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FOR THE JOURNEY | Climate change heroes

It’s been described as a slow-motion emergency, this relentless advance of catastrophic climate change. But in the midst of this oppressive and sweltering summer, I found some climate heroes.

I grew up on a Midwestern farm, and I was familiar with heat. We had no air conditioning in those days, not even noisy window units. I would lie in my bedroom and yearn for some kind of cross-draft that might ameliorate the relentless summer temperatures.

Little would I have guessed then, as a kid, that the world would heat up in my lifetime, not just on the humid prairies, but in every part of the globe. I am one of a minority in the world who has the luxury of air conditioning. I feel guilty about this sometimes, and I try to use it moderately. As it cools me, I know it contributes to the problem.

Millions on earth do not have what so many of us do, and heat-related deaths are rising. Crops are threatened by scorching heat and blistering drought. Livelihoods are impacted, and climate refugees clog the roadways used by those escaping political violence and war. If it’s a “slow-motion” emergency, it is nonetheless an emergency right now.

I’m terrified for my grandchildren. But who’s paying attention? Do our political and religious leaders care?

Well, some young congressional staffers care, and they did something heroic in July. With recess approaching in August, it appeared climate legislation proposed by the Biden administration was doomed. This legislation was called a “last chance” effort.

A large group of staffers launched a sit-in in the office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Of course, Schumer was pushing the legislation, but it wasn’t going well. Congressional staffers thought he could push a lot harder. They felt that no one had the sense of urgency that was necessary for these catastrophic times.

Pope Francis, also a hero, has been a prophetic voice in this battle. His encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” sounded a clarion call that urged us to understand we are all connected to each other and to our struggling environment.

Before Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI decided that the Vatican would go solar. Today, the Vatican is committed to an investment policy that discourages oil and mining industries and invests in companies working to protect the environment and promoting clean energy. The Vatican is joining the United Nations on their climate resolutions and is part of the 2015 Paris climate accords.

Pope Francis has asked us to “repent and modify our lifestyles and destructive systems.” Our earth, he has warned us, is “reaching a breaking point.”

Here’s a sobering paragraph written by Andrew Marantz in the July 27 New Yorker: “The truly tragic irony is that there are a few thousand people on Earth (fossil-fuel profiteers, government officials, and some who fit both descriptions) who could decide, right now, to start abating the emergency, if only they wanted to.”

You and I are probably not among those few thousand. But can we influence them? Join Catholic Climate Covenant (catholicclimatecovenant.org) and find how your parish can be involved and how you can reach out to your elected representatives.

Effie Caldarola is a columnist for Catholic News Service.

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