Patricia Siemen, OP, JD, is a Dominican Sister from Adrian, Michigan, and a civil attorney. Her passion is to protect the long-term ecological and spiritual health of humans and all members of the Earth community. She does this through her work as director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence (CEJ), at Barry University School of Law, Orlando, Florida. The Center takes a cosmological context and interdisciplinary approach to law, science, ethics, economics and the humanities to recognize the inherent rights of the natural world – and it calls people to embrace their duty to protect the integrity of natural systems which sustain life.

Pat was selected in 2013 to do a TED talk in Jacksonville, Florida, on the Rights of Nature. She participated in the first World Ethics Tribunal on the Rights of Nature in Quito, Ecuador, in January 2014 sponsored by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. She is currently spending a ministerial sabbatical year to write on Earth ethics. Pat holds a Juris Doctorate from Northeastern University and a master’s in culture and spirituality from Holy Names University in Oakland, California, and a master’s of public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. 

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Laudato Si' - A story of right relationships

Pope Francis's long-awaited encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’ tells a story and issues a call to all people to act on behalf of our common home. It offers much more than a treatise on the environment and climate change; it sets a cosmological context of belonging to creation as relatives, as brothers and sisters (11). It calls for an ecological spirituality and conversion (216), and offers a moral framework for both individual and collective response to care for our common home. As an Earth lawyer and Catholic sister striving to awaken people to the peril of Earth's desecration and the promise of acting as a single community of life, I hear Francis's story with gratitude and relief.

Seeding a transformed future

Last month I returned from my first visit to India. I was invited to lead a week's workshop on “Earth Democracy: Defending the Rights of People and Mother Earth” with Dr. Vandana Shiva and her sister Dr. Mira Shiva, a physician and leader in public health. The course took place at the Navdanya Biodiversity Learning Center at Bija Vidapeeth University in Dehradun, India.

Journeying into the ‘Great Work’

Thomas Berry would have been 100 on Nov. 9, 2014. Many conferences around the world, including the “Living Cosmology: Christian Responses to the Journey of the Universe,” held recently at Yale Divinity School, honored him on his centennial birthday. Berry’s influence on the world of science, ecology and religion, particularly at the beginning of the new millennial era, has been significant. It is an appropriate time to look at the emerging legacy of the “great work” he inspired in so many people.

Sisters of Earth: An emerging consciousness

As fall approaches, I have been reflecting on my experience this summer at the Sisters of Earth 20th anniversary gathering held at the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. There is a deepening awareness that the violence causing the profound ecological devastation and increased human suffering is rooted in a spiritual crisis as well as economic choices.