Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 20, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Climate Change and Wildlife: a Matter of the Heart by Sister Mary Ellen Curtin, CSJ

Have you noticed a change in our seasons? This year the change seemed remarkable. Crocuses were blooming in February and then again in October! Birds were returning early. A neighbor had a beautiful rose bloom in November! Did you see many butterflies?

All of us have seen the pictures of the plight of the polar bears in the Arctic as the glacier ice of their habitat melts and waters warm. We are aware of the decrease in the butterfly population. We remember in 2002 a massive die-off occurred with increase rainfall and freezing temperatures. Read the story of a butterfly in Thoreau's Legacy: American Stories about Global Warming (
Do you realize that with the rise in temperature, there is an increase in the mosquito population? This has been an impact on caribou that have to use more energy to shoo away the mosquitoes and less on the amount of food they eat to prepare for winter. It seems a small matter, but it isn’t. As the weather warms each spring, the food source for migrating birds is often gone by the time they arrive on their familiar routes.
Yes, climate change is having a grave impact on wildlife as well as on the plant life of our planet. In recent years we have become more aware of the effects of global warming on climate and the peril that many species are facing especially in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Polar bears, seals, arctic fox, caribou and penguins are some of the wildlife affected. With rise in temperatures, their habitats and food sources decrease. Already with the temperature rise of one degree Fahrenheit, wildlife species are moving in search of cooler habitats.
Recently an article in Nature Magazine stated that by 2050, rising temperatures could lead to the extinction of one million species, that is as many as one-third of all wildlife in some regions of the world. This fact is beyond our comprehension. It is very difficult for us to believe that one or more species could disappear, but that is what is happening. We cannot exist without a diversity of species; so this occurrence is scary news for humans.
Thomas Berry writes, “The human community and the natural world will go into the future as a single, sacred community, or we will both experience disaster on the way.” This is not a comforting reality. The threat to life on Earth is not only a problem for the future, it is part of the here and now; so it is with great urgency that the international communities minimize global warming through reduced carbon emissions and growth of renewal energy. Some progress was made at the Copenhagen Summit in December, but commitments, especially from the larger industrial countries that produce more carbon emissions must be made. How can we in our commitment to communion with creation help to effect this change?
The members of the Home/Land Committee, through their many articles and suggestions, have made us very aware of how to reduce our own carbon footprint. Now we have the opportunity to join our voices with many others to insist that the Senate pass an emissions-reduction plan this coming year. Al Gore has asked that the leadership of the Senate set a deadline of April 22, 2010, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day for final action of U.S. legislation. (Al Gore's web site, (
In a recent article in the New York Times, Olivia Judson wrote that 2010 has been designated as the International Year of Biodiversity. This year we are to honor other species on the planet. How wonderful! How might we celebrate the millions of species that live on the planet and on which we depend on for our well-being? Judson suggests a way to honor other species is to begin to have some knowledge of them, to cherish them and to treat them well.

We need wildlife in our lives more than we know, and its loss makes our planet poorer. Just think if bees became extinct, we would not have flowers, fruits or vegetables. Thomas Berry remarked often that extinction of species diminishes the presence of the divine, the sacred on the planet; so it becomes important that we come to appreciate all species, even if we don’t know about them. Wendell Berry, farmer and poet, believes we will save only that which we love; so it comes down to a matter of the heart and being in relationship. If we care about the wildlife of the planet, the great diversity that is so incredibly awesome and wondrous, we will do whatever it takes to change our way of living, so that all species will be able to survive.