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Growing Earth into the future, from where you are

Sisters Laura Parker and and Barbara McClelland sign the Providence Climate Agreement.

Predictions about the future of planet Earth seem dire. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) predicts that, based on current data, average global temperatures are expected to increase between 0.5 degrees and 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. The U.S. average temperature is projected to increase between three and 12 degrees Fahrenheit during that same time. Global average annual precipitation through the end of the century is also expected to increase. However, changes in the amount and intensity of precipitation will vary significantly according to location, with tropical and high-latitude regions suffering the greatest impact. When storms do occur, the intensity of precipitation and the effects of wind are expected to increase significantly.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent science experts gathered by the United Nations, there is a more than 95 percent probability that human activities, particularly in industrialized countries, over the past 50 years have created these effects. The EPA website notes that net emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities increased by 35 percent from 1990 to 2010. In particular, emissions of carbon dioxide (which constitute nearly 75 percent of total emissions) increased by 42 percent over this period. Historical measurements show that the current global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are unprecedented compared with the past 800,000 years, even after accounting for natural fluctuations. It is these gases that are linked to climate change.

Sister Mary Ann Phelan and Providence Associate Jean Brown sign the agreement.

On Monday, July 2, Sisters of Providence and Providence Associates joined together for education and action aimed at helping to do our part to give Earth a chance at growing into the future. With the help of the Climate Change Task Force, the group explored the intersectionalities of climate change and women/children, climate injustice and racism, and climate change and immigration/refugees. Then, in good old Catholic fashion, a lively game of climate change BINGO (“Believe in New Green Opportunities”) was played as an educational tool for raising awareness about causes of climate change and tactics that can be done to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Subsequently, each Sister of Providence and Providence Associate reflected on opportunities for going on a “Low Carb(on) Diet” by reducing her/his own carbon footprint. Finally, in a solemn moment, the Providence Manifesto and Providence Climate Agreement were proclaimed, and each person in attendance was given the opportunity to make her/his own carbon reduction pledge and to sign the Providence Climate Agreement: “Mindful of the effect of climate injustice on the cosmos, Earth, and its people, particularly the most vulnerable, we commit to work against climate injustice by collectively reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by two million pounds by June 2019, and by advocating for strong environmental policy.”

Providence Associate Pat Ruck figures out where she can cut back on carbon usage.

The goal is an ambitious one which cannot be accomplished by Sisters of Providence and Providence Associates alone. In order to reduce our footprint by two million pounds, we invite others who are concerned about the future of Earth and who want to do their part to make a difference. The hope is that we will build a network of “low-carb(on) dieters,” each of whom is more aware of the impacts our lifestyles are causing on the environment. Hopefully, each of those signers will reach out to others who may be interested in making a similar commitment to “go on a low-carb(on) diet” with us by joining us in pledging to make daily choices that will have a lasting impact on reducing carbon emissions and by advocating for strong environmental policies.

Sister Mary Morley discusses ways to cut carbon emissions with another sister.

Readers, we invite you to join us! If you wish to become part of our Providence Climate Agreement, please go to our website: ClimateChange.SistersofProvidence.org. There you will find a Climate Change Agreement pledge form which you can complete online. Moreover, we encourage YOU to find other like-minded individuals — perhaps family members, friends, parishioners — who may also want to take concrete action to “grow EARTH into the future” with us.


(Originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp

Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp

Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. She currently serves on the Congregation leadership team. Previously she ministered as a teacher and administrator at the secondary and university levels.

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