Canadian Catholics mobilizing in response to the climate crisis

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Image: Used with permission of the Global Catholic Climate Movement Canada

Marisa Vertrees is the organizing director for the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), a network of almost 900 Catholic religious orders, dioceses, universities, lay organizations and other institutions in more than 90 countries. Agnes Richard is the co-ordinator of the new chapter of the GCCM in Canada. The GCCM's mission is to engage Catholics in addressing the climate crisis through spiritual, liturgical, lifestyle, and institutional change, and through engagement in advocacy for broader social and policy change. Scott Neigh interviews them about faith and climate action, and about what their movement is doing both globally and in Canada.

The GCCM was founded not long after two pivotal events in 2015. One was the massive People's Climate March that took place in New York City. The other was the release of an encyclical -- that is, a document containing a significant teaching -- by Pope Francis called Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home.

According to today's guests, if you look back to the early church, prominent teachers talked about nature as integral to life and faith. However, the division between humanity and nature that has arisen in general in dominant cultures in more recent centuries was also reflected in the context of the Catholic Church. Similarly, as modern Western consciousness about environmental issues began to take shape in the mid-20th century, so too did modern environmental teachings begin to appear, as part of broader social teachings, in Catholic contexts. They are now quite common. Laudato Si builds on this tradition and issues a moral and faith-based call to attend to the climate crisis and to take action.

Globally, the movement engages in a range of kinds of activities aimed at fostering spiritual, personal and public policy-based change. They mobilize people to engage in these kinds of changes as part of particular elements of the church calendar as well as in connection with more generally observed days like Earth Day. They have developed resources of various kinds for Catholics wishing to reflect more on these issues and to take action in small groups and in their parishes. They work with Catholic institutions around things like divestment from fossil fuel industries and reducing emissions. And they have been actively supporting the global climate strike movement, as well as pushing for stronger climate action at UN conferences and other international venues.

The Canadian chapter is still at a fairly early stage. It has begun as a partnership between the international level of the GCCM and an interfaith environmental organization in Canada called Faith and the Common Good. Though the Canadian chapter will not officially launch until October, they have established an advisory circle and are working on a website. They have been hard at work raising funds and developing partnerships with other Catholic organizations in Canada that are engaged with environmental questions.

There are already about 80 people in Canada who have been trained as animators by the international level of the GCCM, and the Canadian chapter aims to help connect and support them. They will be working to continue to increase their membership among Catholic individuals and organizations. They aim to adapt some of the international's resources to the Canadian context and to create some of their own. They want to lift up the examples of Catholic institutions that are already taking positive climate action as a way to encourage other such institutions to do so as well. Once it is more fully established, the chapter will engage in goverment-focused advocacy, seeking bold and just policies to address the climate crisis. A particular focus of the Canadian chapter will be building relationships between Catholic laiety and Indigenous people who are engaged in water protection, land defence, and other assertions of their rights.

Image: Used with permission of the Global Catholic Climate Movement Canada.

Theme music: "It Is the Hour (Get Up)" by Snowflake, via CCMixter


Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or contact [email protected] to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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