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Patricia Keefe: Sisters are doing their part to fight climate change -- you can, too

The Sisters of St. Francis and others in our area have taken steps to decrease the human impact of lives on the health of our earth...and we have continued to search for ways to lesson our carbon footprint.

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Sister Patricia Keefe (contributed)

The early August publication by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has brought to light the drastic changes already happening to our earth as well as how much worse the human impact will be if we do not change.

Efforts in Washington to include climate change in the upcoming reconciliation budget process are attracting support. The most popular provision in the budget reconciliation is to invest in making homes, buildings and schools more energy efficient (75% support). Another proposal is to invest in research and develop new clean energy technologies (74% support). Time will tell how this process will turn out. Support by the public is essential.

The U.N. document also raises concern among ordinary people in many countries. Vulnerable countries are suffering the worst effects of climate change and point out that the U.S. and China in particular have done little to change their ways and are even adding to the worst effects of the warming of our planet.

Here in Minnesota, state government has adopted clean car regulations based on the similar regulations adopted by California years ago. The regulations have just been published in the State Register by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The rules are complex, regarding different types of vehicles as well as incorporation of sections of the California Clean Car Regulations. Still, the regulations contain the beginnings of Minnesota addressing the pollution caused by gas-powered automobiles, trucks and buses.

The U.N. document also raises issues for each of us in our daily choices concerning. The pandemic has and is causing some decrease in travel by climate-altering automobiles, airplanes other vehicles.


The Sisters of St. Francis and others in our area have taken steps to decrease its impact on the health of our earth. In 2009, the Sisters and cojourners took a Climate Change Corporate Stand. Since then, we have continued to search for ways to lessen our carbon footprint. Our solar energy installation has cut our use of fossil fuels to heat and cool our large building. Solar was chosen after study of other ways of reducing our use of fossil fuel.

Permeable parking lots help to conserve rainwater runoff. Three prairies have reduced mowing. Beehives produce honey and butterfly gardens attract pollinators. A vegetable garden contributes organic food. New trees are planted each year. We changed to LED light bulbs throughout our facility. Currently we are taking out invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle, garlic mustard and wild parsnip that have taken up residence on our land. Our success, however, has not included the organic/natural elimination of the Japanese beetles that love to chew up sweet-tasting basil, grape leaves and zinnia flowers in particular.

Many of our Sisters and cojourners belong to various organizations that are addressing climate change through legislative advocacy. We urge others to contact your legislative leaders on issues supporting climate justice and to work with others in preparation for the climate meeting of world leaders in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2022. We foresee more collaborative efforts in the immediate future. Pope Francis’ ecumenical letter, "Laudato si," continues to be a basis for a seven-year plan to address care for our earth.

In 2021, there has been repeated evidence of the warming of our planet. The frequency of violent storms, uncontrolled fires, flooding and droughts are all evidence of an altered climate balance. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provided a red alert about the crisis. We are not even meeting the reasonable goals of the Paris Agreement, though the U.S. rejoined the agreement in the Biden Administration. Rejoining must also mean further efforts to achieve reductions in heat-trapping gases emitted to earth’s atmosphere.

Each of us is responsible for doing something to lessen our carbon imprint. Let’s just do it now!

Sister Patricia Keefe has served as a lawyer and has a master’s degree in theology. Currently, she is retired and resides at Assisi Heights, where she is active in various ministries.

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