The following reflection and prayer is a collaborative effort of members of Religious at the UN (RUN), which includes the Maryknoll Sisters.
Climate change - What has this to do with us/me?
During the 2013 World Youth Day celebrations in Brazil, Pope Francis called the world to greater solidarity:
“I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity… The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is not what builds up and leads to a more habitable world: it is the culture of solidarity that does so, seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters.”
(Quoted by Cardinal Peter Turkson, Annual Lenten Lecture 2015, delivered at Trocaire in Ireland, March 5, 2015. Unofficial translation)
When world leaders gathered for the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Lima, Peru, in December 2014, there was consensus that climate change is a danger to the planet and to the community of all life. As people of faith who are committed to solidarity and the common good, we are called to respond both individually and communally to the question:
What can we do? What can I do?
These questions, which are deeply engraved in our hearts, are about how we, as communities and individuals, can contribute to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change.
Mitigation aims at reducing the effects of climate change by reducing CO2 emissions and avoiding the use of fossil fuels. But how do you do that in the home, the garden, at school, at work or in the office
The big “R’s”:
Recycle – for example, find out where to discard batteries appropriately
Reduce – for example, be energy-conscious; use energy-efficient such as compact fluorescent light bulbs; buy energy-efficient appliances; reduce the use of air conditioning; disconnect electronics when not in use; don’t leave refrigerator door open for a long time; buy only what is necessary; buy products with little or no packaging; buy local produce (this will reduce carbon emissions from transport) and/or buy organic foods (chemicals harm the soil, the air and our bodies); be mindful/careful in the use of water; take public transportation; drive fuel-efficient cars
Reuse what is still usable
Repair things instead of discarding them
Change your style of life
Use latex paint when painting
Take cloth bags for shopping, not plastic
Select biodegradable cleaning products
Plant a tree or bush – reforestation
Buy certified wood that comes from responsibly managed forests
Institutionally, mitigation also means employing technologies that use little energy or filters that avoid the liberation of greenhouse gases
Advocacy for the reduction of CO2 emissions by lowering the use of fossil fuels - the systemic level - could be done by divesting our stock portfolios (on the community level) of fossil fuel companies - or using our proxy votes to keep these companies from doing more harm. Moreover, sisters in different countries could become more educated about national energy policies and plans - for example what is your country’s policy on fracking? What percentage of your country’s budget for energy is reserved for renewable energy? Is it a progressive percentage? How can you, given your context, be more politically involved?
Adaptation addresses change to a new reality by taking preventive measures. The idea behind adaptation is “I cannot change the reality but I can change the way I respond to the new reality.” For example, using wind power or solar panels or solar ovens.
Yes, we can each do something
The next Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC, commonly called the UN Conference on Climate Change, will be held in Paris in December 2015. The goal of this conference is to achieve a universal and legally binding agreement to address climate change. But its success depends not only on governmental decision-makers and negotiators, because each one of us can help by doing little things. For example, in making our daily choices and decisions, is it possible to reflect for a moment on what effect or impact our action will have on the environment? Reflection itself will change us, and when it changes us it will, cumulative, contribute to bringing change in the world.
We invite all our members to accompany world leaders, negotiators and other "artisans" of a new climate change agreement with our ardent prayer between now and the middle of December. May their efforts be directed towards the global and universal common good, respecting and protecting all people, all life, as well as Planet Earth.
We suggest the following prayer for individual reflection and joint prayer throughout our congregations and institutes.
Loving and Creator God, help us to become artisans of the revolution of tenderness as we face the threats that arise from global inequality and the destruction of the environment.
These threats are interrelated and are among the greatest facing our human family today.
Help us to play our part in protecting and sustaining our common home as you call us to dialogue and a new solidarity.
Illumine our hearts so that we will see the good of the human person as the key value that directs our search for the global and universal common good.
(This prayer has been adapted from the conclusion of Cardinal Turkson’s Annual Lenten Lecture 2015 at Trocaire in Ireland on March 5, 2015, and made into a prayer)
Company of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
Dominican Leadership Conference
Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary
International Presentation Association
International Public Policy Institute
Medical Mission Sisters
Sisters of Charity Federation
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
Society of the Sacred Heart