Energy Forever Conference: Climate Emergency, Creation & Optimism

This is an emergency, not a change! We need to switch to 100% Renewable Energy by 2030. We are the last generation that can act. If we are not acting, it means that the future of our children is in danger. What do these words do with you when you read them? They did a lot with me!

Melanie Troxler

December 19, 2019

It’s been now 22 days since the first Energy Forever Conference of the Salesians of Don Bosco in Rome and I couldn’t allow myself to eat any meat since then and the speeches and discussions are still keeping my mind busy. I remember the message, I conveyed as a representative of Don Bosco Green Alliance: “We all have to take up responsibility, as individuals, as a community as well as a congregation.” During my flight back to Switzerland (yes, I had taken the plane) I had to reflect myself, my message and the whole discussions at the conference. I am full of hope that the statement of the Conference will urge the congregation to act and that they will take up concrete steps. At the same time, I have doubts that this climate emergency will really be treated as an emergency. Why? Because even me as a representative of Don Bosco Green Alliance still do not treat it myself enough as an emergency. I do so in my speeches. But I don’t do it enough in my actions – because it is inconvenient. I am glad to say that the conference motivated me to change already one habit even though it takes up some effort and determination from my side. I also made three concrete commitments that you can find at the end of this text. I want to start acting more on a personal level. I would like to share with you, what made me act, three perspectives – a scientific, a religious and a philosophical one!

Scientific Perspective: The first message was transmitted by Hans-Josef Fell, former member of the German Parliament (1998-2013) and president of Energy Watch Group. First of all, I would like to point out, that he has reached his personal goal, to run his house completely on renewable energy. Years back, everybody told him that it is impossible to do so. But he had the determination, the faith and the courage to take action and realized his dream. During his speech Mr. Fell made clear, that we need to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2030 (that’s in 10 years). Also he pointed out that solar energy is nowadays the cheapest and most efficient energy we have and is getting even more efficient and economical with the ongoing technical improvements, research and investments, even though lobbies from other industries try to tell us the opposite. What he also made clear is, that we have to start moving and set the targets and action plan now. It is furthermore crucial to get in touch with the right partners as soon as possible, who can accompany us in this journey to green our own institutions. In short: Set the targets now – find the right partners – It is possible, act!

Religious Perspective: The environmental crisis cannot be seen isolated. Pope Francis points that out very clearly: It is not only an environmental crisis, it is at the same time a moral and social crises. This is important to understand and Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, Coordinator of the Sector on Ecology and Creation, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development brought the essence of Laudato Si, probably one of the most important documents of the 21st century (Malcolm L. McCallum), into the Energy Forever Conference. Fr. Joshtrom highlighted different messages of Laudato Si, which are crucial such as: It is not only the cry of the earth but also of the people, especially of the poor. The earth should actually be a common home but we are living in two homes. Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization. Also, he highlighted that a radical energy transition is needed to save our common home. We are all interrelated and interconnected. Even economically it is much wiser to act now and not wait anymore. We have already waited too long actually, as Lynn White already said 1967: “Surely no creature other than man has ever managed to foul its nest in such short order”. Fr. Joshtrom’s message and call to action was therefore very clear: We are responsible to take care of creation, our common home, as individuals, as a congregation as well as one interconnected family.

Philosophical Perspective: Our moderator and speaker Fr. Martin Poulsom (SDB, University of Roehampton) set another perspective onto the environmental emergency, which I haven’t been considering that much before. In his speech the word “optimism” was key and he was asking the participants with which mindset we are approaching this environmental emergency. Do we believe that it is impossible to solve this global challenge or do we stay optimistic and start to act? This question reminds me directly of Giovanni Don Bosco and the spirit of the Salesian Family. It was Don Bosco who has seen the effects of the industrial revolution on young people 200 years ago. It was him who felt responsible to act and take care of the young who were affected negatively by their environment. It was him, who had the faith and optimism that he could actually make a difference in their lives. And last but not least, he had the courage to act. If Don Bosco would see how the environmental crisis is and will be affecting young people in such a profound way, he would do anything possible to act and respond to this emergency.

Starting to act now.

Coming back to my initial thoughts I would like to emphasize again: “Words are nice, actions are better”. We know the facts, we are aware of our responsibility for our common home, our children and future generations. We know of the spirit of Don Bosco, his optimism and how his actions from 200 years ago still affect us and many young people in a positive way. Let’s have the faith and activism that he had. Let’s be the change and motivate many more young and their families, their employers and their politicians to participate. I would like to start myself also on a personal level and do the following three commitments, hoping that I can motivate many more:

  • I do reduce eating meat to 12 times per year. That means not more than once a month and only on special occasions. I only eat meat from local production.

  • I only take a car, if the destination is hardly reachable by public transport or when the costs exceed my budget. To my work I walk, take the bicycle or public transport.

  • I do not take any flight if the destination is reachable in the time range of one day by train or if there are overnight trains available. Anyway, I try to fly as less as possible.


Melanie was a Sustainability Officer with the Don Bosco Green Alliance.