A special Climate Summit Edition of the book, “Growing Up With The River,” will debut in Kirkwood at 6:30 p.m., April 5, at the Franciscan Sisters headquarters at 335 S. Kirkwood Road.
by Don Corrigan (Webster-Kirkwood Times)
A bit of explanation is in order:
•“Growing Up with the River” is a book with colorful artwork by Brian Haynes that shows how climate change has been affecting the Missouri River region over the decades.
•The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Help have made climate change awareness a major focus of their mission. The April 5 book event will include activities of the Inter-Community Ecological Council.
•The Climate Summit at St. Louis University on April 22-24 will be an unprecedented meeting of the minds enlisting experts on climate science, ecology, sustainable development, weather and more.
The River Book
“Growing Up with the River” has a two-fold purpose, according to author Dan Burkhardt. One is to help people realize what a beautiful river heritage we have – and the need to preserve it; the other is to show climate change is real and has different effects from year to year as average temperatures rise.
“The book comes out of my working with Ted Jones at Edward Jones for 30 years,” said Burkhardt. “He was such a force behind the Katy Trail and he wanted urban folks to have the possibility to see the river heritage close up and that’s what got me involved.
“Artist Bryan Haynes captures the scenery so well with his illustrations in the book,” said Burkhardt. “They just really capture what river country is all about. They make for a beautiful coffee table book with a message.”
Illustrator Haynes, a 1978 graduate of Kirkwood High School, has been doing river scenery for decades. He now has a studio and gallery in Washington, Mo., a historic railroad town much like his native Kirkwood.
“Washington is a railroad town and a river town, so it is perfect for what I am doing,” said Haynes. “It has a Kirkwood feel with the trains, but it also is a part of the river landscape that I love. I jumped at the chance to work on the book with Dan.
“The book has great entertaining and informative copy,” added Haynes. “I hope it will help people learn about climate change. There are still a lot of people who don’t want to accept the science of it. I think this book can reach them without being preachy.”
Cheryl Kemmer, OSF, assistant minister with the Franciscan Sisters, said their April 5 event in Kirkwood is the start of a series of events leading up to the week of Earth Day.
“Our Pope Francis has made it clear that when you care for creation and the environment, you are caring for the poor, sick and all of humankind,” said Kemmer. “In 2007, the Franciscan Sisters discerned we need to take care of creation as a mission. We became ‘Franciscans for Earth’ at that point.
“Because there is so much denial and negativity about the reality of climate change from the top, we are now finding new urgency at the grassroots level,” added Kemmer. “People ask: What can we do? How can we be sustainable? What can we do at our level?”
Nicole Heerlin, the new director of Franciscans for Earth, said one grassroots project for the sisters is the nature retreat they established on 40 acres in De Soto, Mo. The location is being used for education, collaboration and advocacy on ecological issues.
Kemmer said climate change is not some abstract issue, but it is having real world impact with food insecurity, water shortages, mass migrations – all leading to increased violence and a proliferation of wars.
“But our mission is not all gloom and doom and emphasizing problems,” said Kemmer. “The world is still a beautiful place. Nature enhances our lives. Witnessing the creation can be overwhelming and an inspiration.”
Kemmer said that’s why “Growing Up with the River” is helpful. The book offers positive ways to help nature and the environment, such as planting native trees and pollinator gardens and connecting with organizations such as Missouri River Relief.
“When my wife, Connie, and I wrote the river book, we were interested in how to get people under the tent on climate change,” said Burkhardt. “We wanted to be positive and encourage people to achieve and celebrate little victories that add up to something big.”
Something Very Big
Make no mistake, environmental types like Burkhardt do not see the upcoming Climate Summit at St. Louis University as another small victory.
“I see this multi-day symposia as the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Masters of climate change,” said Burkhardt. “When you see the cast put together for the summit, thanks to the help of Dr. Peter Raven of the Missouri Botanical Garden, you know that St. Louis is onto something big.”
St. Louis University Professor Jack Fishman, conference chair, said the summit in one sense mirrors the 2014 event of Pope Francis calling together the Vatican’s leading scientists on climate change. From that convocation came the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’ in 2015, followed by nearly every country on the globe signing the Paris Climate Agreement.
Pope Francis’ encyclical has the subtitle “On Care For Our Common Home.” In it, the Pope critiques reckless consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action.”
“Laudato Si’ is the Franciscans’ charge to go to work to address global warming and climate change,” Kemmer said. It’s also the basis for the St. Louis University Climate Summit marking the school’s 200th anniversary under the first-ever Jesuit Pope.
“I don’t care if you call it climate change or global warming, it’s here and it is doing real damage to our habitat,” said Burkhardt. “Thomas Friedman calls it ‘global weirding,’ because of all the erratic weather events it is causing all over the globe.
“It’s a real coup and an honor to have the Climate Summit in St. Louis,” added Burkhardt. “My fervent hope is that some of our legislators will attend to hear what our leading scientists have to say on this critical issue.”