Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 17, 2017

Earth Concerns News

Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Chapter 10 by Sister Mary Louise Dolan, CSJ

Whatever is this article about? It is, of course, about the transformation that was the theme of our Community Weekend in October.

The question, "Are we open to communal influence?" was asked on Friday evening. On Sunday, Susan Hames (CLT) proclaimed that "We are community. We are about community!" The overt context of these statements is certainly congregational, but the words apply, at an even more fundamental level I would suggest, to our Earth Community. We are dependent for our very being on Earth's systems. Are we open to Earth's influence? Are we about Earth's community?
Lester Brown deals with some of the ways we are influenced and can influence Earth's community in his book, Plan B 4.0, when he asks, in Chapter 10, "Can We Mobilize Fast Enough?" Or, as Kathleen Moore asks, "What will move people to act to save their beloved worlds?" (Moore, p. xvi) When I was first given this chapter, I thought, "Oh no! What an impossibly scary question! If the answer is no, we might as well snuggle down into denial and passivity. If the answer is yes, I/we will have to ... (Insert you own scary challenges here.)"
In this chapter, Brown acknowledges that we have no experience with which to judge our current planetary situation. He mentions food shortages and the increasing numbers of failing states as indicators of our crisis and says that we need a massive mobilization to restructure the world's economy. Mutually dependent goals of stabilizing climate and human population, of eradicating poverty and restoring the economy's natural support systems are essential. How, then, can we achieve these complex goals before "tipping points" are reached? Or, rephrased, how can we effectively "be about community"?
The Home/Land Committee's articles of the past several years have had many suggestions for making positive contributions to the well-being of Earth's community. Brown's book argues that we need to restructure global economies by shifting subsidies (on food and fiber crops, oil, coal and gas) and shifting taxes (on income, gasoline and carbon) to reflect their true costs, strategies that have long been advocated and are hotly debated. We need to stabilize climate by moving from fossil fuels to renewables, by increasing efficiency and decreasing consumption and by halting deforestation and improving our land management (no-till farming and use of cover crops).
Brown outlines three models of social change: the catastrophe model (Pearl Harbor), the tipping-point-after-gradual-change model (fall of the Berlin Wall) and the sandwich model (change via grassroots action and political leadership). The first is the riskiest, and the second takes much time, leaving the third model as the ideal one. And we, of course, being the community, are the grassroots. We influence political leadership.
Brown argues that "We have the technologies, economic instruments and financial resources to do this." (p 261) He contrasts, for example, the $187 billion dollars of additional annual expenditures needed to meet social goals and restore Earth to the $1,464 billion spent on world military budgets in 2008 (p 263-4). Will and priorities would seem to be major factors in making the needed changes.
Brown then addresses what you and I can do, or to paraphrase his words, some ways in which we can express "being about Earth's community." Informing ourselves about issues, picking an issue that has personal meaning, communicating with elected representatives and underpinning our efforts with lifestyle changes give each of us, as individuals and as congregational members, lots of options. Don't you agree?
Openness to the influence of Earth's community, being about Earth's community, is about transforming community into more just and sustainable forms, the Great Work of our time.

Kathleen D. Moore and Michael P Nelson. "Toward a Global Consensus for Ethical Action" in Moral Ground (K.D. Moore & M.P. Nelson eds.). San Antonio: Trinity U Press, 2010, p xvi.

Thomas Berry. The Great Work. NY: Random House, 1999.