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Interview of Meenu Johnkutty: by Catherine Brennan

Meenu Johnkutty stands and receives her prize for her winning Maryknoll essay

Meenu Johnkutty, a senior at Kennedy, won this year’s Maryknoll student essay prompted “Caring for our Common Home” and received the $1,000 Bishop Patrick J. Byrne Award. Meenu is very passionate about climate change and in her essay, she wrote about ways we can respond to Pope Francis’s call for us to take care of our common home, the earth. Her essay can be read at: https://maryknollsociety.org/publications/essay-contest/ and will also be featured in the May/June Maryknoll Magazine. Recently, I asked Meenu few questions about her essay and her motivation to write about climate change. Here is what she said:

Can you tell me how you found out about the essay contest?

I found out about this essay contest while sitting in Ms. Willis’ AP Literature class! I saw this beautiful poster hanging in 106, and when I took a closer look, I saw that it was advertising an essay contest centered on climate change! As someone who is passionate about protecting the environment, I knew that this essay contest was calling my name.

Can you explain a little about what the prompt was for the essay contest?

The prompt for the essay contest was to describe ways in which climate change was being tackled in the local and international community. The contest was inspired by Pope Francis’ recent encyclical about climate change and respecting the environment.

What inspired you to write the essay?

When I was writing this essay last November, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests were scaling tremendously. As I watched how the protesters battled cold temperatures and high winds to fight for what they believed in, I admired their strength and resilience. Their passion for the environment struck a similar chord within me and I felt moved to write a piece that I hoped would communicate how much climate change meant to me.

Has climate change been something you were passionate about or is it something that you have just recently began to think about?

 I have always been passionate about the environment. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always held a deep connection with the environment. Whether it be riding my bike in the summertime or running cross country, I feel most at peace when I’m outside. Naturally, as someone who loves the great outdoors, seeing the planet being abused and treated recklessly angered me. I just could not stand the thought of living in a society more focused on the “now” than the future. Unfortunately, we cannot continue our dependence on energy sources like fossil fuels that do more harm than good. Luckily, we are blessed with an abundance of clean energy alternatives like wind and solar that are limitless and cost-effective.

Pope Francis is a big advocate for protecting our planet. Can you maybe give some suggestions about what we can do to help support this cause?

 Pope Francis’ encyclical really gives a whole lot of hope for the future. As Christians, we are called to be stewards of this big blue planet that we are blessed to live in. Issues like climate change often seem too big to digest and process. But, when the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics writes an entire encyclical dedicated to raising awareness of climate change, then when we know that this is indeed a problem that demands global action. The first thing that anyone can do to support the climate change movement is to speak up! Climate change is real, not a myth! Individual action is also important. Small things like carrying reusable shopping bags and carpooling reduce our carbon footprint and bring us one step closer to tackling the abuse on the planet. But, all in all, I still do have a lot of hope when it comes to the climate change movement. Once people truly understand the gravity of the situation (which I hope will be soon), then collective global action will be imminent.

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