Lisa Fitzpatrick: Doing Something About Climate Justice

Lisa Fitzpatrick:  Doing Something About Climate JusticeLisa Fitzpatrick was raised in a rich tradition that wove together links to the American Revolution and a Finnish natural sensibility. She grew up immersed in the natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in a family committed to being stewards of the earth. When asked about some of her strong commitments, she quickly replied, “I volunteer in the Peace nursery.” When Lisa recognizes a need, she responds with commitment and action, whether it is harvesting the Peace garden or addressing the challenges of climate justice.  She is particularly concerned about the impact of climate change on our natural systems.

   When asked about her enjoyment of and commitment to our natural systems, Lisa quickly referred to her parents, Robert and Viola Brown**. Her father switched from a career as a chemical engineer working with oil drilling in Oklahoma to earning a Ph.D. in Forestry at UW Madison, where he studied with Aldo Leopold. The whole family enjoyed exploring the natural world, searching for the treasures of mushrooms and berries, agates and fossils. Both parents were environmental and peace activists.

Lisa left the UP to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Russian and a minor in business. She became fluent in Russian, French and Spanish, and served for more than ten years as a translator at Beth Israel Hospital and other Harvard Medical School-associated hospitals, as well as with insurance companies in the Northeast.

While this work was rewarding, Lisa decided to go to graduate school at Michigan Tech, where she earned a Master of Science in Rhetoric and Communication Technology. She was hired to manage the Visualization Lab at UMD. This combination of her passion for our natural systems, her technical training, and her linguistic gifts gives Lisa the skills and commitment to help address this greatest challenge in
human history. 

Lisa’s sense of justice has moved her to action based on her faith. She is particularly committed to
taking action to reduce climate risks and increase climate justice in our community. As she states, “We face
an unprecedented number of challenges to our ecosystem, social system, and economic system from the warming climate.” She has worked with a variety of local and national partners, including the Lake Superior Network of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, to prepare our communities for these unprecedented system challenges.  She currently is involved with the Duluth Climate Mobilization, part of the national Climate Mobilization team that has developed a vision, a process and set of tools for partners to utilize while they build a local response to this global challenge. This is a huge commitment of spirit, energy,
focus and teamwork. 

When asked about the investment of her time and talent into this organizational response to an unparalleled crisis, Lisa reflected that she was enjoying the challenge and fresh teamwork because it was linked to things her mother and father had taught her to honor. Late in her mother Vi’s life, when she was living in the Benedictine Health Center and dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, Vi said to Lisa:  “We have to do something about our climate crisis! I feel so powerless here!” This moment of heart-felt clarity and commitment moved Lisa deeply. 

As a woman of many gifts, of much training, and of faith, Lisa is working to guide her community’s response to this rising crisis. She gathers strength and energy from others, and appreciates the teamwork evoked by the challenge. And she remains hopeful that we can pull together as more communities and nations work together to respond to a dangerous situation. Rather than turn toward despair when tired, Lisa says that she finds hope in the cornerstone of faith. “Many faith traditions ask us to love God above all and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” These elements of a powerful faith sustain her commitment. From the Peace nursery to Climate Mobilization, Lisa works with others to bring balance, healing, and hope to this planet.

Interviewed by Bill Mittlefehldt

**For more about Viola Brown, see the Peace Church website under Justice/ Voices for Justice/Older Entries:  “Vi Brown:  Peace Pariah.” Vi was the subject of our first Voices for Justice column in 2014!