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Blume: Laudato Si

I recently attended the 3rd Annual “Our Children, Climate, Faith” Symposium in Strafford - an exploration of the spiritual and religious dimensions of climate change, social justice, and how we create a healthy future for all children.

One speaker, a Quaker activist named Jay O’Hara, was part of a 2-man Lobster boat blockade of a coal freighter at Brayton Point power station in Massachusetts. He and his partner were, of course, arrested and put on trial. But the DA, persuaded by their argument that burning coal is both an intensely polluting and immoral act, dropped the charges, and joined them for the People’s Climate March in New York City last fall.

One of the questions Jay left us with was what are each of us actually doing, on both an individual and a systems level, to meaningfully address climate change?

While chewing on that question, I also attended a workshop on Laudato Si, the encyclical on climate change written by Pope Francis. The workshop was led by Pat Siemen, a Dominican nun - and lawyer - who serves as the director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University School of Law.

Laudato Si means “Blessed Be,” as in: the planet is a blessed place and we really should be taking much better care of it. And like Jay, the Quaker coal blockader, Sister Pat talked a lot - in very generous and spiritually inclusive language - about the value of committing yourself wholeheartedly to a cause, but then releasing your expectations around the outcome of your actions. “Surrender” was the word she used.

At which point I raised my hand and said, “Yes, but how do you do that - particularly when we’re all compelled by so much fierce urgency? I mean, they don’t call it a climate crisis for nothing.”

Honestly, I expected an answer grounded in Roman Catholic dogma and complex, arcane ritual. But she just laughed and said she tries to spend 20 minutes every morning sitting in quiet contemplation. In other words, basically, she meditates.

That’s her first step. Every day. Listening and preparing herself for the taking of Right Action - or at least the most right she can muster in the moment. Then she lets go of the proverbial steering wheel and trusts in the best possible outcome.

And this I thought, was actually a pretty useful answer. Hopefully, at least, we’re trying; giving our all as best we can; then listening in quiet contemplation for more information.

Laudato si, Everybody.

Kathryn Blume is the executive director of the community climate game Vermontivate! and board chair of 350VT.
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