By Jake Jansen
Liberal arts colleges provide endless opportunities to grow and learn. As a Loras College student, one quote I have learned, memorized, and hold close to my heart comes from American theologian and writer, Frederick Buechner – “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Our world’s deepest hunger is a response to the climate crisis. The human-caused phenomenon of climate change is completely altering the Earth’s natural systems, causing immense suffering across the planet. While it can be extremely troubling to think about this current and future suffering inflicted by the existential crisis, I still have found my “deep gladness” or joy by being a climate action leader. I believe I am called to a life of climate action.
This past spring, I was honored to receive one of the Loras College Valder Scholarships. Broadly, this scholarship helps fund social justice internships. I knew for sure I wanted to engage in climate change solutions, but I had no idea what organization or where in the country that would be. The deadline to solidify my placement quickly approached, and I struggled to discern where I was called. Trusting the Spirit would guide me, a week before the deadline, I received an email from the director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light (IPL), Matt Russell, who I had previously met when he visited campus. Essentially, Matt wanted me to join a team of five Iowa college interns in planning a conference centered around the theme “Called to Climate Action”. I knew without a doubt being in Des Moines with Iowa IPL was where I needed to spend my summer.
After two months of working with Iowa IPL and the other four interns from Mount Mercy University, Luther College, and Central College, I couldn’t be more inspired. Although more devastating events related to the climate crisis have augmented this summer like the warmest June on record, a report indicating the last six months were the wettest ever, ice-sheets melting at a faster pace than scientists projected, or even the release of a study predicting the end of humanity by 2050, I still remain hopeful. We are lost without hope. Early on in the internship, Matt mentioned something that really resonated with me. He said, “The experts say we have the technology to solve climate change. We don’t have to invent something unthinkable. It’s completely solvable; we just have to go make the change.” Not only do we have the needed technology, but we also have faith, which is arguably just as important.
With all aspects rooted in faith, the five of us summer interns are developing the project “Called to Climate Action.” Together, we have developed the framework for an interfaith statewide gathering scheduled for October 26 in Greater Cedar Rapids, which will feature Dr. Katharine Heyhoe, a climate scientist, as the keynote speaker. Following the statewide gathering, we’ve been planning a college student workshop to be hosted by Mount Mercy. The workshop will feature student leadership teams from religious colleges/universities across the state.
Above all, my favorite part of this summer has been shaping the 2019 Religious Leaders Statement on climate change, which is focused on how people of faith are called and must participate in climate action. All of these student-led efforts are driven by faith. When considering the climate crisis, it’s easy to become hopeless. However, acting through faith instills a sense of optimism that we have the ability to solve this emergency, which we created.
Our “Called to Climate Action” project is coming together, and it is because of the passion of Iowa college students. I think my increased passion for climate action has been the greatest gift of the summer. Yes, I have learned so much, and it’s been a pretty sweet deal to spend a summer in the capital city of Iowa. Yet, overall, I couldn’t be more excited to take action when I head back to Dubuque for my senior year at Loras. Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and I am so lucky to spend a summer and hopefully a career in my “deep gladness” helping alleviate “the world’s greatest hunger”.
Jake Jansen grew up in Elkader, Iowa and will be a senior at Loras College, where he double majors in politics and sociology and double minors in Catholic studies and peace and justice. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org