Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletAugust 24, 2019

Main News

Passionate Kindness Best Defense against Climate Change


by Sister Francine Dempsey

When someone said we need World War III to save Earth, I shouted, "Yes"!

"But Fran, you're a peacemaker."

"Yes, but war inspires real passion."

Even though I was only a child during World War II, I felt around me the passion for winning that swept over America after the attack on Pearl Harbor. No sacrifice by soldier or civilian would be too great for winning World War II. America became one passionate people. And that brought victory.

Today humanity is mounting a ravaging attack on planet Earth, causing destruction much greater than Japan's 1941 destruction at Pearl Harbor. Weapons attacking the world's environment are more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945; more powerful than America's "shock and awe" attack on Iraq in 2003; more powerful than an all-out nuclear attack would be today.

Who is attacking planet Earth? A 2017 federal report said to President Trump: "Humans are the dominant cause of climate change."

Who are the victims?

Planet Earth and all its creatures are the victims, but especially those lands afflicted by long-embedded economic and racial inequality. These regions and their people now suffer yet another inequality, climate inequality. Drought, desertification, flooding and unpredictable weather force these climate victims to leave their homeland and become climate refugees. Day by day, victims are literally losing their lives to an unseen but powerful enemy.

Why do I feel no passion around me for my hoped-for World War III to save Earth and all its creatures? Because climate change and its victims are far away from those who practice the lifestyle that causes climate change -— those who could demand ecological equality if only they would remove what author and Lutheran ethicist Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda calls "the blinders of climate privilege."

Climate privilege is woven from threads of excessive consumption, massive misuse of natural resources, petroleum dependency, greed for more, love of comfort. Those wearing climate blinders are the economically secure who enjoy their lives without seeing what climate change is doing to their distant sisters and brothers, not seeing ecological injustice, not recognizing that, just as economic and racial injustice are systemic across the globe, so ecological injustice is systemic worldwide, too.

World War III enlistees will be victors when they achieve not only ecological equality but also economic and racial justice, global justice.

What kind of passion will win that war? Mabel Gil, a dear friend who fought for justice all her life, said a few weeks before her death, "The greatest need in the world today is kindness." Mabel is right. Any experience of kindness, small or large, teaches that kindness is a powerful force. Science and technology are prepared for World War III. But the primary weapon needed to defeat ecological inequality must be the all-powerful force of passionate kindness.

Where to start World War III? In the United States, a land of unchallenged climate privilege: where the words "climate change" are rarely spoken on daily TV news of climate change-caused disasters here and around the world; where political leaders use their power to wipe out attempted national and international responses to environmental destruction; where climate inequality, like economic and racial inequality, is not the priority of a Congress that does as little as possible to fund legislative backing for climate justice.

Only when those enjoying climate privilege embrace passionate kindness and, as happened in World War II, make any and all sacrifices necessary for victory, will planet Earth and all its creatures be saved.

Otherwise, it looks like humanity will defeat planet Earth and all its creatures, its own home, its own self. And we have only 10 years to turn this around.

(Sister Fran’s commentary was first published in the July 15, 2019 issue of the [Albany] Times Union.)