To our community on Earth Day

Yesterday was Earth Day, and the Earth is happier than it has been in a long time. Skies are clearer here in Cincinnati and in Beijing. Our national parks are reporting animals are returning to landscapes they have not occupied in a long time. Fossil fuels are staying in the ground rather than being extracted because of decreased demand, 

And, perhaps, we are happier too? We know people who have gotten back into exercising, made better neighborhood and familial connections, felt more energetic and are less stressed. But we also know many have suffered greatly, and continue to struggle with loss of income, illness, anxiety and grief. The pandemic continues to take a terrible toll. 

But this is not “normal.” We will go back to what is considered normal at some point. Do we want that? Does the earth want that? Probably not. But those who control the levers of power and the economy do. For if we do not buy, spend and fly as before, we are told the economy we have built at the expense of the earth will collapse, and significant societal inequalities will continue to exist and deepen.

Ohioans have been recognized as leaders in being proactive in steps needed to flatten the curve. Many of us are proud of that right now. And our university was an early adopter of practices to flatten the curve. 

Should we use this as an opportunity to change many things for the greater good of all? Can we be leaders in flattening the climate crisis curve by showing ways to reduce our footprint emissions?

We, as a Xavier community, can take some of this unusual time and embrace our Jesuit value of reflection. We can think about what we want this new normal to look like for ourselves, our university, our communities, our healthcare workers and the world at large. 

The Universal Apostolic Preferences call for accompanying youth for a hope-filled future, caring for the most vulnerable and the Earth. The most vulnerable are at high risk during the pandemic, and all of the science and experts warn we will be at high risk if our patterns continue as before. 

We as a Jesuit institution care about the effects on the vulnerable and marginalized; we cannot be “for others” unless we consider the ones at most risk. All of these are being embraced by more people now than a few months ago.

What better practices can we bring back to campus that we have learned at home during these times? These are some of the things we have learned or been doing:

-The importance of getting outside when your home and workspace become one!

-Eating/shopping locally

-Starting seeds and plants to grow at home

-Composting kitchen waste

-Upcycling items that we already have and give them a second life

-Meditating, Tai Chi, prayer and other spiritual practices

-Reaching out to neighbors

-Connecting to others for creative problem-solving 

-Advocating for the common good  

More than anything, though, we deeply believe that if our institution were to take the collective effort and energy focused on fighting the pandemic toward building an institutional culture of fighting global climate change, our students would benefit. If Xavier can continue to exhibit the kind of solidarity and concern that has been shown over the last few months to create a culture of cultivating sustainability (in its broadest sense) and resilience, our students would thrive here during their four years and find ways to apply what they learned and experienced here to their future lives.

If these are questions and ideas that are of interest to you, we encourage you to join us Wednesday, April 29, for our Climate Change Action workshop.

This piece was written and endorsed by the following students and faculty:

Alex Ackerman, Christine Anderson, Margot Bond, Grace Cover, Sierra Crouch, Anna DeHondt, Claire Fischer, Hannah Frey, Anna Gillespie, Alex Roman Gonzalez, Alana Harvey, Cozia James, Anas Malik, Chloe Manz, Matt Maratea, Molly Onders, Kaitlyn Roach, Azl Saeed, Gabriella Scolio, Megan Sewell, Mike Smith, Kathleen Smythe, Grace Thomas, Marita von Weissenberg, Blaise Weller, Brittany Wells and Alysia Wilson