Commitments to Reduce Climate Change

draft_lens2283503_1307876462global_warming_makes_me_sAs a woman religious, I am proud that members of my American Province of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) have made a strong commitment to help reduce climate change. So, too, have the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM). They represent a majority of women and men religious in the United States. This is not new for these groups, as members and institutions have taken many positive steps over past years. The recent statements from these groups highlight the urgency of reducing this increasingly dangerous reality.

We are far from singular in our commitment: many groups have pledged to respond to this peril. (Let us know in Comments if your church/synagogue or other group has done so.) The People’s Climate March September 21st is another way many will express their commitment to reducing climate change.


The SHCJ, called by our foundress Cornelia Connelly to “meet the needs of our age,” corneliacollagehas already
taken steps to reduce our personal and corporate carbon footprints. (For example, we have transitioned to renewable energy.) We recently strongly agreed to the following statement:

We, the Sisters of the American Province of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, compelled by the gospel and by our mission to help others believe that God lives and acts in them and in our world, are concerned for all of God’s creation including our sisters and brothers everywhere. We accept scientific evidence that climate change is happening and is caused in great part by human activity. Earth, which reflects God’s glory, is in great peril. Therefore, we publicly state our commitment by taking action to help reduce this danger.

SHCJ Action Steps

We pledge to be aware and pray over recent scientific reports and Church statements and to invite family, friends and colleagues to join with us.

We urge our government officials to join the world community to enact legislation which will reduce the emissions of global greenhouse gas and support clean energy. We give authorization to our province Leadership Team to act in our regard in this regard.

We commit ourselves to reduce carbon emissions by our activities and life styles so that all God’s people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, will not suffer the devastating consequences of climate change. We recognize that what we do to earth, we do to ourselves. Therefore, as Holy Child Sisters we commit ourselves to support ALL life on Earth.


images-1LCWR represent more than 86,000 (about 80%) of the country’s Catholic sisters, while CMSM represents US leaders of orders of Catholic priests and  brothers. Media often highlights the complex relationship between the Vatican and the sisters — and that is news. But not to be missed is the sisters’ commitment to the issues they feel called to address.

Meeting together August 1-4, 2014, LCWR and CMSM leaders issued a joint resolution calling their members to work for action on climate change. The two conferences resolved to seek concrete ways to curb environmental degradation, mitigate its impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people, and restore right relationships among all God’s creation; and to foster a consciousness of care for God’s creation among all our members, colleagues, institutions and those whom we serve. 

The leaders noted that the increase in temperature on the earth will likely have wide-spread consequences, from mass extinctions to devastating impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable human beings.

Meeting later in August, the LCWR membership passed a more focused resolution to promote the national transition from fossil fuel energy sources to renewable energy sources as soon as possible.

Other Congregations Take Action

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary have made the decision to divest from fossil fuel production and invest in entrepreneurs and companies that promote clean, sustainable energy solutions. For more information, see the press release:

People’s Climate March

The People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, September 21st, will see hundreds of thousands of people show their commitment to reducing global warming and the harm it is already causing, especially to poor people and other species throughout the world. Marchers, and those throughout the country who will be praying and taking local action, hope they will influence participants at the UN Climate Summit on September 23.


The sisters appreciate the support given by people concerned about the situation with the imagesVatican, and we appreciate prayers for its positive resolution. We also appreciate, and hope to  engender, support for issues we consider most vital: care of creation and the interconnected concern for people suffering from  poverty, trafficking, violence, and injustice.

What could happen if a groundswell of US citizens, including politicians, recognized the religious, economic, and political advantages of taking action to reduce global warming? What is your vision?

Climate Change Resistance

Most readers of this blog are probably already concerned about climate change, and possibly active in reducing it. This sometimes results in hostility to the people judged to be deniers or those who seem spiteful about adding to it. Lots of reasons are blamed for their negative responses: inaccurate and inadequate media coverage, investments in fossil fuel and weapons industries, mistaking it as a political issue, just plain greed. Many efforts have been made to overcome these resistances directly: for example, by providing better information.

These efforts don’t always work, at least in the United States. I believe we must at least consider another source of the problem:  the need to update “brain technology” o-COMPUTER-facebookto deal with current problems of climate (as well as violence and poverty). While some brains have evolved to motivate people to action, others seem stuck in past technology. Einstein warned: No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.

Solving this will still be challenging, but better to treat the cause of obstinacy than to treat the symptoms. I hope the following will serve to increase our patience with resisters and our commitment to sending the universe positive energy for required consciousness updating. I hope we’ll devise ways to ask questions that will cause cognitive dissonance; good questions often result in willingness to change. After all, negative energy will not help, and God’s power can do anything — “far more than we can even imagine or guess or request in our wildest dreams!” (Eph. 3)

Updates Available

Fortunately the brain is able to develop new connections throughout life. Every day the brain computes ways to respond to new learning, new experiences, new awareness — new questions! The more of us who “download” better awareness, the stronger the field becomes, and that makes it easier for others to evolve. New awareness grows from old. Let’s consider the consciousness humans already have evolved.

Responding to Immediate Threats

What an important software this has been for ages past! As Brian Swimme says, our ancestors
learned to run immediately if they caught a glimpse of yellow. Those who didn’t act fast enough
became lunch for some hungry lion. This skill was passed on in our DNA. It’s still needed, of
course, but additional “brain software” is now required for survival.

People who mistakenly think climate change has not yet affected them seem to assume they have
time to wait. They operate exclusively from a mindset that was sufficient for survival for
millennia, but no longer is.

The situation that already affects millions (and, actually, everyone) willf2b57-dscn7621
eventually seriously threaten all people’s survival. What about food
supply? Water? Where will they safely live? Longer-range vision is
required to comprehend this. New brain skills are needed — and,
ironically, immediately!

Already we have reached the point where some damage will be
impossible to reverse. Six glaciers have reached irreversible collapse.
Warming ocean water is melting away the base of the West Antarctic Ice
Sheet – and more rapidly than predicted. Further, the damage is self-perpetuating and will accelerate over time. It cannot be stopped.

It is vital to note that reducing greenhouse gas emissions now can at least delay the total collapse
and resulting ocean rise. But this, too, requires vision for the future.

Separations and Independence

This important skill was a huge breakthrough when human consciousness evolved from preconscious
oneness into awareness of separate identities, dualities, and the scientific belief that
everything is made of separate atoms. Competition and hierarchies resulted. God was relegated to the sky, separate from Earth. Recognizing differences was necessary and still needed. But our time calls for “brain-ware” that also recognizes that those differences exist within intercommunion and interdependence. Those atoms belong to wholes. The Divine Mystery is present everywhere, living and acting within all creation.

By not updating consciousness, some think of climate change as competing with “real concerns”
like poverty, trafficking, refugees. And they can think of it as separate from themselves, something “out there.” People choose their issue and miss the interconnectedness of all issues within one whole.

Ecospirituality Update Needed

Ecospirituality, by definition, uses a “deep time journey” vision that situates us in a
14.8 billion year on-going evolution that is changing each moment. It sees humanity as having
the highest degree of consciousness to date (as far as we know) and humans as the ones who
contribute consciously to our evolution story for good or ill. It sees creation as a sacred interconnected process in which “nothing is itself without everything else.” (Thomas Berry). IMG_7737

This understanding of creation as a sacramental “whole” comes in part from new
sciences, but mystics and others have lived it for centuries. Because of this wholeness, we cannot do one thing. The butterfly effect (wings flapping somewhere changing weather somewhere else) is a well-known example of that, but even babies learn it from mobiles. Touch any one item, and all are influenced.

“At an invisible level, everything and everyone is interconnected in a most profound way, not only as human beings but as energy, mind, and matter.” (Mark Matousek)

Connection with Resistances

What does obsolete brain power have to do with resistances to Climate Change activities? Remember:

Climate concerns need attention now, and they interact with other issues. We are not separate from our environment. The air we breathe flows within us, is altered, returns and continues to be altered as we breathe in yet other air particles. “The world around us is also within. We are an expression of it; it is an expression of us. . . . This is not ‘environment’ as much as the holy mystery of creation.” (Larry L. Rasmussen)

The United Nations Development Programme has a special envoy for environment, conflict and
disaster. (It is Eric Solheim.) The UN recognizes the inter connections among these three. One of the
recognized (if not often by the US media) causes of conflicts in the Middle East, in African
countries, and even in the United States, is fallout from global warming. The abrupt drying up of
arid land leads to competition over declining water resources, places to live, food to eat,
jobs . . . .

One example: after two years of drought in a rural area  Daily Life in Domiz refugee camp, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
of Syria, 300,000 families abandoned their homes and
moved to Syrian cities. The United Nations named it
one of the “largest internal displacements in the Middle
East in recent years.” Unemployed youth from dislocated families later joined Sunni groups that began the Syrian
Civil War, which ultimately became ISIS.

Climate change was not the direct cause of the Syrian
War, but it definitely contributed. This is true also in places like Nigeria.

Even the Pentagon and Center for Naval Analyses in the US have made connections, showing
how climate change increases the risk and level of economic, political, and ecological conflicts.
Dislocated and impoverished children are targets for trafficking as well as death by starvation and dehydration. Connections are everywhere to those who can recognize them.

Ultimate Connection

Here’s another essential connection to remember: ““By virtue of Creation, and still more the
Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.” (Teilhard de
Chardin) Let us pray to always see the sacred in all things. Let us pray when we are tempted to judge others and become impatient and frustrated. Let us pray that we, too, keep evolving!

If this rings true for you, or if you have experience with it that you can share, please respond in Comments.

Teilhard de Chardin

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ (1881 – 1955)

 You might have seen this blog before, as I originally posted it last summer.  A mysterious technical problem arose, resulting in my receiving dozens of comments that were about other topics, all with the Teilhard de Chardin heading. Perhaps there was a better way to handle this, but my solution was to temporarily take it offline by making it a Draft. That stopped the irrelevant and weird comments, but I didn’t want to keep it offline forever.
(Discussion/Reflection questions are at the end.)images
I recently had a conversation with a person who gave, as an example of someone who had wasted his life’s energy writing obscure books, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Well, one man’s opinion. 
My take on Teilhard is that his writings, though misunderstood by those in authority (who warned the faithful about them as lately as 1981) have probably influenced the lives and thinking of all Christians exploring science and religion, matter and spirit, faith and the Universe Story. If you’ve been impacted by Thomas Berry or Mary Evelyn Tucker, or many others who share a similar vision, you have experienced the influence of this French Jesuit. Many of my contemporaries— and possibly the present reader —  were thrilled by reading  his manuscripts in their youth. Most of us have read at least one of his books. Many are familiar with quotes from him and have experienced over time the wisdom his words hold. They are profound, they are challenging, they are pregnant with life and love. 
Of possible interest to SHCJ: Soeur Marie St. Jean Teillard-Chambon, SHCJ, was a cousin of Pierre!

 FOLLOWS IS A SAMPLING OF QUOTES: The first two are a transition from my last blog, about exploration into God.
I am more and more convinced that the great event of our time is a kind of change in the face of God in which the pure “God of above” of yesterday is being combined with a kind of “God of ahead.” 
Not “God who is dying,” as Nietzsche said, but “God who is changing.”
To those who know how to see, nothing is profane. 
By his Incarnation [Christ] inserted himself not just into humanity but into the universe which supports humanity.
The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting upon itself. (I heard that first from Miriam Therese MacGillis, OP, in 1979. It sailed high over my head, but somehow I felt called to comprehend it. This took me well-spent years!)
Because it is not sufficiently moved by a truly human compassion, because it is not exalted by a sufficiently passionate admiration of the universe, our religion is becoming enfeebled.
(That was written in 1918!)
 [About the "other" who usually appears a danger, nuisance, and obstacle:] I shall like them as soon as I see them as partners in the struggle.
 Do not brace yourself against suffering. Try to close your eyes and surrender yourself as if to a great loving energy. This attitude is neither weak nor absurd, it is the only one that cannot lead us astray. 
Unquestionably, Jesus is still he who bears the sins of the world; in its own mysterious way suffering makes reparation for moral evil . . . The full and ultimate meaning of redemption is no longer seen to be reparation alone, but rather further passage and conquest. 
images-2The presence of the Incarnate Word penetrates like a universal element. It shines at the heart of all things.
There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.
Love is the most powerful and still the most unknown energy of the world.
The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation,
we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.
A prayer
When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more when they touch my mind);
when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within me;
 when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill or growing old;
and above all at that last moment when I feel I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive
within the hands of the great unknown forces
 that have formed me;
in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you 
(provided only my faith is strong enough) who are painfully parting the fibres of my being
in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself.
Possible discussion/reflection starters:
I had hoped to keep the quotation list brief, but I was unable to do so. Which one(s) might you have omitted and why? images-1
If you had to limit them to three, which ones would you have chosen and why?
If you have a favorite that is missing, please add it to the comments!
If you have found “communion with others who have a large vision,” how do you nurture it?
For more, see
Blanche Gallagher’s Meditations with Teilhard de Chardin, Bear and Company, 1988
Arthur Fabel, Donald St. John, ed., Teilhard in the 21st Century: The Emerging Spirit
of Earth, Orbis, 2003
Any book written by Teilhard  (The Phenomenon of Man is now titled The Human Phenomenon.)