PORTLAND – Partisan politics and the often polarizing effects of the media have caused many of us to forget that there is a common good: a global community for which we all must care.
The truth is we are all part of the same web of life. And climate change, perhaps more than any other crisis facing mankind today, demands that we recognize the interdependence of all life because its impacts are not isolated in any one corner of the Earth but affect every part of the living world.
Climate change highlights the links between concern for the person and for the Earth, between natural ecology and human ecology. Climate change is not just about economic theory or political platforms, and it should not be used for partisan advantage or influenced by interest group pressures.
It is about the future of God’s Creation and the one human family. It is about protecting both “the human environment” and the natural environment.
Protecting the natural environment requires prudence — careful management and efficient use of otherwise scarce natural resources.
Until more reliable energy alternatives are developed, oil and coal must be used sparingly as they are both finite and damaging to our environment. While they produce power necessary for modern life, fossil fuels also release harmful pollutants and heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are warming our planet.
Curtailing their use through conservation and making serious investments in renewable energy sources could help slow climate change and avoid much of the predicted damage to our natural world.
Protecting the human environment requires both compassion toward those most impacted by climate change and a much greater degree of personal and collective accountability for our lifestyle choices, particularly in a wealthy country like ours.
Our disproportionate consumption of non-renewable energy resources affects our brothers and sisters around the world.
The poor of the Earth offer a special test of our solidarity. Especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are many of the world’s most impoverished communities. They live in regions already feeling the effects of climate change and, tragically, are the least equipped to cope with the problem.
Staff of Catholic Relief Services — operating in 100 of the poorest countries around the world — report that severe flooding and prolonged droughts threaten to unravel years of relief and development efforts and contribute to conflicts over scarce resources, food, and water.
Solidarity demands, as Pope Benedict said in this year’s World Day of Peace Message, “a broad global vision of the world; a responsible common effort to move beyond approaches based on selfish nationalistic interests towards a vision constantly open to the needs of all peoples.”
Our call to strive for peace and to love our neighbors must be more and more linked with the need for environmental stewardship.
In my tradition, we are promoting the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor. This pledge is a commitment by Catholics to do five things with regards to climate change: to pray, learn, assess, act and advocate.
In this way, we might help protect God’s Creation and advocate on behalf of people most impacted by global climate change.
As for public policies addressing climate change, the U.S. bishops have consistently called for policies that demonstrate both care for Creation and care for the poor.
The United States should lead the way by passing strong climate change legislation that reflects these priorities.
To win the support of the U.S. bishops, climate legislation must not add to the burdens of poor people in our own country and must provide substantial resources to help the poorest countries in the world adapt to a problem largely created by those of us in wealthier nations.
Our mistreatment of the natural world diminishes human dignity, threatens life — all life — and disregards the sacredness of Creation.
People of faith, including Catholics, must recapture ancient teachings about the reverence for Creation and about solidarity with all people.
As we work to protect and defend the life and dignity of the human person, we must increasingly recognize that this task cannot be separated from the care and defense of all of Creation.