Pontiff inspires change

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Pontiff inspires change

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By Amber Levenhagen

Photo Editor

Oct. 7, 2015

 

Steve Coleman spoke Monday about the lasting effect of climate change and the need for immediate action.

Developing countries are hit the hardest and according to Coleman, this is not okay.

Coleman is an educator specializing in Catholic social teaching and environmental science.

James Hartwick, professor and faculty senate chair, helped facilitate the presentation after he saw Coleman at a similar presentation over the summer.

“One of the things that struck me most was how those least responsible for causing climate change, and those who live in less developed countries, are most likely to suffer the brunt of negative consequences associated with climate change,” Hartwick said in his introduction at Coleman’s presentation.

In his new encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis called for all world leaders to support and preserve our world for future generations by protecting from climate change.

“The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming,” Pope Francis said in his encyclical titled “Laudato Si,” which translates to “Be Praised” or “Praised Be.”

Certain areas of the world already are feeling the effects of climate change as low-income areas are being hit and will continue to be affected throughout years to come.

Africa is currently in its worst dry period in more than two decades. Officials believe more than 30 million will be affected this year as the tropical dry season is nearing and crop harvests were depleted by more than 50 percent this year.

“They have little power to change a problem they did not cause,” Hartwick added about people in less developed countries.

Groups on campus, specifically Students Allied for a Greener Earth (SAGE) the Catholic Coalition, the Sustainability Office, and Lutheran/Episcopal Campus Ministry, united to host Coleman as he addressed what Whitewater as a community can do, while taking on the perspective of other religious and sustainability groups.

“I think if the Pope knew that we were doing this, he would be very happy,” Brian Zanin, director of Catholic Campus Ministry said. “I think he’d say something like ‘this is part of the reasons why I did this.’”

“Another thing from the religious side is to be able to pray about these things,” said Zanin. “I’m not sure if that’s something people give a lot of time, but as people of faith or many faiths, how can we give this concern our prayer and reflection?”

Coleman said three things need to happen in order to achieve change. Lifestyle changes, adapting a new mindset and becoming a clear voice for change.

“Each of these causes calls us forward, calls us to do different things, if we don’t do anything different well then we’re going to wind up suffering,” Coleman said. “As we look to the future and make our choices, realize climate change is here. It’s real, and it’s going to continue.”

Although the event was inspired by the Pope and his Catholic religious views, many other religions were represented, including Jewish, Muslim, Episcopalian, and more, as Coleman included these ideologies in his presentation.

“We’re all in the same boat, we’re all on the same planet,” said Coleman.

Zanin shared his hopes and goals for the event and why introducing other religions was important to the event, specifically the importance of conversation and the difference speaking of climate change can make.

“We really want to use the Pope’s invitation to talk about this, as an opportunity for people to look within their own traditions and think about what kind of insights they can bring from their religious backgrounds to inform how we need to approach this issue,” Zanin said.

Karl Brandstaetter is a senior integrated business science major with a water emphasis, and he’s a part of the Whitewater Water Council as well as a member of SAGE and P.E.A.C.E.

“It’s important to protect the poorest communities who have played the smallest role in climate change,” Brandstaetter said.

The general theme for the evening was that of unity. All of the speakers and people involved in the event called for the importance of recognizing that all people, from all religions, are affected.

Coleman said that it will take all people to stand up in order to successfully accomplish change.

“All humans need to unite and stand for justice to protect our common home,” said Brandstaetter.

A call to action Coleman shared was the idea of implementing a tax on carbon emissions.

Carbon emission is one of the leading impacts on climate change worldwide. As Coleman said in the presentation, it goes into the atmosphere, and it stays there for thousands of years.

“If we can put a price on carbon pollution, then we can engage the whole economy on solving the problem.”

As this is something that individuals cannot control, Coleman stressed the importance of contacting those in legislative positions and expressing concern and interest in the idea.

Wes Enterline is the campus sustainability coordinator and helped organize the event.

Enterline talked about how the Pope’s call to action brought a cool opportunity to introduce a faith-based perspective, as a lot of the conversation tends to be more based on the sciences and environmentally based sources.

Statistics and data prove that less-developed countries are hit harder than the United States, and Enterline offered insight as to how this directly impacts Whitewater, specifically students.

“A big one for climate change is how we use energy and looking at ways we can individually reduce our energy load and this is as simple as turning things off when we leave the room,” Enterline said.

Other actions that can be taken include recycling, limiting the use of other resources, such as water, or walking and bicycling to class more often than driving.

“As a college student, you don’t see an energy bill but you’re still paying it,” Enterline said. “You’re helping the environment and also helping yourself by trying to reduce your resource consumption because you’re paying for all of those resources.”

A takeaway Coleman thought was important to realize, was that global warming is real and human activity is the major cause. This is recognized by and affects people of all faith, scientists and legislators. The important move now is to contact legislators and share thoughts on the topic.