sea levels, warmer oceans, changes in plant life cycles, thawing permafrost, melting glaciers, more droughts and wildfires, higher temperatures and more heatwaves, changes in animal migration and life cycles, and changing rain and snow patterns.

In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis states that “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon…The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.” 

Ninety-seven percent of the world’s climate scientists agree that climate change is a reality and, if not addressed on a global level, will have catastrophic consequences. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are higher today than at any time in at least the past 650,000 years. They are about 35% higher than before the industrial revolution, and climate scientists concur that this increase is caused by human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels.

The Paris Agreement was the first international agreement signed by all but two countries in the world (Nicaragua because they did not feel it went far enough and Syria because they did not attend the Paris session due to the war in their country) which addressed climate change. Each country submitted what it committed itself to do to help mitigate the effects of climate change. It is important to note that there was no mechanism for enforcement and there would be no penalties if a country did not fulfill its commitment. The agreement represented the recognition that climate change was changing the earth’s atmosphere and that it was a global problem. The United States has since withdrawn from the agreement stating that the cost was too high although there were no external costs imposed. It was a voluntary agreement submitted by our government.  Since the U.S. is the second-largest polluter in the world (after China) it is extremely unfortunate that we are not willing to work toward global solutions.

Pope Francis states clearly that “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications…It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” He speaks often of the connection between climate change and poverty and frequently notes that those least responsible for the pollution will be most affected by it.

It is important to understand the nature of climate change in order to counteract the voices that deny it. Care for creation is one of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and was recently named by Pope Francis as both a Corporal and Spiritual work of mercy. Not only the Catholic Faith, but every religious tradition holds care for creation as a sacred act.

An excellent resource on climate change is entitled Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change by Dr. John Cook. Dr. Cook is not only a scientist but also a cartoonist, so his book has multiple cartoons which make the science of climate change as well as the position of climate change deniers easy to understand. You can read more about his book as well as view many of his cartoons at skepticalscience.com.

The next several blogs will explore the effects of climate change around the world with up to date information from climate scientists. Dr. Cook says that one of the difficulties with climate change is that it is not perceived of as an immediate danger and, therefore, it is easy to ignore. However, these scientists are also telling us that we are reaching tipping points which cannot be reversed and will drastically alter the conditions for life on Earth.

 

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