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Earth with 2020April 22 will be an Earth Day unlike any other as we confront not only urgent threats to the health of our world, but an unprecedented threat to the health of humanity. The crisis is unfolding on the 50th anniversary of the original Earth Day, an event that mobilized millions of Americans for the protection of the planet. Converging with this is the 5th anniversary of Laudato Si’, the Pope’s landmark environmental encyclical on Care for Our Common Home.

This year, Earth Day organizers are highlighting a priority that represents the biggest challenge facing our planet: climate change.  We asked members of the province’s Committee for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation to share ideas each of us can employ to tackle the climate crisis. 

Al Mascia, OFM
Duns Scotus Friary, Berkley, Mich.

Some things are just hard to separate. Take, for example, a bear cub from its mother or – if you’re someone like me – egg yolks from egg whites! More importantly, however, is the inseparable and synergistic relationship humankind has with the rest of creation. As billions of people, in one way or another, have to adapt their daily lives to the coronavirus pandemic, that significant relationship is cast into high relief.  With so many quarantined and with travel so drastically limited on land, sea and in the air, there appears to be some collateral benefit from all of this. Satellite reports seem to suggest the atmosphere is clearing up. Journalists have even reported that people in India are seeing more blue skies!

Now, a global shutdown is clearly an unsustainable solution to pollution and healing of the planet. However, it does seem clear that the less we drive around town the better our “Sister Mother Earth” feels! Here at Duns Scotus Friary we have been intentionally limiting our driving: One friar does the grocery shopping, one goes to the bank, another to the post office, etc. Simply put, we’re checking in with one another more than we had been doing in order to consolidate our errands and thereby reduce the time any of us spends driving around town! Based on what we’re seeing from the satellites, it seems that this just might make a difference! 

bee on blossomsAl Hirt, OFM
Pleasant Street Friary, Cincinnati

Before the pandemic, St. Monica-St. George had scheduled a Pollinator’s Paradise event for April 19.  The focus is on providing plants for the bees!  The March St. Anthony Messenger article on “Praised Bee” emphasized the important role these little guys play.  And bees are back in the Exultet!  In our plantings, we should be aware of what the bees can thrive upon.

Dominic Lococo, OFM
Mercy Community, Cincinnati

The best way to reduce the effects of climate change, I think, would be for auto companies to work on producing more electric cars, thereby scaling down pollution and smog.  Other ideas: Less dependence on coal for fuel, more use of wind power, more solar panels on homes and factories.  These to me are the main sources of our climate problems today. Hopefully our engineers and scientists will come up with solutions to help the world’s population for generations to come. 

Greg Friedman, OFM
Monastery of the Holy Land, Washington, D.C.

A report on NPR’s “All Things Considered” on April 13 made note of the reports that people find (according top reporter Elsa Chang), “the air in their cities has been amazingly clear, that you can see far into the distance, you can smell flowers instead of exhaust.” NPR reporters spoke with scientists who are watching the reduction in pollution, due to reduced traffic, on the ground and in the air. Environmental scientist Rob Jackson at Stanford University called it “a remarkable experiment, and it shows the benefits of clean energy.” Could the human family learn from this time of pandemic the benefit to our planet of a radical change in lifestyle? One fear is that after it’s over, we go back to life as before. But perhaps our prayer in this time might be to gain wisdom from our forced reduction in the excesses of human commerce, and – following Pope Francis’ lead – re-examine our ways of living in order to restore justice and healing to the Earth.

cars in trafficVince Delorenzo, OFM
St. Anthony Friary, Cincinnati

With the “shelter-in-place orders” during the pandemic I have come to realize how many unnecessary trips I make to the store and other places.  Apparently cutting back car travel has made a big difference in California.  I believe I heard that the air has been the cleanest in years because of the lack of vehicles on the road in Los Angeles.  It is amazing because it has only been three months and already this has made a big difference.

I also think the increased awareness on recycling and doing away with plastic shopping bags – as they’ve done in places like Jamaica – is important.   

John Quigley, OFM
Pleasant Street Friary, Cincinnati

We are flooded with tips and suggestions: Use cold water in washing cycles; carpool; disconnect all appliance plugs when not in use; etc. I would suggest that it is wise to pay close attention to the changes in your patterns of living at this time of the pandemic. How are you forced to conserve? What can you do without? 

Scott Obrecht, OFM
St. Francis Friary, Easton, Pa.

Pope FrancisSome people believe climate change is real, others, a hoax. Whatever a person does or does not believe, it is an issue personally affecting us, our country, our world.

We can heal the earth by taking climate actions that reduce our personal carbon footprint, such as walking, cycling, carpooling, using public transportation, planting trees, recycling, reducing food waste, and composting. These are all little ways that we can make a small difference. But we need to do something bigger to make a major, long-lasting impact.

Pope Francis, in his groundbreaking encyclical, Laudato Si’, writes, “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern us all.”

I believe that the best way to heal the earth is by electing government officials with the power and influence to make the environmental changes that are needed on a state, national and global level. From local mayors and council members to congress people and the president, they make the crucial decisions regarding how we care for our environment, our world. 

These are the people who set the policy affecting climate change. We the people need to do our part in caring for our common home, Mother Earth. We, too, have the power and influence if we choose to use it. We need to be part of the conversation. Laudato Si’!

one tree on earth dead and alive

 

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