Joan Kirby, rscj in Rio de Janiero

Joan Kirby (second from right) and colleagues.  

RIO+20,  June 2012: Nations Conference on Sustainable Development:   My memory of the sensory world  of Rio is powerful. Lush mountain greenery, noisy birds and clean air brought us our earth connection. Our stay was graciously hosted by our Brazilian rscj nuns at Alto do Boa Vista convent situated atop a magnificent mountain. We went to Rio hoping that contact with earth conscious people would transform us. Actually it was insertion on the mountain that remains in my heart memory as a gift of consciousness transformation.

Every day Temple of Understanding Executive Director, Alison Van Dyk and I went down the mountain to Rio+20 meetings where we heard  the most brilliant minds on the planet speak with urgency about the need to attend to climate change, shortage of water, misuse of fossil fuels, loss of bio-diversity, fracking that destroys the water table and many other industrialized ways of destroying the earth.   It will take 450 years for the plastic bottles to dissolve in the sea. Deep sea fishing is subsidized while ten million tons of fish are lost to over-fishing.  Although de-forestation has been addressed in the last few years, forests should still be seen as a public good – reducing carbon, cleaning the air and saving the earth.  High density living in cities is the way of the future but redistribution of wealth reducing inequality and intelligent urban planning are needed.

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia’s Earth Institute said: “Forget the governments and count on bottom up alliances of civil society. A shared global network of problem solving needs to be organized around the crises we face.”  Professor Iglesias of Brazil counts on education as the only way to sustainable development. It should start in pre-school – education, education, education is the only way to implementation. Vandana Shiva pleaded for a seed bank at every religious sacred site, church, synagogue, mosque, tirth, temple.  Rabbi Soetendorp from Holland reminded us that Juliet Hollster’s vision of different religions mending and healing the world is relevant today as we count on religions to shape human behavior, speak to and educate human hearts.  We spiritual beings are writing earth consciousness into our hearts.

And yet apparently the media at home has only picked up on the weakness of the Outcomes Document produced by Member States.  In fact, the government delegations are not attending to the crisis.   The media however neglected to listen carefully to the loud and determined voice of Civil Society assuming responsibility for the future health of the planet.  Civil Society, inspired and supported by the many different religious traditions, will have to bridge the gap to save the earth for the next generations. We need Religions to be aware and to talk about values. It is time for a paradigm shift away from business as usual.

Gro Bruntland, former Prime Minister of Norway, called for a change in our current consumption and production patterns because we are overstepping planetary limits. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, called for new constituencies of demand, a collective mobilization. She asked: ”Is there something wrong with us as human beings that we can’t see and do something to bring about the new paradigm?”

Let us hope that what we hear as weather reports about 28 inches of rain flooding all of Florida, fires because of draught in Texas, 257 homes destroyed by fires in Colorado will somehow bring home the awareness that climate disasters are causing untold suffering for Americans and for human beings all over the world .  May our sense of interconnectedness to the earth and to future generations commit our action to Rio+20’s expectations of a mobilized civil society.  The sacred order of the cosmos will strengthen the connection between the infinite and the human heart and will provide the energy needed to preserve the earth.


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