I am still processing this past Saturday’s event, sponsored by the Center for Environmental Transformation. It was the 9th annual Thomas Berry lecture, given by Fr. John Dear, an internationally renowned author and nonviolent peace activist. The title of his talk was “They Will Inherit the Earth: Nonviolence in an age of climate change.” There were about 120 people in attendance, along with about two dozen children. His talk and the children’s response continue to echo through my heart and mind. Dear gave us a different interpretation of the Beatitudes, which in most translations begin with “blessed are the poor in spirit…, blessed are the peacemakers…., blessed are those who mourn…” He said that a better translation of the Aramaic/Greek is “Rise up, go forward.” He challenged us to rise up, and go forward as nonviolent agitators for a more gentle way upon Earth. But it was the children who issued the challenge, in their young but powerful voices.
After John Dear’s talk and the discussion that followed, the children came from the back of the church, carrying a banner that had the symbols of all the world’s religions on it, with the words “One Family Together Cares for Creation.” Two teens let us know that the children are concerned about what is happening to our planet and all the living beings on it. They challenged us to rise up and go forth to address the increasing peril that all living things on this planet face. Then the microphone was passed from one little person to another, and they told us how they are rising up and going forward. This is what they said.
“I am not going to use plastic straws; these straws end up in the ocean, and they harm the fish of the oceans.” 500 million straws are used a day. Some restaurants are moving to paper or reusable straws. The goal is to reduce significantly the threat that plastic straws pose to fish throughout the oceans of the world, which is where lots of straws end up. Read more about the straw issue here, and consider this relatively small step, which if repeated by many people, can have a significant impact. Rise up!
“I am going to do Meatless Mondays.” The biggest source of methane gas, the most powerful greenhouse gas, is the meat industry of the world. Cows, chickens and pigs emit methane, and right now emit as much as 20% of the total methane emission in the world. If we can cut the methane emissions in any way, we reduce the greenhouse gas effect substantially. You can read about the production of methane in agriculture here. But how does Meatless Monday enter the picture? Most of us do not want to become vegetarian or vegan, but we can reduce our meat consumption. The more we reduce our meat consumption, the less meat must be produced, thus the less methane is produced by the animals that are the source of that meat. So, if you can’t go the vegan or vegetarian path, you can do Meatless Mondays. Read more about this movement here.
“I am going to pick up trash, on Fridays!” This young lady was quite shy, and at first didn’t want to say anything, but in the end she let us know, in a clear and distinct voice, how she intends to rise up! Trash in our streets gets into our streams and rivers, then gets into our oceans. The various chemicals that invariable coat the various items that become “trash” find their way into the body fat of fish and other animals that consume these items along the way, and we consume those animals. In 2014 Americans generated 214 million tons of trash, but only a third of this was recycled or composted. What happens to all of this trash? It impacts the environment in a variety of ways. Read more about this here. By choosing a day, any day, in which to go out into our neighborhood and pick up trash, we insure that at least a little bit less trash can pose a threat to the environment.
A variation of these activities were identified by the children. Here are a few more to consider:
- Use a reusable water bottle.
- Recycle everything that you can recycle.
- Use reusable cloth grocery bags.
- Try to purchase your fruits and vegetables from the source closest to you, to cut down on the carbon footprint involved in getting those fruits and vegetables to you.
- Get an energy screening done on your home and business; many heating and air conditioning businesses will do this for free, and provide you guidance for how to make your home more efficient in its use of energy.
- Consider getting solar panels for your house or business.
These are actions we can take in our personal lives. But we are also citizens, so we should be sure to educate ourselves about the candidates running for office on local, state and national levels. We ought to support candidates whose track record demonstrates that they will work to integrate environmentally friendly considerations into their legislative agendas.
You should also educate yourself about the challenges to our environment. Make use of the web (with a critical eye of course!), write letters to the editor about local environmental issues, get involved, join a group that is working on local, state or national issues.
There is so much that can be done. If you want to get involved with CFET, contact Terese Niedda at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is much that can be done to educate people about their responsibility to the environment. We need your help to do it.
It is time to rise up, to go forward, to be gentle, peacemakers, merciful, children of God.
Speaking of children, they blessed us at the end of their time on the altar, calling down God’s blessing that we would take up the task of protecting the beautiful earth that is our children’s inheritance. Let’s not drop the ball! Let’s rise up and go forward for our children and grandchildren.
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
Board of Trustees
The Center for Environmental Transformation