Reclaiming Earth, one drop at a time

By Jo Ann Showalter, Sister of Providence and congregational leader for Tacoma Dominicans

As we move from winter into spring and watch the gift of new life begin to emerge in its seasonal cycle, it is the perfect time to pause and consider the state of our beautiful planet, Earth and what we are doing to heal our home.

illustration of woman's hand holding the Earth

This year, 2020, includes significant events for reflection and action. It is the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” on Care of Our Common Home, the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement – the United Nations effort to combat climate change – as well as the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22. These international milestones create opportunities for us to be more attentive to what is being done locally and globally, what is being neglected, and, perhaps most important, what you as an individual can do to reclaim Earth – actions I call “drops in the bucket.”

It’s hard to hear about such complex and enormous issues without feeling overwhelmed and helpless. But everybody can do something to make a difference. Even if you think it’s not much, all of the small efforts, when many people are participating, add up to meaningful impact in our lives, in our communities and in this ball of wonderful creation God has entrusted to us. Enough drops, and the bucket gets full.

In “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis explained the concept of integral ecology – the complex ways in which social and environmental crises are interrelated. “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live,” wrote the pope. “We are part of nature.” In other words, when the environment degrades, the community degrades – and it hurts those on the margins first and foremost.

Taking action

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) recently made a statement, supported by the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Dominic of Tacoma, expressing disappointment about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement citing concern for the Earth and humanity: “Catholic teaching is clear – climate change is a grave moral issue that threatens our commitment to protect human life and dignity, exercise a preferential option for the most vulnerable, promote the common good, and care for God’s creation. The failure of the U.S. to fulfill its 2015 commitment dishonors our nation and threatens our common home.”

There are many ways Sisters of Providence and the Tacoma Dominicans have used their voices, advocacy, ministries and prayers to reclaim Earth. We participate in local, national and international organizations and committees, and collaborate with other religious communities, to support climate justice and work for systemic change. One less-well-known strategy is responsible investing.

For over 25 years both congregations have used their investments to call for and support care of the Earth. As members of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, they collaborate with faith-based investors in shareholder advocacy by dialoguing with corporations on environmental issues, filing shareholder resolutions and voting.

For example, in 2019 the sisters filed a shareholder resolution with Tyson, the largest industrial meat producer, addressing the company’s failure to adequately manage water quality risks and provide remedy to impacted communities. In 2020 the sisters joined a coalition of shareholders calling on ExxonMobil to respond to our climate emergency by aligning its operations and investments with the Paris Agreement’s goal of maintaining global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius.

More drops in the bucket!

Learn more about climate justice

This is a great time to get educated about the issues and start making your own drops in the bucket. Here are some helpful online resources.

10 ways to do your part for the environment

We all know we’re supposed to reduce, reuse, recycle; conserve energy and water; and try to avoid the car. Here are some other ways to take action.

  1. Reduce food waste
  2. Swap out meat and dairy items for plant-based options
  3. Eat locally
  4. Use less food packaging
  5. Carry reusable beverage bottles and utensils
  6. Use or make non-toxic cleaning products
  7. Purchase products from renewable resources
  8. Choose secondhand goods (clothing, furniture, tools, toys, etc.)
  9. Say no to the throwaway culture
  10. Get involved in an Earth Day activity or community cleanup

A prayer for our Earth
By Pope Francis

All-powerful God, you are present
in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty,
not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.