Uniting the World to Tackle Climate Change
31 October – 13 November 2021
Sisters Eleanor Dalton, Mary Jo McElroy, Margaret Lee, and Veronica Brand were the face of the RSHM at COP 26. They participated in some sessions held at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, Scotland and walked with the people voicing their concerns and hopes. The sisters were accompanied by friends, Maria Pizzoni, and Mary Kate Torre and met other likeminded and hearted friends, such as Brett Nichols there. On October 31st, the opening day of COP, representatives of various faith-based communities gathered for a special Inter-Faith Prayer Vigil. Their presence and participation was strong and significant.
In reflecting on her experience, Sr. Mary Jo stated, “the voices that remain with me – in my heart and in my head – urging me to keep faithful to my commitment to the Earth and all life on it – are those of the Indigenous people, the youth and different groups of walkers.”
Sr. Mary Jo sensed that indigenous people spoke with authority. This she attributed to their relationship with the Earth as expressed in rituals and their whole way of life. Their respect for the land is marked in stark contrast to governments who allow dams to be “built on their rivers, fell the trees of the forest and allow mining companies to dig up the land to extract fossil fuels and minerals”. With indigenous peoples lives, land, languages, spirituality, and cultures in jeopardy, along with acknowledged questionable practices of multi-national corporations, indigenous leaders stated, “We don’t want you to feel sorry for us but to discover what your government is doing. What the multinational companies are doing. We ask for justice – justice for our children -and yours. We want to live in peace. We are guardians of the Forest – not just for us- it is for your sake too.” This is for all of us to contemplate in exercising our franchise and our power as consumers.
Many young adults attended COP26. Greta Thunberg marched and spoke, addressing important steps politicians need to be take regarding the climate crisis. Having a vested interest in the outcomes of COP26, these young adults led sessions and interacted with topics that were crucial to “uniting the world to tackle climate change.”
Getty Images: Ms. Thunberg joined the march as it made its way to the city centre from Kelvingrove Park
The RSHM’s participated in the march on Saturday, November 6th along with 100,000 people, some having walked to Glasgow from Edinburgh. They encountered others who share their commitment and passion for earth justice and the need globally to resolve those issues that are leading to the deterioration of out environments. Sr. Mary Jo and Maria can be seen below holding a Welsh flag, which says, ‘There is one Earth’, at the march. Art, music, drama, puppetry, and other genres were used to convey the seriousness of climate crisis and to engage those present in dialogues that offered proposed solutions.
Walking together, sharing stories, listening to one another touched and emboldened us.
Among many significant encounters, Sr. Mary Jo met CAFOD partner. Claudelice Silva dos Santos, walking alongside of Maria Elena Arana of CAFOD. A land defender from Pará, in the Brazilian Amazon, Claudelice has experienced intimidation and violence first- hand. Her brother and sister-in-law were murdered 10 years ago for their resistance to illegal logging. “I couldn’t even get out of bed for fear of being shot because of the death threats I was getting.” And yet, Claudelice can say, “I overcame all this because we believe change is possible. (Picture and text, courtesy of Independent Catholic News)
Energized and emboldened by the interaction, Sr. Mary Jo stated that. “We left the March determined to do what it takes to preserve and sustain our earth and its creatures, and together tackle those issues which will ensure that all have life.”
Sr. Veronica observed that though they did not have access to the “official center of negotiations”, they experienced the urgent call for action to address climate change among those ordinary people who gathered, prayed, and walked together. With strength and consistency “all were calling their leaders to take urgent action.” Veronica observed, “being present at COP 26 was a valuable opportunity to join the dynamism of movements from around the globe in the urgent call for climate justice.”
Sr. Veronica reflected on the devastating effects of climate change on gender equality, a perilous dimension that is more than often ignored. “Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. especially in least developed countries. Not only do women have less access to resources than men, they are required to come up with new ways to feed their families in times of shortages, poor harvests and financial crisis.” And as noted by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and High Commissioner for Human Rights, “women and girls are as much as 14 times more likely to die as a result of disasters resulting from climate change than men and boys.”
At the end of COP 26, Sr. Veronica acknowledged that the goals were far reaching, and we know, for some the outcomes very disappointing. Sr. Veronica outlines the goals for us below:
- to secure global net-zero emissions by 2050 to keep the limit of 1.5C temperature increase within reach.
- adapt to protect communities and natural habitats,
- mobilize finance for climate adaptation and
- work together to deliver the outcomes.
Though the negotiated Glasgow Declaration reached on November 13th failed to secure the 1.5 limit Veronica noted, “there were commitments made that offer hope, if actually implemented.”
For further information and reflections by RSHM and friends on COP 26, please see the RSHM UN NGO October/ November 2021 Newsletter on the RSCM RSHM Website.
In closing, we embrace the challenge of Pope Francis to act on behalf of climate justice in adverting further devastation to our earth and environment. In addressing COP 26, he states emphatically that, “Now is the time to act, urgently, courageously and responsibly”. (Pope Francis to COP 26)