Earth Charter — “Whalen honored as Hoosier Resilience Hero”

Bates Herald Tribune, April 18 2019
Sister Claire Whalen

In celebration of Earth Week, Sister Claire Whalen, a Franciscan religious member of the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, has been named a Hoosier Resilience Hero by the Environmental Resilience Institute, founded as part of Indiana University’s Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative.

While traveling the state as ERI’s assistant director of policy and implementation, Janet McCabe, former acting assistant administrator for air quality with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has met many Hoosiers dedicated to preparing Indiana for environmental change. The Hoosier Resilience Heroes program honors the important contributions of just a few of these residents.

Whalen, the Oldenburg Renewable Energy Commission chair, has committed a large part of her life to environmental causes, according to the news release.

She has a strong desire to help people in her area of the state understand the climate crisis and ways they can work to mitigate the impacts. In her retirement, she chooses to promote sustainable living on Earth, especially in the food and energy sectors.

Known for her work at the Sisters’ Michaela Farm and with the Batesville-based Food and Growers Association, Whalen is currently focusing her volunteer efforts on climate change impacts. In 2017 and 2018, she led the Solarize Indiana Southeast initiative, educating residents about installing solar panels. Thirty-five installations were completed at homes and businesses.

In addition, the Sister leads the Oldenburg Renewable Energy Commission to study how the community could move quickly to reduce its carbon footprint in the coming decade. This summer, the commission will complete a greenhouse gas inventory for the town of Oldenburg through participation in the Environmental Resilience Institute’s 2019 Resilience Cohort.

Whalen also regularly advocates for environmental causes to her governmental representatives and encourages others to do the same.

“Indiana is full of individuals – in every corner of the state and from every age and walk of life, including government, academia, business and nonprofits – who are working to make Indiana more resilient in the face of environmental change, and who are making Indiana residents safer and healthier now and for generations to come,” said McCabe. “We are thrilled to recognize these Hoosier Resilience Heroes and lift up their work to inspire us all.”

The other nine individuals recognized as Hoosier Resilience Heroes:

• Dr. Shikha Bhattacharyya, Terre Haute, ReTHink Inc. director and founder

• Jessica Davis, Indianapolis, IUPUI Office of Sustainability director

• John Gibson, Indianapolis, Earth Charter Indiana board of directors member

• Julia McKenna, South Bend, John Adams High School senior

• Iris O’Donnell Bellisario, West Lafayette, Purdue University junior

• Reed Rouch, Indianapolis, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School senior

• Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley, city of Goshen forester

• Jennifer Tank, Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame professor of biological sciences

• Leah Thill, South Bend, Michiana Area Council of Governments senior environmental planner

“These individuals are making an important difference every day in Indiana,” said Environmental Resilience Institute director Ellen Ketterson. “In my view, they are true heroes.”

Read about all of the 2019 Resilience Heroes on the Environmental Resilience Institute’s website https://eri.iu.edu.

The Indiana University Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative brings together a broad, bipartisan coalition of government, business, nonprofit and community leaders to help Indiana better prepare for the challenges that environmental changes bring to our economy, health and livelihood. Announced in May 2017, initiative leaders are working to deliver tailored and actionable solutions to communities across the state.


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