by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The event center was packed at Donnelly College here for an environmental ethics panel Nov. 8.
“We’re here to talk about . . . something greater than ourselves — how we live and give witness to and put into practice environmental justice,” said Msgr. Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly.
Msgr. Swetland facilitated the panel after offering a message to the audience.
“You don’t have to share our Catholic faith to believe that the earth is a gift,” he said. “And when you receive a gift, one should be grateful. But one should also use that gift as it was meant to be used — not use it and abuse it and toss it aside.”
Dr. Paula Soican-Console, a professor of English literature at Donnelly, organized the panel, which included Susan Daily, Richard Mabion, Althea Moses and Michael Wolfe, all local professionals who work in various capacities on environmental justice.
They answered questions from the audience and explained ways the students can get involved in their community and become better stewards of the environment.
“We’re in a moment right now where what we can do can actually make a difference,” said Wolfe. “We owe that not just to ourselves but to the future generations.”
The panel encouraged the students in the audience to share their ideas with various environmental groups in the Kansas City area and make small sustainable changes in their own lives.
Moses also explained the importance of talking about environmental issues with others in order to make a greater difference.
“There are things we all care about,” she said. “Finding common ground in these discussions is so important.”
Msgr. Swetland closed the panel with his own encouraging words.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church talks about our religious responsibility, our religious respect for the integrity of creation,” he said.
“But even if you didn’t share my biblical worldview about how we should respect God’s creation,” he continued, “I think everybody has the experience of awe and wonder.
“If we can build on the awe and wonder and the religious sentiment that people have about the goodness and integrity of what surrounds them, we’re a huge step down the road for environmental justice,” he concluded.