Bringing it all home

Going Out

LIVING IN CRISIS Chief Dadá Borarí, forest defender and chief of an indigenous tribe in the Brazilian Amazon, was among the four representatives called to meet with the Pope and share their views.

Real experiences of climate crisis at heart of film on Pope’s environmental message  

Mary Manning

Westport Eco-Congregation hosted a screening of the powerful film ‘The Letter: A Message for our Earth’, at Westport Town Hall Theatre. This film was inspired by the encyclical letter to people of all faiths and none from Pope Francis, called Laudato Si, on care of the earth, our Common Home.
To bring the message home, the film centred around a sharing of stories of the effects of climate change from four different voices… the poor, the youth, indigenous people and scientists. Representatives of each of these demographics were joined by Lorna Gold, chair of Laudato Si global movement.
Arouna Kandé is a climate refugee, forced to leave his home village in Senegal as drought destroyed their food and water sources. Homes there are being claimed by the sea as it encroaches on the land, because of rising sea levels due to global warming. His friends are being forced in desperation to take boats from their country, hoping to land safely in Europe. Many never arrive.
Chief Dadá Borarí, forest defender and chief of an indigenous tribe in the Brazilian Amazon, spoke of his people’s work to save the Amazon forests from the wanton destruction caused by logging companies to make way for the production of beef, rice and soya. This destruction has led to a huge biodiversity loss within Brazil.
We met Ridhima Pandey, a 13-year-old climate activist from India, who has witnessed the effects of climate change in her home town of Hardiwar, where the extremes of climate change are harrowingly evident. The Ganges’ water levels are now dropping dangerously low in the increasingly hot summer months, while Hardiwar’s infrequent rainstorms, when they do come, cause devastating floods, destroying local infrastructure and taking many lives.         
The scientists, Greg Asner and Robin Martin from Hawaii, told us that 35 percent of living coral in that area has died, due to the marine heatwaves in recent years. They also reminded us that science does not have the answers; it is only a toolkit, and much more is needed.
Pope Francis said that ‘becoming used to hearing’ stories such as these is a terrible disease, and that dialogue is needed about how we are shaping a new planet. The cries of the Earth and the cries of the poor cannot go unheard any longer.
The film ‘The Letter’ is an invitation to all of us to become part of this dialogue.
Westport was honoured to have a panel of distinguished guests to dialogue with us. Nicolas Brown, the Osar-winning writer and director of ‘The Letter’; Lorna Gold of the Laudato Si Movement; Martin Palmer, CEO of FaithInvest; Jane Mellett of Trócaire; and Laura Dixon, Climate officer with Mayo County Council.
They offered much to challenge and inspire us. Martin Palmer believes that we need to re-define how we relate to nature, coming back to the sense of its sacredness, and using language that puts us in relationship with, rather than apart from, the Earth.
Lorna Gold and Martin work with FaithInvest, whose mission is to support and advise all faith groups on how they invest their money in line with their beliefs and values. Faith groups are the fourth largest investors, and between them own half of all schools and a third of all universities, hospitals, medical and educational training facilities. They also supply half a billion meals per day. Collectively, as consumers, investors and purchasers, these faith groups’ spending could massively change the world economy and education for the good of the Earth.
Lorna urged us to raise our voices, both in love and in righteous anger, to demand change that works for the good of our Earth.
What can we do now? The film ‘The Letter’, which is beautifully made, is available free on YouTube, so you can organise a screening with your community or friends and start the dialogue. Jane Mellett advised that Trócaire is available to support any group screenings.
Everyone is also welcome to get involved locally with Westport Eco-Congregation, whose mission is to raise awareness on how we care for our Earth. Email westportecocongregation@gmail.com to connect with us.

Mary Manning is a member of Westport Eco Congregation. For more about the group, follow them on Facebook, or visit their YouTube Channel, ‘Westport Eco-Congregation’, where the panel Q&A that took place in Westport Town Hall Theatre after the screening of The Letter is also available.