The Green New Deal needs Catholic support

Henry Estrada is an intern for the Franciscan Action Network, currently a rising senior at the Catholic University of America majoring in Politics.

In Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si, he calls upon the world to care for the earth and its creatures.  This call for environmental caring is replete in Genesis, when the Lord commanded Adam to care and till the Garden of Eden.[1]  Pope Francis makes it clear that the message in Genesis is one of caring for His creation, rather than one of domination.  He describes the idea of dominating the earth being biblically sanctioned as a “wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world.”[2]  The message is clear to Catholics like me; care for God’s creation is a moral requirement for all of us.  The message is also meant for those who are not Catholic, as this letter is addressed not only to Catholics, but also to the wider human community.  Although his encyclical was published in 2015, things have unfortunately taken a turn for the worse.  Not only have the effects of climate change impacted the global community, but it has also harmed my own state, Maryland.

The moral requirement to care for God’s creation has been ignored for far too long in our world.  Natural disasters have gotten deadlier and become more frequent[3], natural resources have become scarce due to environmental changes caused by climate change[4], and pollution is wreaking havoc in communities in our very own states[5].  The issue strikes a personal chord in my home state of Maryland, where climate change and environmental degradation has harmed our Chesapeake Bay.  High rainfall caused by climate change has caused the bay to increase in sea level[6], as well as more nutrient pollution which in turn may create the bay’s largest “dead zone” in decades.  A dead zone is caused when “excess nutrients enter the water through polluted runoff from cities, suburbs and rural land, and feed naturally occurring algae. This then fuels the growth of algae blooms. The blooms, which then die and decompose, deplete the dissolved oxygen in the water. This creates hypoxic—or low-oxygen—conditions that suffocate the aquatic life that depend on the oxygen to survive.”[7] 

The issue of climate change does not only impact the home either.  Climate change is a phenomenon that impacts the entire earth, thus the need for lasting action in our states is necessary in order to do our part in preserving our planet.  Indeed, Pope Francis argues that not only must man use technology to fix the issue of climate change, but that a fundamental change in the human morality must be undergone in order to truly prevent catastrophe.  What Pope Francis means by this, is that we must move away from the activities which cause us to harm the earth; namely greed and pride.  In wanting the latest phone, the best meals, and the greatest vacations, we contribute to a culture of excess and materialism that not only harms our environment; but also harms our morality by morphing it into one of entitlement.  In believing ourselves to be superior to all things, we forget that we are children of God, children who know nothing yet believe we know everything.  This is exactly what led us to our international crisis to begin with.  As Catholics, we are called to heed the words of our Pope and to live out the message of love for God’s creation, this message also extends to the greater human community as well.  It is an issue the Pope knows requires all of us to address.  The need to right the wrongs we have done in the past, and continue to do today, is exactly why the Green New Deal is an important turning point in American politics.

The Green New Deal has proven itself to be an important catalyst in the congress as a conversation starter.  While political commentators poke fun at the revolutionary ideas found in the Green New Deal, members of congress on both sides have come to understand the importance of the environment and the issue of climate change.  This is evidenced by the introduction of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in the House by the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan caucus.  Both of these pieces of legislation attempt to transform the energy usage in our country to a more environmentally friendly one, however, these reforms cannot be passed unless legislators understand that Pope Francis is right when he speaks about the need for transformation of human morality.  There will always be climate change deniers unless legislators convince their constituents of the moral good that comes from protecting the environment.

In order to live up to the ideals of the Green New Deal, legislators must advocate for various faith principles so that legislation is made comprehensibly and morally right.  One of these faith principles is a consistent ethic of life, one in which the culture of life is prized about the culture of death.  By actively following an ethic of life, legislators protect our environment because of the inherent value of human life and the life of God’s other creations.  Another important faith principle to keep in mind is that of interdependence across boundaries.  Dialogue with those who have experienced climate change differently is important because it not only leads to comprehensive legislation, but it also enforces the idea that we depend on each other in order to solve the large issue of climate change.  Compassion and fairness are also important for those hesitant to see the value of environmental preservation, because of its potential to ruin his/her livelihood.  Some may not see the importance of fighting climate change due to the immediate threat of unemployment that environmental legislation may cause.  It is important not to vilify these people with genuine concern, but rather to dialogue and ensure fairness by assisting them in the transition into the new energy sector.  This leads to the next principle, restoration and renewal.  Not only does this principle encompass the renewal of the economy to a more environmentally friendly one, but it is also meant to restore the loss that people will feel in the new era of the Green New Deal.  Restoring is equipping the disenfranchised with the training and schooling necessary to transitioning them into the Green New Deal economy.  Finally, truth and science reminds the legislator to look towards the scientific consensus, so that an effective response to climate change can be made.  All of these principles depend on one another, similarly to how legislators depend on us to keep them accountable and on topic.

The need for action is now.  The constituents to these legislators are tasked with getting the movement moving.  We live in a representative democracy, where representatives are chosen to represent the interests of their constituents.  If we do not participate in the political system, then the Green New Deal craze will become a simple footnote in American history, future generations do not want to live in a world polluted and ravaged, we owe it to them and God to do right.  This is why it is important to contact your legislator and tell them of your concern for our earth.  It is also important to get communities of faith involved in this effort, Pope Francis has demonstrated the need for action, it is now our turn as religious people to take his universal call and be the change God wishes for us to become.  This is why I am currently an intern at the Franciscan Action Network, which has given me the opportunity to fight for environmental justice by participating in a network of activism all throughout the Washington D.C. area. Not everyone needs to become an intern, but we must all come together to care for God’s creation.

[1] Gn 2:15

[2] The Holy Father Francis. May 24, 2015. Laudato si’. June 24, 2019.

[3] The Data Team. August 29, 2017. Weather-related disasters are increasing. June 24, 2019.

[4] Kabul, Shadi Khan Saif. June 23, 2019. The Ticking Bomb of Water Scarcity in India. June 24, 2019.

[5] Smith, Mitch. Bosman, Julie. Davey, Monica. April 25, 2019. Flint’s Water Crisis Started 5 Years Ago. It’s Not Over. June 24, 2019.

[6] Felver, Rachel. May 21, 2019.  The grade of the Chesapeake Bay remains a ‘C’. June 24, 2019.

[7] Shonbrun-Siege, Carly. June 12, 2019. Experts predict largest dead zone in decades. June 24, 2019

Published in: on July 19, 2019 at 9:15 am  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: