Global Lenten carbon fast returns to US on Thursday

For a second year, numerous Catholics across America plan to abstain Thursday from carbs as well as carbon-heavy activities, as part of worldwide relay-style, climate-focused Lenten fast.

The Lenten Fast for Climate Justice began its second iteration on Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday, and has involved 54 countries in the now-annual tradition. The ritual is organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which drew inspiration from similar fasts undertaken by other faith groups.

The fast works by having Catholics in different countries volunteer to pray and abstain on the day designated for their country. On the next day people in the next nation in line will pick up the fast, with the process continuing until March 25, when all fasters will join the larger Catholic community in the traditional Good Friday fast. [Click here to see the full global carbon-fast calendar.]

For their second fast, the international coalition of Catholic organizations drew inspiration from Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” and his prayer intention for February, where he asked “that we take good care of creation -- a gift freely given -- cultivating and protecting it for future generations.”

More: “Catholic group launches global climate-focused Lenten fast” (Feb. 17, 2015)

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Organizers encourage those opting to join the fast to pray for bold, global action to address climate change, to abstain from food and to find ways to shun carbon-producing activities: such as leaving the car in the garage, planting a tree or herbs, reducing electricity use and minimizing paper use. A 40-day carbon fast calendar, compiled by the Green Anglicans of southern Africa and dedicating each week of Lent to a different aspect of creation care, offers other ways to fast. On Feb. 25, for instance, it suggests as part of the “energy week” that fasters unplug appliances to save electricity.

The Global Catholic Climate Movement also encourages people to organize prayer vigils, group prayer of the rosary, or study sessions on Laudato Si’.

"During this precious season of Lent, let us use this Lenten Fast as a way to pray for the resolve to move beyond our comfort zone and respond to the cries of our 'ravaged world' with courage and compassion," said its campaigns coordinator Christina Leano in a statement.

Last year, U.S. fasters recruited Catholic members of Congress to partake. This time around, they have highlighted two recent studies that suggest sea levels have risen faster in the last century than in the previous 2,800 years. The researchers largely attributed the faster rate of sea-level rise -- 5.5 inches in the 20th century, compared to previous fastest rises of 1 to 1.5 inches a century -- to human-induced global warming.

Since 1880, average global temperature has risen 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Should current carbon emissions trends (and subsequent warming) continue, scientists estimated the oceans could rise as much as three or four feet by 2100.

"There is such a tight relationship between sea level and temperature," Ben Horton, a Rutgers University marine scientist and co-author to one of the studies, told The Associated Press. "I wish there wasn't, then we wouldn't be as worried."

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]

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