God, justice, and climate change might not seem to be related, but, for the Dominican Sisters of Hope, they couldn’t be more connected.

“All other issues are connected to issue of climate change,” said Dominican Sister of Hope Nancy Erts, OP, who calls climate change “fundamental.”

“We are called to be co-creators and co-redeemers of God’s work,” Sister Nancy said. “‘Neighbor’ in the bible means animals, plants, everything. We need to develop a right relationship with all of those in order to have a right relationship with God.”

According to the Dominican Sisters, it is our job to protect the earth’s sacredness. Sister Bette Ann Jaster, also a Dominican Sister of Hope, reiterated this point.

“Before the gospels, nature was the first book,” she said. “People already knew there was something sacred about the trees and the weather and the stones.”

“We are called to be co-creators and co-redeemers of God’s work,” Sister Nancy said. “We need to develop a right relationship with [the earth] in order to have a right relationship with God.”

The Sisters practice what they preach: along with co-creators and volunteers, the sisters took to the New-York-City streets to stand for environmental justice on Sunday, September 21, 2014 for the People’s Climate March.

Considered the largest climate march in history, the event made a statement not just to the world at large, but to the world leaders who were gathered in New York City that week. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened the Climate Summit 2014 to gather world leaders from government, finance, business, and civil society to address climate change. The Summit, which was held Tuesday, September 23, at the U.N., was a preparation for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, which aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world.

“The gathering of world leaders in NYC for the landmark U.N. climate meeting presents just the right moment for big public pressure,” reads the PeoplesClimate.org. “With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history.”

For the Dominican Sisters, this chapter of advocating for environmental justice is one of many: they have been considering climate change to different extents for the past twenty years.

When the international Earth Charter was released in 2000, the Dominican Sisters espoused its goals of environmental and social justice alike. Together with the Dominican Congregations of Amityville, Sparkhill, Blauvelt, and Caldwell (a group known as Dominican Sisters in Committed Collaboration, or OPSCC), the sisters continue to commit to acknowledge the reality of climate change, to educate themselves and others on the interconnecting dynamics of climate change, to advocate for policy and legislative efforts, and to advance actions that might mitigate the effects of climate change and promote alternative sources of energy.

The sisters have also taken quantifiable steps to being good stewards of the earth: their Ossining headquarters, Mariandale, boasts solar panels and a slew of other earth-friendly initiatives. They garden locally. They screen documentaries about issues relating to environmental justice. They are members of groups committed to everything from preserving and protecting the Hudson River to creating a home for honeybees.

For the Dominican Sisters, this chapter of advocating for environmental justice is one of many: they have been considering climate change to different extents for the past twenty years.

 

Now, the sisters urge others to join them in advocating for environmental justice. Whether it is participating in a related prayer service, signing the Faith Climate Petition (an interfaith climate petition to members of Congress and President Obama, www.faithclimatepetition.org), or committing to environmental sustainability on a personal level, there are ample ways to take action to preserve and protect the earth, action to encourage world leaders to follow suit, action for a better future.

The future, said Dominican Sister of Hope Patricia Jelly, OP, is what fighting climate change is all about.

“Whether we personally have had children or not, we need to be concerned about all of our children, and about future generations” said Sister Pat. (She attended the People’s Climate March and she helped to organize so that other sisters joined her.)

According to Sister Pat, the issue of climate change relates to her work in social justice, community organizing, and education. Because all of these issues are connected, working to fix one of them helps to improve them all, thereby creating a better world for everyone.

“We’ve got to realize these connections,” she said. “Dominicans are dedicated to unity with all of the earth. [We are looking for] tangible way[s] to express that unity.”