Br. Kevin Cawley, executive director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue, was invited by N.Y. Catholic Climate Covenant to chair the opening panel at the Care for Creation Conference on October 27, 2018, in San Damiano Hall at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City. The theme for the day was taken from Laudato Si – "The Cry of the Earth is the Cry of the Poor." Sr. Kathleen Deignan of the Religious Studies Department and co-founder of the Thomas Berry Forum was also invited to support the program with musical accompaniment in spirituality and sustainability.
Br. Cawley highlighted the IPCC report, water issues (cited 47 times in Laudato Si), ocean temperatures impacted by climate change, plastic pollution – especially of oceans, desertification and the impact on food security, droughts increasing for over 2.5 billion people, forest fires growing in intensity, deforestation, overexploitation of global fisheries, and arctic warming.
More than a dozen speakers addressed the meeting throughout the day. Speakers hailed from a number of Catholic parishes as well as universities in the New York City area and included Professor Meghan Clark of St. John's University, New York; Professor Erin Lothes, College of St. Elizabeth, New Jersey; and Energy Ethics Researcher and Sr. Carol DeAngelo, SC, Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement. Dr. Lothes had previously spoken at Iona College in 2016 as a guest of the Thomas Berry Forum. The keynote of the conference was delivered by Dr. Dan Misleh who is the founding executive director of the U.S. Catholic Climate Covenant of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Dr. Misleh previously spoke at Iona College in 2015 as guest of the Thomas Berry Forum.
Presenters stressed the urgency of the moment following the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC report was a summary for policy-makers submitted to government officials planning to attend the forthcoming meeting in Katowice, Poland, to follow up the Paris Climate Agreement (COP21) of December 2015. The Conference of the Parties Meeting (COP24) in Poland in December 2018 will be an opportunity for government leaders to take stock of progress toward reducing carbon emissions since the Paris Agreement was ratified. Global rise in temperature must remain below 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avoid catastrophic global warming with potential irreversible consequences coming as a result of rapid loss of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
The Catholic Climate Covenant conference was organized by the New York membership of the covenant to take stock of the challenges outlined in the Paris Agreement and the IPCC, and design responses to the call of Pope Francis in Laudato Si. Organizers were at pains to present some optimism – moving forward with hope – despite the grim prognostications of the October 8 IPCC summary. Ideas at the parish and university level were outlined, as well as advocacy that will be required on issues such as fracking, fossil fuel infrastructure, environmental justice, and current legislative campaigns.