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No time for despair: climate change reality

Hope? I had just about given up hope. Then I heard Vice President Al Gore say, “Despair? We have no time for despair.”

After our rancorous election season and a grim reality setting in for the future of climate action and environmental justice in the United States, I needed to find something positive on which to focus my energy. And while there might not seem to be anything positive about climate change, Gore’s approach to address this catastrophic issue has always been hope-filled. He founded the Climate Reality Project after the release of his 2006 Academy Award winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” to educate and to drive change. In December, I found myself applying to attend the 34th Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps Training and was honored to be accepted.

So I, along with 972 amazing people from 34 countries around our Earth, spent three very full days in March learning from Gore and a whole host of scientists and other leaders about this issue. In a surreal moment, I realized that two of the three people sitting in front of me in a panel discussion were Nobel laureates. They and we are now among nearly 12,000 climate leaders who’ve taken a pledge to address climate change through education and action wherever and whenever we can.

Gore is as passionate as ever about global warming and how we can stop the devastating impact of an environment that keeps getting hotter and hotter. And he’s as positive as ever about our odds of doing so. Our work focuses on three questions: Why must we change? Can we change? Will we change?

So, why must we change? Drought, floods, fires, extreme weather, uninhabitable places, rising sea levels, species extinction, refugees, disease, food insecurity, inescapable heat … I could go on. Virtually nothing that we know about Earth is untouched by climate change. And no one. Here in the Midwest of the U.S., 2017 will go down as the year without winter. We’re seeing tropical pests in the garden. I swatted my first mosquito in early February. No kidding.

Can we change? Yes! Ceasing to use our precious atmosphere as an open sewer is step one. Renewable energy is rapidly overtaking the combustion of fossil fuels as the cheapest, safest, and cleanest way to power our lives. The scale of innovation in the advancement of solar and wind technologies is as large as the threats we face. The fastest job growth in our country right now is in the renewable energy sector. Ninety-eight percent of climate scientists are certain that the climate is warming and that it’s caused by human activity. What they’re uncertain about is how quickly our atmosphere can recover and at what point it may be too late. All agree that time is of the essence.

But will we change? Ah, that is the question. A lot of vested interests are driving the denial narrative in this part of our world. This is not a partisan issue. To be sure, the shift from fossil fuels has been painful for our friends and neighbors working in those industries. But a recent study estimated that the cost of taking the roughly 70,000 people in the United States currently working in the coal industry, retraining them for a new career and relocating them, if necessary, would cost about $180 million. In citing the relatively low cost Gore said, “that’s a rounding error in budgets of many departments of the federal government.” Perhaps our political energy and tax dollars would be better spent helping workers and their families build skills and transition into the jobs of the future. Perhaps that is the social justice work of our day.

I am now a trained presenter about our Climate Reality and have some amazing images and information to share. I’m working with the Sisters of Providence Justice Coordinating Commission on a plan for sharing this information with sisters, Providence Associates, and everyone else in the greater SP community and beyond. Look for more information and opportunities to see this presentation in the coming months.

 “Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening for the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.” The Earth Charter, as quoted by Pope Frances in Laudato Si.

(Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Lorrie Heber

Lorrie Heber

Lorrie Heber is the director of White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence. You can find her on Twitter at @LorrieHeber.

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  1. Avatar Sister Jean Kenny on June 8, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Thanks Lorrie,

    Always remember to Keep Hope Alive!
    The glory of God is the person who is fully alive…

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