“This is about human life,” said Pa. Senator Robert Casey at the Panel on Climate Change held at Eastern last Friday afternoon. “It’s about the world, and it’s about how we will live, and therefore, of course, it’s also about how we must react.” The panel, moderated by Casey, met to discuss the call for climate action in light of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” and the Lausanne Movement for World Evangelism’s Cape Town Commitment. It included several distinguished members: Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark from the Sisters of Saint Joseph Earth Center; Gretchen Dahlkemper, field director of Mom’s Clean Air Force; Rev. Mitchell Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network; Dr. Daniel Scheid from the McAnulty College Department of Theology at Duquesne University; and Eastern’s own Dr. David Unander, professor of biology.
Senator Casey opened the discussion by quoting from the hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King,” which he highlighted as a song that speaks directly to environmental issues. Amidst the hymn’s many reverent images of nature, there is a call to praise. Casey noted that the title of Pope Francis’ encyclical translates “Be Praised” and remarked that “when we think of the earth, we think of something…about which we should express eternal gratitude, for God created it. And of course with that gratitude comes obligation: the obligation to do all we can to confront the challenge of climate change.”
Casey went on to point out some problems that may result from climate change, such as issues with food production, malnutrition, water scarcity, and childhood stunting, among others. Casey then referred to article I, section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which states, “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment,” commenting that “we are all bound by that.” With this in mind, Casey pledged to continue doing his part. “I support and have supported the need for a comprehensive climate change plan–” he began, before he was cut off by a spontaneous burst of applause. After the applause died down, he finished, “–because that is our duty.”
Panel members were quick to demonstrate warm support and gratitude for Senator Casey’s work on climate change issues. Rev. Hescox thanked Casey for his support of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and for his openness regarding his faith. The standing ovation that immediately followed made the audience’s support quite evident.
The remainder of the conversation focused on the moral imperative to act in response to climate change. Dr. Scheid mentioned that “Laudato Si” focused on the need to approach nature with awe, wonder, and gratitude, while Sister Clark noted current estimates that there are more climate refugees than war refugees, emphasizing that care for our common home is the “highest human right.” Gretchen Dalhkepmer highlighted the importance of fighting for change on behalf of our children, declaring, “When I stood before God and agreed to be a wife and a mother, I said ‘yes’ to protecting my family with my whole heart, soul, and body. As part of the sacred vow I made on my wedding day, I am called to act on climate change.”
Rev. Hescox summed up the group sentiment well: “We need to have more than transition; we need to make a clean energy revolution.”
Image courtesy of Creative Commons/The Waltonian