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Will We Join Youth in Preserving Their Future?

May 4, 2011

By Sister Mary P.

With moral authority, the youth of our country are asking our leaders and each of us: “Do we matter to you?”

They posed this question last week in two ways: the filing of a lawsuit against the U.S. government for failing to take action against global warming, and a series of marches around the world.

Several Sisters of Mercy from the Northeast joined the youth in the I Matter March, a series of more than 100 marches in states all across the U.S. and in 25 countries, including Columbia, Gambia, Germany, Thailand, India, Nepal and Kuwait.

It was organized by the 16-year-old founder of Kids vs. Global Warming, Alec Loorz, who states: “This is a movement, a mass movement of young people standing up with a unified voice to tell the ruling generation that we will no longer just sit idly by as they make decisions that threaten our future. We matter. Our future matters.”

The march came just a few days after youth climate activists in all 50 states and the District of Columbia announced that they had filed a lawsuit against the United States of America. The suit states that by failing to take action against global warming, the federal government has violated its legal obligation to protect the atmoshpere as a resource that belongs to everyone. The suit challenges that our government has allowed money to be more powerful than survival of a generation and has made decisions that threaten the next generation’s right to a safe and healthy planet.

The youth point out that our addiction to fossil fuels has disrupted the perfect balance of nature and is threatening their very survival as a generation. They challenge us all to stop hiding in denial and avoiding taking action. They note that they are forced to grow up in a world where hurricanes as big as Katrina are normal, where entire species of animals are disappearing before their eyes, and where heat waves, droughts and floods cause death on a massive scale. “It has become clear that our government has failed us, by not protecting the resources on this planet we need to survive,” the plaintiffs state.

The suit is based on the Public Trust Doctrine, a long-standing legal doctrine that states that it is the government’s duty to protect the resources that are essential for our collective survival and prosperity, such as rivers, groundwater and atmosphere. So far, it seems as if politics has dominated government response to the climate crisis, and the suit aims to put science back into climate protection. The suit cites climate calculations and is supported by NASA climate scientist James Hansen: “Our atmosphere must be returned to equilibrium of less than 350 parts per million carbon dioxide to prevent heating beyond 1.8 Fahrenheit, which scientific analysis deems catastrophic. ” To meet that goal, we need to reduce our carbon emissions by a global average of 6 percent per year until 2050 and 5 percent until 2100.

Alec Loorz and the other young petitioners want a different future from the scientific worse-case scenarios. They believe we still have a chance to turn this picture around, but it will take more than changing lightbulbs and driving hybrid cars. “I believe it will take nothing less than a revolution, a revolution in our entire culture and way of thinking, so that we value nature and the future of my generation with every action we take.”

The Sisters of Mercy Northeast Community and Companions recently adopted a corporate stand on climate change, in which we are pledging to reduce our carbon footprint by 5 to 10 percent starting right now. We also pledge to continue education and advocacy around global climate change.

All of the Sisters of Mercy, who have taken the message of Awakening the Dreamer/Changing the Dream as one of our initiatives, and who are “impelled to commit our lives and resources to act in solidarity with women and children, to act in harmony and interdependence with all creation, and to call ourselves to continual conversion in our lifestyles and ministries,” have a lot to answer to these courageous kids. They are taking a stand for their future, are we in or not?

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