December 04, 2019
Understanding Climate Grief
Confronting the psychological effects of climate change
Our Greenpower movement’s roots are fed by many waters. One development that contributed directly to our founding is Pope Francis’s Encyclical, Laudato Sí, a call “to care for our common home.”
Papal letters are generally circulated to members of the Church, but the Pope notably chose to address his Encyclical to all people, in the belief that “the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
Laudato Sí represents an unprecedented plea from the Pope to people of every background—both religious and secular—to awaken and reconfigure our relationship with nature.
Perhaps most helpfully, it also provides answers to the crucial question, “What can I do to make a difference?”
Greenpower was established in 2016 by the Romero Institute—so named for Óscar Romero, the former Archbishop of El Salvador, who was beatified by Pope Francis in 2015. August, 2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Romero was a paragon of social justice activism, openly speaking out against poverty, torture, and assassinations, making his own 1980 assassination all the more tragic. With focuses like Greenpower and the Lakota People’s Law Project, which works in concert with the Lakota people to protect their families, sovereignty, and ways of life, the Romero Institute proudly carries on this great man’s tradition of understanding, compassion, and care for the earth and all her children.
We admire the Pope for doing the same. We find inspiration in the fact that, in a world where many political leaders unconscionably do not, he is willing to embrace scientific findings that prove human causality in climate change. We gratefully do our part in response to his call. We’re taking the important step of altering our lifestyles to combat this troubling phenomenon:
“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it … A number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.”
"Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. "
The pope’s crucial recognition of the reality of climate change inspires us, even as political leaders worldwide insist it’s a hoax.
We have altered nature, with our pursuits of industry and profit. As the pope states, “A sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.”
"We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves. "
History shows that all too often, “progress” equates to environmental destruction. We clear-cut rainforests to make way for cotton and palm oil plantations; we poison our waters for access to oil; we destroy wetlands to raise condominiums. Francis argues that if we are to preserve these invaluable ecosystems, we must be willing to make decisions and enact policies that may not provide immediate financial gain, but will prevent future generations from paying the high price of resource scarcity, pollution, and irreversible ecological damage:
“Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. But the cost of the damage caused by such selfish lack of concern is much greater than the economic benefits to be obtained. Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values involved are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration.”
We also take inspiration from the Pope’s emphasis on social justice: from his concern for those who have the least; from his emphasis that we have already seen the grave effects of climate change not just environmentally, but socially, economically, and politically. He warns that “its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.”
We already see this unfolding when climate change refugees must leave their homes because their means of subsistence have been lost to the effects of a warming climate. As the pope explains, “there has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation.”
He rightly chastens humankind for turning a blind eye to this human suffering:
“Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.”
We can no longer ignore the effects of climate change. When Francis says, “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy,” we hear well and feel we must respond.
This is where Greenpower is making a difference.
Greenpower’s work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions starting in the Monterey Bay region is part of our moral obligation living in a developed country to care for our common home. We are fortunate enough to have the tools and resources to combat climate change on a statewide level.
We’ve begun by partnering locally with the Catholic Church and Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP), which has the potential to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents by 80 million pounds (CO2e) in the first year, and by more than 500 million pounds by year 10. Community Choice Energy programs like MBCP provide clean energy options at affordable prices to cities across the United States.
In the Monterey Bay region, the Catholic Diocese of Monterey has the potential to remove more than one million pounds of CO2 from the church’s annual emissions by reducing their energy usage and implementing planet-friendly power.
As Pope Francis writes, “Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.”
The Laudato Sí emphasizes again and again the need for all of us to work together to protect the planet, “our common home.” Transitioning communities to locally produced green energy from renewable sources like solar, wind, and biomass is one of the most effective ways that we can protect the earth for future generations.
We may not have the support of the President of the United States, but we are honored to have the support of Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Church, the interfaith community, and a growing coalition of environmental activists working together to make our planet great again.
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