Call & Response: The Ecological Crisis and Changing Your Heart

panoramic view of the green meadows at Jubilee Farm

This article originally appeared in the JUST Words Summer Edition.

portrait of Tommy WalshCall by Tommy Walsh

In recent years, debate over the environment has become a major factor in modern society. Between environmental recovery plans and seemingly never-ending arguments over climate change, some Americans have taken steps to do their part in the fight to save our planet and its resources. However, many citizens have simply continued on with their carbon-emitting lifestyles, wasting precious resources and neglecting to make easy, and often money-saving changes that can help protect our God-given Earth.

Humans tend to waste a good deal of our resources. In fact, each person in the U.S. makes up to 4.4 pounds of landfill-bound trash per day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Food is just one resource, however. Every day, most people are guilty of wasting electricity, paper, water, food, and fuel. Such large amounts of waste are having a detrimental effect on our environment; electricity waste causes more fossil fuels to be burned and more harmful greenhouse gases to enter the atmosphere, the logging industry destroys habitats and is responsible for an estimated 20% of global carbon emissions, the agricultural industry is responsible for roughly 10% of greenhouse gas emission in the United States, and transportation in the U.S. is the source of almost 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Altogether, these human activities have caused a domino effect of problems for both humans and the beautiful organisms that we share this Earth with. Luckily, we are not powerless in the fight to reverse the damages we have inflicted on our planet.

There are many small things we can do to fix this horrible epidemic. Simple things like turning off the lights when you leave a room and choosing walking or biking over a car can drastically reduce your personal carbon footprint. Choosing to buy sustainably sourced lumber or view a document digitally instead of printing it out can make a big difference. Growing carbon-dioxide consuming plants and even cutting meat partially or completely from your diet will make a difference as well. Simply avoiding plastic products like water bottles and grocery bags can prevent the use of energy to recycle them. This handful of simple solutions can seriously help our environment, but there is one other method that is a hundred times better than these: word of mouth. These solutions only work if everyone does their part, because without everyone involved we are just fighting against ourselves.

Tommy Walsh (MCHS ‘24) is a member of the Marian Catholic High School Generation Green ecology club.

Sister Sharon Zayac, OPResponse by Sister Sharon Zayac, OP

I echo Tommy’s point about the many small things we can do to help mitigate our environmental crisis. It is the combination of many persons’ little things that together make change in the world. The urgency of the ecological crisis, however, has moved beyond our individual actions to Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Refuse, Refill, Repair, Re-gift, and Recycle!  It is time to add a few more “Rs”.

The first is to Re-think how every one of us is part of the greater community of life on this planet and the Responsibility that is ours to make choices that do not prevent the whole of life from flourishing.  Re-thinking implies conversion, a change in heart so that we view the world through the lens of sustainability, recognizing the goodness and integrity of the whole of creation.  That way, our individual actions are not just things we do (or don’t do if we are too busy or they are too inconvenient at the time). Such conversion helps us more Readily see the world as God does, a world made with great care and patience, love and delight. It Requires from us our Respect and careful Response.

As essential as are all our individual actions, the urgent Reality of the crisis Requires us to join with others to work toward healing the hurt we have caused.  On May 24, 2021 Pope Francis launched the Laudato Si' Action Platform. He is calling on every single sector of the Catholic Church (families, dioceses and parishes, schools and universities, hospitals and healthcare centers, organizations, groups, businesses, agriculture, and religious congregations) to undertake a concerted effort to Respond to the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor.  Each of us has a part to play, an important Role in the work ahead.

Sister Sharon is on the staff at Jubilee Farm, New Berlin, Ill.

Visit the Care for Creation page for insight on how the Dominican Sisters of Springfield care for the earth and its inhabitants.

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