Climate Change Close to Home
My study group and others have been discussing the book Desire, Darkness and Hope: Theology of Impasse, a collection of essays by and about Constance Fitzgerald. The essays cover very pertinent aspects of our daily life and how contemplation can grant us the hopeful insights we need during some of the dark days in our world and our own lives.
Most recently, my group shared thoughts and ideas around the essay “Impasse and Climate Crisis: A Contemplative View” by Margaret Pfeil. Contemplation is a form of prayer that some people feel would best be left to the mystics among us, but as Dominicans how can we share the fruits without it? This essay, and others in the book, apply the deep awareness that contemplation can bring to us every day and the possibilities for action if we practice it more often. Our group discussion that evening was a good balance of the depth of the contemplative process and the practical applications if we allow them to happen.
Sometimes dealing with the climate is overwhelming and seems daunting. Sometimes we are at an “impasse” to know what we can do. We have Sisters and Associates in our congregation who are persistent in their efforts to change minds and hearts about the needs of the earth around us and have worked in their own part of the country and elsewhere in the world to make a difference. Sometimes we let the notion that the whole world is in climate turmoil get the best of us.
This essay referenced two different cultures of people living worlds apart, the people of Papua New Guinea and those living in Isle de Jean Charles, LA. More words were allotted for the people of Papua New Guinea than the Isle de Jean Charles, LA. OK, I know I am somewhat biased these days to all things Louisianan, but there is another reason Isle de Jean Charles hit some nerves and made me wish the author had spent more time on that area.
Some of our Dominican Associates are impacted heavily by what is happening in that part of the state, and it is happening because of the import and export shipping business that is a huge part of the Louisiana economy. Between dredging canals and creating new shipping lanes, the wetlands of Southern Louisiana are eroding almost completely. There is also tremendous oil extraction taking place in this area and causing subsidence to worsen. Isle de Jean Charles was and still is home to many members of the United Houma Nation and the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribes. Father Roch Naquin, a member of the BCC, has been a Dominican Associate for about 30 years and his original land is almost gone. Other Associates live in the Houma and Reserve areas and the impact of Hurricane Ida was one clear message that the wetlands are not able to do their job of holding back the waters of the Gulf and protecting the towns around. Father John Marse is another Associate and has a parish in Reserve, LA and the church was heavily damaged by Ida. Some of our Sisters know the area well. Through congregational grants, we were able to provide some relief to Father and some of the other Associates down there who are still trying to recover.
Isle de Jean Charles measured 22,000 acres in 1955 and now measures 320 acres. There is one road in or out, right down the center of the island from the mainland. Imagine Long Island Sound growing deeper and deeper and encroaching on the cities on the island with only the Long Island Expressway available and maybe down to two lanes in or out. Yikes!! Lots of beaches but no way to get there quickly at all. Imagine all those people without their homes, McMansions or otherwise. Or consider New Haven without “the Green” and Yale University only approachable by boats. And Boston…! Well, an awful lot of Boston is already built on landfill so what could be next when the harbor overflows? Since we have the example of what has been done through human destruction of natural waterways in the name of the economy, what can be done now? This is not something that can be eliminated but does it really have to continue?
I guess we could just leave this with the question we always ask—what can we do? Pray and study come quickly to mind. Connect with our Associates; the ones in this area but those right around you. When there is an opportunity to speak in favor of saving our part of the earth, take it.