Maryknoll Sr. Rebecca Macugay was an official observer at the Paris Climate Summit (COP21) representing the Maryknoll Sisters. The following is her reflection on the talks, published in the January-February 2016 issue of NewsNotes.
Epiphany is a journey narrative. The magi from the East followed a star that mirrored the light that burned within them, the energy that made them set out on a long and tortuous journey. What they were looking for is not certain, but they were surely experiencing meaning and wholeness as they mindfully discerned the pathways shown by the star.
Maryknoll Sisters celebrate our Foundation Day on this feast day. The Feast of Epiphany sheds light on our missionary vocation. We embark on life journeys to engage in whole-making and on the way, we are made whole.
Journeys have particular points where convergences happen. They are meetings of minds and hearts, gatherings that enlighten, even as we go through struggles; and ultimately they create community. At such times, we discern the design of God in our lives.
The Paris Climate Summit (COP21) was an experience of convergence. Representatives of 195 nations and many more civil society and faith groups came together because of their deepening awareness of the diminishing quality of life on Earth due to climate change – not the climatic changes that happen periodically in the natural evolution of the planet but the consequences of human activities that disregard God’s gifts that sustain and nurture life. The recognition of anthropogenic climate change manifesting itself as extreme weather patterns, pollution of air, water, and land, and the loss of biodiversity was the core purpose of the conference.
We live in a society whose main activity is to extract, produce, consume, throw away, and extract some more. This pattern benefits some whose lifestyles are upheld as the norm to which many hope to achieve. Meanwhile, the toll on our environment is degradation, and for most of our sisters and brothers in the world, poverty, marginalization and violence.
The Global Footprint Network produced data which suggests that if everyone on the planet consumed as much as the average U.S. citizen, we would need four earths to sustain us.
Climate change can cause us to despair: “It is too big a problem to tackle; we are powerless in the face of it.” Indeed, climate change is a concern that is global (perhaps even cosmic) in its proportion. Yet, it is our concern. The health of our common home is our responsibility.
Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), posed this challenge to the participants of COP21: “We the people have caused the problem and so we the people need to exercise responsibilities for the solutions.” She was a voice of hope and encouragement as she enumerated the capacities humans have developed: technology, scientific research, global outreach, organizing capabilities. She said the universal climate agreement to be adopted in Paris “needs to be a resolution for implementation. Watch the evolution of kaleidoscopic efforts.”
We are at a crossroads in our journey as planetary citizens. We are being called to divert from a “business as usual” approach to our endeavors. Pope Francis shared this call in his encyclical, Laudato Si’.
In the January 2016 issue of Sojourners magazine, Walter Brueggemann writes that Pope Francis has given “enormous impetus to the narrative of possibility” and we need to embrace a “narrative of hope that affirms that good futures are available when we act responsibly.”
The mandate for COP21 was to create a new international agreement that will enable a path toward a low carbon climate for a resilient and sustainable future. This is a serious call to extricate ourselves from our comfortable norms and “business as usual” mindset and behaviors.
The Paris agreement has much to be desired, but it is a turning-point document, an instructive springboard for conversations about taking care of our common home and our common breath of Life.
Presently, God’s revelation in the whole of creation is a lament, a plea for wholeness. Our faith calls us to live in a mindful state of being with our surrounding and each other. Epiphany is God’s compassionate presence in our midst. We are nature. We are God’s epiphany. Let’s continue our journey in search of wholeness in God’s Love.