Writer William Bole attended a meeting of Catholic bishops recently and heard the alarming stories of people threatened by climate change in very real ways.
Bishop Donald Kettler of Fairbanks, Alaska, predicted that one village that he serves will be under water in 10 years. He was speaking of a coastal community populated by indigenous people—soon to be washed away by rising sea levels resulting from climate change.
“Yet the story Kettler tells is not nearly as alarming as what I heard from Bishop Bernard Unabali of Papua New Guinea,” Bole writes. “His diocese includes a raft of islands that are also vanishing under the sea, and many of the islanders have already fled. They have been called the world’s first climate-change refugees, although others (including some of Kettler’s flock) are not far behind.”
Bole goes on to talk about an organization the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, which is trying to connect the broad middle of American Catholic laity with faith-based social teaching on care for creation and, specifically, climate change.
“The presentations in Washington indicated that an official Catholic teaching on the environment is emerging—and its key principles revolve around concerns about the person, the poor, and the common good,” he writes. “For example, while modern-day environmentalism often exalts nature over people, the Church looks upon human beings as ‘the guardians of Creation, which God has entrusted to us,’ said Mary A. Ashley of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. ‘We have a vocation to care for every creature.’”
There’s hope when our religious institutions’ hierarchy begin connecting the dots for their members between faith, care for creation and the urgency of addressing climate change. You can read more about the meeting in Bole’s blog here.