IT’S TIME TO TAKE ACTION TOGETHER
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The Butterfly Effect

In the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue on April 29, 2017, a six-foot high inflatable globe towered above a four-year-old girl.  But this little girl was wearing a butterfly costume and, unlike the adults around her, she was unencumbered by a sign.  With a smile on her face and her arms outstretched revealing the butterfly’s wings, she pushed the entire world forward – literally and metaphorically.  She couldn’t see the path given that the globe was so big; it was her mother who helped her stay on course as she joyfully did her part.     

This little girl’s enthusiastic determination symbolized the essence of the People’s Climate March.  She was a reminder that we must be and do differently, not just talk differently.  We must work together, for the problems are too big alone.  We ought to be joyful in this work, and remembering the butterfly effect – that even small actions can create great change – is a call to hopefulness.             

Marches, protests, and rallies are generally wordy events, with participants seeking to spread their message in catchy slogans, intellectual quotations, and poignant or provocative remarks.  But, we’re called to something far deeper than can be summarized in a few words.  In Laudato Si, Pope Francis urges us toward an ecological conversion, a complete change of heart and mind regarding the way in which we relate to one another and to the earth.  Like the girl dressed as a butterfly and carrying no sign, we are to be transformed.  We must embody a new way of being.  We must move from expressing lofty ideals in words to living as new creations.              

This embodied living out of ecological conversion requires that we acknowledge and celebrate our interdependence with all people and all creatures. The little butterfly girl could not see around the giant globe. She relied on her mother and congregation members to help direct her as she pushed the earth forward.  Similarly, the ecosocial problems we face can seem so big that it’s difficult to see around them, to see the path ahead.  As such, our fate lies in our solidarity, our willingness to band together as we care for creation and care for one another. Collectively, we are able to guide one another in moving our world forward.               

While this work may seem daunting, we are called to be joyful in it! When our hearts and minds shift through ecological conversion, we once again see the full splendor of God’s creation.  We see beauty in the snow, in the incredible diversity of flowers and trees, in the faces of the animals around us.  What a gift to be aware of such grandeur! What an inspiration to live and work in ways that are gentle and reverent to all of life.  The new way of being is not about sacrifice and toil; it is about returning to a more profound, loving relationship with the Creator and the creation. That is a reason for joy!             

This turn toward ecological conversion may be slow in our lives and in our society, while destruction seems to gain momentum.  However, the little butterfly girl pushing a globe forward powerfully reminds us of the butterfly effect (from Chaos Theory): small movements can create profound effects.  So, let us march on. Let us embody a new way of being, stand in solidarity, find joy in being part of God’s creation, and let us never lose hope.  Just as faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, one little butterfly can move the whole world.




This piece was written by Brooks Zitzmann, LCSW.  Brooks is a licensed clinical social worker from Louisiana and a PhD Candidate in Social Work at the Catholic University of America. Through this professional lens, Brooks recognizes the numerous and nuanced negative implications of climate degradation on human well-being. Her social work perspective combines with her active Catholic faith as she works to find ways for individuals and communities to reorient themselves toward a life-affirming ethic.




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