Catholics on Climate Change

The Catholic Committee on Appalachia is distributing a 10-minute DVD for religious education classes, “Climate Change: Our Faith Response.”

A statement issued by the committee says the DVD presents “the irrefutable science behind global warming, how it will affect the poor and humanity’s moral responsibility to act.”

The committee is composed of the bishops, members of religious communities and lay leadership in the 27 Catholic dioceses in the Appalachian region.

“We hope (the DVD) raises awareness about creation as a precious gift from God and how climate change will particularly affect the poor and vulnerable,” said Fr. John Rausch, the committee’s director. rausch_tour.jpg

“Unless we change our wasteful lifestyles, we’ll reject God’s gift and the poor will be the first to suffer,” he said.

Sister Paula Gonzalez

Sister Paula Gonzalez, SC, Ph.D., is nicknamed the “solar nun.” paula.JPG

Sister Paula, 78, earned her doctorate in biology at the Catholic University in Washington, DC and was a biology professor at the College of Mt. St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio for 21 years. She entered the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in 1954.

After learning about solar energy more than 20 years ago, Gonzalez designed and did much of the work in converting a former chicken coop to an apartment she shares with another nun. “Casa del Sol,” is a 1500 foot super-insulated, passive solar house built with recycled materials. She also renovated a building on campus that is heated in the winter entirely by solar and geothermal energy.

The first Earth Day in 1970 inspired Sister Paula to think seriously about energy and environmental issues and about how to incorporate them into her biology classes at Mt. St. Joseph. Later, when a proposed nuclear plant received strong opposition, she realized that resistance alone can not solve energy problems – or any problem for that matter. It is also vital to develop creative, life-sustaining alternatives. She firmly believes: “We have to reach the moral cores of people, as well as their brains.”

The American Solar Energy Society’s Ohio Chapter, Green Energy Ohio, gave Sister Paula their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

White House Blocks Scientific Testimony on Global Warming

Jason Burnett, 31, a Stamford-trained economist, was until June 9 a senior official with the Environmental Protection Agency. He resigned, and is spending some time working for the election of Barack Obama to the presidency.

Apparently, he wasn’t regarded highly by environmentalists on his appointment to the EPA, but he should be one of their biggest heros, now.

Burnett charges that Vice President Cheney’s office urged him to delete or water down testimony to Congress by top administration officials on the impacts of global warming.

Burnett also said the White House blocked an effort by EPA to issue an endangerment finding, a conclusion that climate change is a threat to the public. Under a Supreme Court ruling last year, the finding would have forced the administration to cut emissions.

In October 2007, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding was scheduled to testify before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee. Burnett said he was asked by Cheney’s office and the White House Council on Environmental Quality to “work with CDC to remove from the testimony any discussion of human health consequences of climate change.”

Burnett refused, saying the testimony was “fundamentally accurate.” It included examples of how climate change is likely to have “a significant impact” on public health.

But the Office of Management and Budget later deleted six of twelve pages of testimony, including sections suggesting climate change could lead to a rise in infectious diseases, air pollution, food and water scarcity and extreme weather events.

The issue of whether greenhouse gases endanger public health or welfare is significant because a finding by the EPA that they do would require the agency to regulate them under the terms of the federal Clean Air Act, spurring new rules across a range of industries.

Environmentalists, Congressional Democrats, and officials in more than a dozen states have sought to prod the EPA to reach a decision on the matter, following a Supreme Court ruling last year that greenhouse gases are pollutants and can be regulated under EPA’s existing authority. greenhouse-gas.jpg

But the Bush administration has resisted, arguing that the economy-wide regulations of such emissions could cripple the U.S. economy.

Burnett said he was told to retract the document because a bill to raise fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, which was moving through Congress at the time, would make the endangerment finding moot. But he said the logic was flawed.

“The energy bill did not change the science, it did not change the law,” Burnett said, adding, “EPA still has a responsibility to respond to the Supreme Court.”

Catholics Lauded in Sierra Club Book

Catholics are prominently featured in a new Sierra Club book, Faith in Action: Communities of Faith Bring Hope for the Planet. The book highlights faith-led environmental action in each of the 50 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. sierra-club.jpg

Don Conklin and Ellen Buelow, members of Holy Rosary Parish in Albuquerque, NM, helped engineer a light-bulb swap–incandescent bulbs for energy-saving compact flurorescent bulbs. Before the program was over, 3,000 bulbs changed hands.

“We did this as a Lenten project,” said Conklin, a pastoral associate at the 2,700-household parish. “And it didn’t cost us a thing. It was sponsored by the Sierra Club and PNM,” the electric company serving the Albuquerque area.

The bulbs were distributed during an annual parish awareness weekend. “We’re planning our next awareness weekend and we’re coming up with the theme of helping families,” Buelow told Catholic News Service. “We’d like to get the concept of simple living in there. Economize and save the environment.”

The Faith in Action book also included these Catholic-led initiatives:

– In Colorado, Bishops Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Arthur N. Tafoya of Pueblo called for a unified response after sewerage spills threatened Fountain Creek, which runs through their communities. The bishops’ statement had a “significant impact” said Ross Vincent, vice chair of the Sangre de Cristo group of Sierra’s Rocky Mountain chapter. “People who wanted to believe things were OK with Fountain Creek began to pay attention and realize something needed to be done. The bishops’ statement came at a critical time and it was deeply appreciated.”

– In New Orleans, members of Mary, Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church and their pastor, Father Vien The Nguyen, were able to halt post-Hurricane Katrina operations at a landfill that was not only close to their neighborhood, but was adajacent to a protected wildlife sanctuary. More than 200,000 cubic yards of waste from Katrina had been dumped in the landfill, which still leaks toxins into a canal used by the Vietnamese community for irrigation and fishing.

– The Michigan Catholic Rural Life Coalition used the National Catholic Rural Life Conference’s “Eating Is A Moral Act” program to demonstrate the many ethical implications of consumers’ food purchases. The coalition also educates the public about the need to promote stewardship of the land and promotes a sustainable food system that nourishes people, local communities and the earth.

– In response to the U.S. Catholic bishops’ call for action on global warming, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis co-sponsored, “Global Warming: A Catholic Perspective.” One thousand people from 95 parishes attended the event to address the effects of global warming on the environment and the world’s poor communities.

Several parishes have now established their own “global warming action teams.” One of them, St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, launched a Green Power Campaign to encourage parishioners to purchase wind-generated energy.

-In Caguas, Puerto Rico, Father Pedro Ortiz and the Catholic parish of Nuesta Senora de la Providencia formed the Alianza Comunitaria y Ambiental en Accion Solidaria (Community and Environmental Alliance in Solidarity) in April 2007. The parish sets aside portions of its liturgical calendar for reflection on relevant social issues. Now, 100 community organizations, nonprofits, churches and universities from across the island with common concern for the environment have joined the alliance.

Religion, Politics & Climate Change

“In past elections, voting guides for Catholics, written from both ends of the political spectrum, have focused on hot button issues like abortion, gay marriage, war and economic justice. The environment, if mentioned at all, has been an afterthought. But the increasing urgency of climate change and its potential to generate catastrophic consequences for human life and civilization make this election different. This time, the environment is front and center.”

“The environment has long been a poor stepchild within Christian theology, and the Catholic Church is no exception. While Catholic social teaching has not wholly ignored the issue, the major social encyclicals of the twentieth century largely failed to tackle the question of our obligations toward the Earth. Although by no means hostile to environmentalism, Catholic social teaching consistently failed to place ecological concerns at the center of the church’s attention. Recent years, however, have seen signs of a shift in attitudes…”

Read the rest of this great article by Eduardo Penalver in Commonweal.penalver-eduardo1.jpg