Almost Heaven: EnvironLent Revisited

blackwater falls
Blackwater Falls, West Virginia – Let’s keep it clean people!

For me, Lent is often a time of introspection. I turn inward and try to take a good, honest look at what steps can help me to live more authentically as the me God wants me to be. However, on a day when the executive branch of our government has decided to take yet another step to chisel away at our nation’s efforts to curtail global warming and climate change, I thought it appropriate to take a turn outward and revisit our ChurchDrunk focus on “EnvironLent.”

“If our present system keeps on growing and growing, it will burn up us and our world. ”  –This Land is Home to Me

The issue of climate change, particularly in those places where industry remains inextricably connected to the extraction and use of fossil fuels, can be a bit of a sticky wicket. On the one hand, we have a presidential promise to bring back coal mining jobs that put food on the table for families in the impoverished communities of Appalachia. On the other hand, we have, you know, the future of every living thing on the face of the earth. Complicating the matter is the question of whether or not an increase in drilling, coal mining, fracking, and “energy independence” will actually benefit the communities in question. Will the deregulation of the fossil fuel industries help to level the playing field for people who currently do not have a fair chance at living above the poverty line, or will it mainly benefit the titans of industry who already live with more than they need? With complex questions such as this in play, the church can sometimes offer a bit of guidance (for better or worse!). Luckily for us, the Catholic Bishops of Appalachia have already weighed in on the issue, and they did a pretty bang-up job:

“So the corporate giants turn their eyes to the mountains once again. Slowly, but powerfully, their presence rumbles in the heavy trod of the powerful among the powerful, those who control: finance and credit, information systems, and energy resources.

Already voices from this camp have spoken of Appalachia as an “energy reservation”, or ‘giant industrial park’. Appalachia, a field of powerlessness, may soon become the seat of economic power in the United States.

But the new power, which a return to coal could bring to Appalachia, would probably not make its people any more powerful. Instead, they would live a different kind of powerlessness, one common to the rest of our society, the powerlessness of isolated little people in the face of the most powerful corporate giants on this earth.”

The bishops capture beautifully the struggle to translate corporate and economic growth into an improved quality of life for those who need it the most in this, their pastoral letter This Land is Home to Mefrom 1975! Perhaps nothing illustrates more clearly that the cry for traditional energy independence at all costs is a path that we have been down before, with results that benefitted neither impoverished communities nor our imperiled environment. Read the whole letter here, and then revel in the fact that the Catholic Church is issuing statements that prove to be a solid 40 years ahead of their time. Then reread that last sentence, and realize just how upside-down our world is becoming!

-Ges

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