Basement Beat: Mary Colborn invites all to West Michigan People’s Climate March
I'm just going to do the introductions here. Ms. Colborn is an eloquent writer and is passionate about protecting our environment. We have a word limit in the paper, so I wanted to share her entire piece with you.
It sounds like a good cause to me—plus it sends out some well-deserved kudos to the folks at Mugshots Coffee house, Allegan Public Schools and Karen Fifelski.
By Mary A. Colborn, Allegan Township
In June Pope Francis released the much anticipated and heralded encyclical, LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore—“Praise be to you, my Lord.” In beautifully poetic language, Pope Francis draws upon traditions and writings of previous Roman Catholic popes and poetically describes our relationship to the Earth and each other, extolling us to do everything in our power for the care of both—what he terms—the care of our common home.
In the encyclical he delves deeply into multiple problems we face—from plastics in our oceans and waterways to the great extinction occurring in the animal world to over-consumerism and exploitation of natural resources to man-made climate change. He asks us to pay attention to what is happening and to help create a more socially and environmentally just world.
And, he asks us to pray, starting on Sept. 1, a day designated as the World Day of Prayer for the Environment, he asks us to pray for those who are in the direct line of fire and experiencing the worst effects of our changing climate—like the firefighters in Washington state tackling fires in the traditionally wet temperate rain forests.
In later September he is addressing the United Nations and a joint session of Congress to ask for action on climate change. His visit is expected to draw a quarter of a million people to a prayer vigil on the mall in Washington, D.C. for a prayer vigil that starts on Sept. 23, Yom Kippur, and continues throughout the Pope’s address on Sept. 24.
Here in west Michigan, a joint solidarity event is being organized by faith and environmental leaders for region. Dubbed the West Michigan People’s Climate March it is a celebratory, family friend march to motivate all people who care about the future of our communities and will include addresses by Mayor Heartwell of Grand Rapids, who serves on the President’s climate action committee, amongst others including representatives from the Dominican Sisters and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids.
Set for Sept. 19 from 1 to 2:30 p.m., it directly follows the Grand River Clean-up, a day of action focusing on care of our precious resource—water and will give people a chance to commit to actions on behalf of our “common home.”
In the encyclical the Pope praises those who have taken it upon themselves to work tirelessly for the environment—people like our own Karen Fifelski, a geriatric nurse in Hopkins who campaigns to prevent hydraulic fracturing, an oil extraction process that is poisoning the ground waters and rivers of other states, from doing the same to our beautiful waters in Michigan.
Both the praise and the admonishments in the encyclical left me in tears as I thought of the work we do in Allegan and the work we still have to do. For instance, Corrine and Rob and their staff at Mugshots Coffee House diligently collect coffee grounds and food waste for us to compost on our farm as they work to bring their waste production as close to zero as possible.
Allegan High School applied for and claimed designation as a Michigan Green School in part because they, too, collect food waste from the cafeteria and allow us to pick it up and compost it.
However, in both cases, while their kitchen staffs are conscientious and well-trained to separate the food waste from other waste, in neither case are we asking the consumers—the customers at Mugshots or the students at AHS—to do their part. In both cases, we collect “pre” consumer waste while hundreds and hundreds of pounds of “post” consumer waste, especially from the schools all across the county, goes into the trash where it decomposes and releases methane, an extremely serious greenhouse gas.
We should not, as Pope Francis beautifully writes, be finding waste receptacles overflowing with plastic bottles and aluminum cans the ways they do after big community events like the Fourth of July celebrations or even local walks, like Strides for Health or the Relay for Life cancer events.
This oversight, this seeming carelessness, overshadows the good work of the event organizers and participants. The same thing can be said for the church picnics with their garbage bags full of cornhusks, watermelon rinds, plastic utensils and Styrofoam plates. It is almost as if we have forgotten the deeper meaning of the word “conservative” and have lost our understanding of how connected we are to all of life and the impact of little actions on the whole.
With the world and the nation focusing on this issue—climate change and the related environmental degradation being seen everywhere across the globe—we have a chance to change. As simple as that sounds and as complex as it is, we have the chance to make September be the month we start, the month we say:
“I’m joining in.”
“I’ll bring my family and walk the climate march.”
“I will implore my church, my community group, to revisit our waste reduction efforts.”
“I personally will do everything in my power to reduce my carbon footprint and not criticize, but instead guide those who are still behind.”
“I am going to stop fighting and will start caring—for our common home, along with people from faith communities across my region and around the world.”
The West Michigan People’s Climate March is open to every and all people and will be at the 6th Street Bridge Park in Grand Rapids on Sept. 19 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Please come with banners and puppets and T-shirts reflecting your affiliated organizations, the more diverse the better. It will send a message to our legislators that we stand with the Pope and each other in caring about our common home.
Prayers, of course, are always welcome and needed. Thank you for caring. If you would like posters, flyers or cards for the climate march, please contact me via Facebook at Allegan Historic Farm & Learning Center or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Basement Beat is an online, occasional column by Allegan County News editor Ryan Lewis. Its name is a play on the title of his regular column in the paper, "Out of the Basement Office."