Houston sisters host Eco-Justice Committee meeting

by Ceil Roeger, OP

On March 15, members of the Dominican Alliance Eco-justice Committee traveled to Houston for their semi-annual meeting. When groups plan their meetings they will often choose Texas in the winter months for a bit of respite from the cold winter weather. However, when the sisters arrived from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Kansas, they had tales to tell of the record-breaking temperatures in the Midwest and found that the seasonal Texas temperatures matched those they left behind. How ironic, given that one of the reasons for their visit was to present “Alternate Journey: A Climate for Change” to the Houston community.

During their business meeting on Friday afternoon, Sisters Mary Navarre and Julia Mohr were elected co-chairs and Sharon Zayac was elected secretary. Appreciation was extended to outgoing chair Jane Belanger and secretary, Marguerite Chandler. Ceil Roeger was welcomed as the representative from Houston. Thomas Ann LaCour and Mary Jean Olsovsky will continue to as resource persons to the committee.

Saturday morning, sisters from Houston were joined by several teachers for the “Alternate Journey.” The day began with prayer. Mary Navarre and Julia invited us to be open, to learn new things and to be transformed so we could sing a new song about Earth and be ready to act on behalf of Earth. We were then treated to a skit performed by Anita Cleary and Mary Vuong. While the skit was amusing as it took us through a variety of misinterpretations of the script as written, it was a reminder there is a need for clarity and direction.

Ready to move on with the seriousness of the topic at hand, Rose Marie Dischler and Paula Marie Jarosz gave an environmental quiz. This primed us for Sharon’s presentation on Climate Change. Sharon, a recipient of Al Gore’s climate change training program, reviewed the history of climate change explaining that while climate change has been cyclical as many naysayers tell us. What we are seeing now is nothing like the past cycles. Greenhouse gases are being emitted in record breaking amounts and these are having an effect on our weather patterns. This year alone the United States recorded a very warm winter, while parts of Europe recorded record snow falls and freezing temperatures. Tornado season began as early as January with devastating tornados throughout the south and Midwest.

On a positive note, more than 800,000 people signed the petition, sent e-mails, etc. to the Obama administration protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, thus delaying the pipeline from being built across our border with Canada. It was then time for us to get involved. Jane had us examine our carbon footprint. We found that if everyone lived the lifestyle of our composite person, we would need five and a half planet Earths to support us. Thus we are reminded that what we do and how we live not only affects Earth, but many of the people living on this planet that are doing without the luxuries we enjoy and take for granted, i.e. running water, electricity, etc. You can check your carbon footprint at www.footprintwork.org.

After lunch, Thomas Ann entertained us with her “toys,” as she calls them. These are items she uses with fifth graders who visit Camp Kappe, the School of Environmental Education. The school offers a supplemental education program that provides a four-day outdoor experience of God’s gift of nature while studying life cycles, food chains, the environment’s effect on humans, and humans’ effect on the environment. She brought a variety of them with her to demonstrate how the various sources of energy can be used to provide electricity. For example she used a hair dryer and a pinwheel to light a bulb to demonstrate wind energy.

Can we make a difference? Marguerite gave us some examples of small changes we can make. For example, car care: drive the speed limit, keep tires properly inflated, get regular check-ups and monitor your driving patterns. Do you drive around the parking lot looking for a space closer to the door? Small changes can make a difference to the future of our planet.

Closing prayer reminded us that yes, Earth is suffering and has been abused, but as people of Earth, we can make a difference and are Blessed to be one with all of Creation.

“Alternate Journey: A Climate for Change” is the fourth in a series of educational programs created by the Eco-Justice Promoters of the Congregations of the Dominican Alliance. Previous programs are “Food for the Journey,” “Water for the Journey,” and “Journey to the Land.” They are also available for purchase. To learn more about these programs, contact Sharon Zayac at Jubilee.Farm@comcast.net.