On September 19, 2019, Greta Thunberg, a sixteen year old student from Sweden spoke to the United States Congress about the imminent dangers associated with climate change and the inability of world leaders to address this crisis. In her speech, Greta references scientific research conducted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This research concludes that unless we act immediately to reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide, we will face potentially catastrophic effects on economic security, food security, mass extinctions, and irreversible damage to ecosystems, oceans, and wetlands.
In solidarity with Greta Thunberg and in communion Pope Francis (who has declared a “Season of Creation” through the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi), we pray that our fellow citizens and our leaders will wake up, believe the science, face the facts, and do what is necessary to honor God’s gift of creation; to protect planet earth, our common home; and to safeguard those whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by our historic disregard for the environment. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Our Lady of Angels, pray for us! Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, pray for us!
The Time for Fairytales Is Over
My name is Greta Thunberg. I am sixteen years old. And I am from Sweden. I am grateful for being with you here in the USA, a nation that, to many people, is the country of dreams. I also have a dream: that governments, political parties, and corporations grasp the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis and come together despite their differences, as you would in an emergency, and take the measures required to safeguard the conditions for a dignified life for everybody on earth. Because then, we millions of school-striking youth, could go back to school.
I have a dream that the people in power, as well as the media, start treating this crisis like the existential emergency it is. So that I could go home to my sister and my dogs. Because I miss them. In fact, I have many dreams. But this is the year 2019. This is not the time and place for dreams. This is the time to wake up. This is the moment in history when we need to be wide awake. And yes, we need dreams. We cannot live without dreams. But there is a time and place for everything. And dreams cannot stand in the way of telling it like it is. And yet, wherever I go, I seem to be surrounded by fairytales.
Business leaders and elected officials, all across the political spectrum are spending their time making up and telling bedtime stories that soothe us, that make us go back to sleep. These are feel good stories about how we are going to fix everything; how wonderful everything is going to be when we have solved everything. But the problem we are facing is not that we lack the ability to dream or to imagine a better world. The problem now is that we need to wake up. It is time to face the reality, the facts, the science.
The science does not mainly speak of great opportunities to create the society we always wanted. It tells of unspeakable human sufferings which will get worse and worse the longer we delay action; unless we start to act now. And yes, of course, a sustainable transformed world will include lots of new benefits. But you have to understand. This is not primarily an opportunity to create new green jobs, new green businesses, or green economic growth. This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. And we need to treat it accordingly so that people can understand and grasp the urgency, because you cannot solve a crisis without treating it as one.
Stop telling people that everything will be fine when, in fact, as it looks now, it won’t be very fine. This is not something you can package and sell or “like” on social media. Stop pretending that you, your business idea, your political party, or your plan will solve everything. We must realize that we do not have all the solutions yet. Far from it. Unless those solutions mean that we simply stop doing certain things. Changing one disastrous energy source for a slightly less disastrous one is not progress. Exporting our emissions overseas is not reducing our emissions. Creative accounting will not help us. In fact, it is the very heart of the problem.
Some of you may have heard that we have twelve years from 1 January 2018 to cut in half our emissions of carbon dioxide. But I guess that hardly any of you have heard that there is a fifty percent chance of staying below 1.5 degree celsius of global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels. Fifty percent chance. And these current, best available scientific calculations do not include non linear tipping points as well as most unforeseen feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas escaping from rapidly thawing arctic permafrost; or already locked-in warming hidden by toxic air pollution; or the aspect of equity, climate justice.
So, a fifty percent chance — a statistical flip of the coin — will most definitely not be enough. That would be impossible to morally defend. Would anyone of you step onto a plane if you knew it had more than a fifty percent chance of crashing? More to the point: would you put your children on that flight?
Why is it so important to stay below the 1.5 degree (celsius) limit? Because that is what the united science calls for to avoid destabilizing the climate, so that we stay clear of setting off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control. Even at one degree of warming, we are seeing an unacceptable loss of life and livelihoods.
So, where do we begin? Well, I would suggest that we start looking at chapter two, page 108 in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report that came out last year. Right there it says that if we are to have a 67% chance of limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees celsius, we had on 1 January 2018 about 420 metric gigatons of CO2 left to emit in that carbon dioxide budget. And of course, that number is much lower today because we emit about 42 metric gigatons of CO2 every year if you include land use.
With today’s emissions levels, that remaining budget is gone within less than 8.5 years. These numbers are not my opinions. They are not anyone’s opinions or political views. This is the current best available science. Though a great number of scientists suggest even these figures are too moderate; these are the ones that have been accepted by all nations through the IPCC. And please note that these figures are global and therefore do not say anything about the aspect of equity, clearly stated through the Paris Agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale. That means richer countries need to do their fair share and get down to zero emissions much faster, so that people in poorer countries can heighten their standard of living by building some of the infrastructure that we have already built, such as roads, hospitals, schools, clean drinking water, and electricity.
The United States of America is the biggest carbon polluter in history. It is also the world’s number on producer of oil. And yet, you are also the only nation in the world that has signaled your strong intention to leave the Paris Agreement because quote: “it was a bad deal for the USA.”
420 metric gigatons of CO2 left to emit on 1 January 2018 to have a 67% chance of staying belong a 1.5 degrees of global temperature rise. Now that figure is already down to less than 360 metric gigatons. These numbers are very uncomfortable. But people have the right to know. And the vast majority of us have no idea that these numbers even exist. In fact, not even the journalists that I meet seem to know that they even exist; not to mention the politicians, and yet they all seem so certain that their political plan will solve the entire crisis. But how can we solve a problem that we don’t even fully understand? How can we leave out the full picture and the current best available science?
I believe that there is a huge danger in doing so. And no matter how political the background to this crisis may be, we must not allow this to continue to be a partisan political question. The climate and ecological crisis is beyond party politics; and our main enemy right now is not our political opponents. Our main enemy now is physics; and we cannot make deals with physics.
Everybody says that making sacrifices for the survival of the biosphere (and to secure the living conditions for future and present generations) is an impossible thing to do. Americans have indeed made great sacrifices to overcome terrible odds before. Think of the brave soldiers that rushed ashore in that first wave on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Think of Martin Luther King and the six hundred civil rights leaders who risked everything to march from Selma to Montgomery. Think of President John F. Kennedy announcing in 1962 that America would “choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Perhaps it is impossible. But looking at those numbers, looking at the current best available science signed by every nation, then I think that is precisely what we are up against. But you must not spend all of your time dreaming; or see this as some political fight to win. And you must not gamble your children’s future on the flip of a coin. Instead, you must unite behind the science. You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option.
The Assisi Project
Fall Day of Prayer & Reflection
Rebuilding the Church with Saint Francis
Saturday, October 5th
Have you ever really considered the proverbial “power of one?” Have you ever really considered how one person, one everyday person like you and me, might reform and rebuild the Church through the power of their own life and witness? These are the questions that we will consider and reflect upon at our Fall Day of Prayer & Reflection on Saturday, October 5th from 8:00am until 12:00pm in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church.
More than eight centuries ago, the Crucified Christ called out to the young man who would become Saint Francis of Assisi: “Go! Rebuild my church which as you can see is fall- ing into ruin!” Francis took the Lord’s command literally and set out to repair small chapels in and around his hometown. Over the years, however, Francis came to understand that his vocation to live the Gospel and share God’s love was vital to rebuilding the Church throughout the world.
In this spirit and in celebration of the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, all are invited to join Father Jim and Cliff Garvey for a Fall Day of Prayer & Reflection: Rebuilding the Church with Saint Francis of Assisi. During this four-hour morning retreat, we will reflect on what Saint Francis can teach us about living the Gospel, healing God’s family, and rebuilding the Church during these troubled times. We will also consider how our individual contribution can strengthen the bonds of love and community in our families, neighborhoods, and parishes.
Our day of prayer and reflection will proceed according to the following schedule: Celebration of Holy Mass at 8:00am; First Reflection & Faith Sharing at 9:00am; Eucharistic Adoration & Rosary at 10:00am; Second Reflection & Faith Sharing at 11:15am; Angelus & Closing Prayers at 12:00pm. After our scheduled program, all are invited to join us for a delicious potluck harvest lunch in the Our Lady’s Hall.
Throughout the morning, there will be breaks and time for faith sharing, fellowship, and questions. Refreshments will be served. If you would like to join us for this special day of prayer and reflection, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you are able and willing to help with our potluck lunch, please contact Becky Carrancho at email@example.com. Please join us! Spread the word! Bring a friend! All are invited! All are welcome!
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with members, friends, and followers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages to more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. The Assisi Project is a tax exempt non-profit charitable corporation. All donations support our ministry and our tax deductible. For more information about the Assisi Project and our upcoming opportunities for faith formation, prayer, and pilgrimage in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the Lord give you peace!
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