Last December I joined a group of residents at the Beatitudes Campus of Care in Phoenix, Arizona to plan for a celebration for Earth Day on April 22. Early on in our meetings we decided to make our celebration a week long event rather than just a day. For the next three and a half months we met regularly to plan activities for each day of our Earth Week. I’d like to share with you some of the events that we had during the week.
Since the Beatitudes is a faith-based campus, we started and ended with:
A PRAYER FOR MOTHER EARTH AND OURSELVES
God of the sun and moon
Of the mountains, deserts and plains,
God of the mighty oceans, rivers, lakes and streams
God of all creatures that live in the seas and fly in the air
Of every living thing that grows and moves on this sacred Earth
Help us to love and respect it,
To repair what we have damaged,
To care for what You have made good and holy.
Give us the wisdom and the passion to change our minds,
Our hearts and our ways.
Let us be mustard seeds in our world
Bringing about ecological conversion which grows and
Spreads to every corner of the Earth.
Four our sake now and for every generation which is to come
We offer this our prayer. Amen.
(Based on Catholic Earthcare, Australia 2003)
Our Earth Week began on Sunday evening when we started with Vesper services accompanied by our Campus choir.
On Monday Gerald Roseberry and I had our first of four TED TALKS. Before each TALK we would read a prayer or petition from an article titled Where’s an Earth Prayer When You Need One? I found all these requests very inspiring.
Each of the TALKS was about 15 to 20 minutes. After each TALK we would encourage audience participation by our asking questions or their bringing up points they thought would be helpful. For example, the first TALK was given by Al Gore titled The Case for Optimism for Climate Change. If you haven’t followed his career since he ran for president of the United States, he’s been quite busy. He was co-recipient of a Nobel Laureate Medal with the Intergovernmental Planet on Climate Change for their documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2007, is chair of The Climate Reality Project, and has authored Earth in the Balance, The Assault on Reason, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, and most recently, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. In this TED TALK he asks three powerful questions about “…man-made forces threatening to destroy our planet—and the solutions we’re designing to combat them.” You’ll see, he’s still optimistic about our overpowering climate change.
Our second TED TALK was by Sylvia Earl. She is a legendary ocean researcher who is known by her colleagues as “Her Deepness” or by the Library of Congress as a “Living Legend” and by Time Magazine as the “Hero for the Planet”. She’s earned these titles because she’s “… led more than 50 expeditions and clocked more than 7,000 hours underwater. As captain of the first all-female team to live underwater, in 1970 she and her fellow scientists received a ticker-tape parade and White House reception upon their return to the surface. In 1979, she walked untethered on the sea floor at a lower depth than any other woman before or since.” The title of her TED TALK is My Wish to Protect Our Oceans .
Dr. Earl’s hope is, “I wish you would have all the means at your disposal—film! Expeditions! The web! More! To ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.” I hope you’ll find her TALK interesting and motivating.
Our third TED TALK was by Dr. James Hansen. One of his titles is The Father of Climate Change. As far back as 1988 at a US Senate hearing, Hansen declared that the “greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now”. Later in his career as director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, he “…described how government officials had…changed his testimony, filtered scientific findings and controlled what scientists could and couldn’t say to the media—all to underplay the impact of fossil fuel emissions on the climate.” He now is an American adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. (One of my Alma Maters.)
I had the good fortune to attend a lecture he gave at Arizona State University before we had his TED TALK at our Earth Week last April. He sat right in front of me before his lecture. As usual, he was wearing his wide-brimmed hat and started his lecture by saying, “What do I know that would cause me, a reticent mid-western scientist, to get arrested in front of the White House, protesting?” I had a chance to talk with him briefly after he finished his lecture and I told him about the Elders for a Sustainable Future that we had at the Beatitudes Campus. He was very supportive of what we were doing as Elders and he flippantly asked me if he was old enough to join since he had turned 75 recently. So much for my claim to fame! Here’s Hansen’s TED TALK, titled, Why I Must Speak Out about Climate Change.
Our final TED TALK is by Alex Teffen and titled, The Route to a Sustainable Future. After working as a journalist on four continents, Steffen co-founded and ran the online magazine Worldchanging.com from 2003-2010. “In those seven years, he made Worldchanging one of the world’s leading sustainability-related publications with an archive of almost 12,000 articles and a large global audience. He also edited an internationally best-selling book surveying innovative solutions to the planet’s most pressing problems: Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century. “ His most recent work is Carbon Zero, a book describing cities that create prosperity not climate change, accelerating their economies while reducing their climate emissions to zero. As the New York Times said in a recent profile, “Alex Steffen lays out the blueprint for a successful century.”
THE WEEK THAT WAS
In addition to the TED TALKS there was some activity related to our planet every day between April 17 and 23. To mention a few, on Tuesday there was a campus stroll to learn about our campus vegetation and a planting of a tree. The Roadrunner Extra, that is published periodically “for the residents and by the residents” had nine articles/poems on issue that related to Earth Day. For instance, The Day that Mother Earth Jolted My Attention Irrevocably!!! by Leroy Calbom was about the 1980 explosion of Mt. St. Helen in Spokane, Washington. Or a beautiful poem by Una Thomas titled Mother Earth and Father Time. Then there was Earth Day on the Farm by Bob Hunter.
The library had a display of books related to climate change and residents were provided with pictures of Mother Earth to past on their apartment doors. Residents also had the choice to take an Earth Day Pledge. The pledge has four practices: To REDUCE, RECYLE, REUSE and to BECOME ENVIRONMENTALLY—MINDED. Each section had at least a dozen pledges. For example, the first three practices for REDUCE were: Take quicker showers—Walk short distances instead of driving—Turn of the lights when I leave a room. If you chose to do anyone of these you put an X next to that practice you agreed to do. There were 24 practices altogether. At the end of the sheet was the pledge: “I pledge to begin as many of these good practices in my day-to-day life as I can to be a good steward for the future of Mother Earth and for the benefit of humanity.”
THE GRAND FINALE
Friday evening we had a two-hour program with a diversity of participants. From readings from the Chinook Psalter, to a piano solo, and a PowerPoint on the Greening of our Campus, to singing It’s a Small World, to a number of Earth Notes that were read by residents; to a couple acting out their version of This Earth is Your Earth, we had a great time. But the presentation by a number of fourth grade singers from the Casa Academy brought down the house, as they say in show business.
So as my father used to say, “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise”, let’s look forward to Earth Week 2017.