The Catholic Church thinks outside the climate box
By Michael Gold
If it seems our climate is tossed around a giant box like a rag doll, the Catholic Church in New York State is thinking outside of it.
Fathers and Brothers Maryknoll have just unveiled a new solar canopy in the parking lot of their mission in Ossining.
The Archdiocese of New York (ADNY) installed a solar panel on the roof of St. Anthony’s Catholic School in Yonkers in 2018 and recently completed a solar roof installation project at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Complain earlier this year.
He is installing a solar panel on the roof of the closed St. Theresa K-8 School at Briarcliff Manor, which is still used for day care and religious education. The project is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
In addition, ADNY is studying the possibility of installing a solar panel on the roof of Maria Regina High School in Hartsdale.
It appears that the church is working towards the fulfillment of the Pope’s vision in their 2015 encyclical, âLaudato Siâ (âPraise be to youâ).
It is worth reviewing what the Pope wrote in the encyclical. It contains relevant messages now and in the future. The Pope calls Earth âour common homeâ. This is a critical point. There may be nearly eight billion people in this world, but we share the air, water, and plant life that keep us all alive.
As Pope Francis wrote: âThe Earth was here before us and it was given to usâ¦ Our body is made up of its elements (of the Earth), we breathe its air and we receive life and refreshment from its waters.
âThe climate is a common good, belonging to all and intended for allâ¦ The Earth is a shared heritageâ¦. We must regain the conviction that we need each other, that we have a shared responsibility towards others and the worldâ¦ Leaving a habitable planet for future generations depends above all on us â, wrote the Pope.
Another important point raised by Pope Francis was this: âHuman life is a gift which must be defended against various forms of degradation.
In other words, if I read the encyclical correctly, the Pope is saying that climate change, with its horrific heat waves, long and painful droughts, food shortages, increasingly frequent and widespread forest fires , torrential storms and destructive floods – an ongoing nightmare of enormous environmental destruction, previously unthinkable, degrades human life.
The encyclical elevated the debate on tackling climate change. The Pope made it a matter of spiritual ethics, not just survival. How willing are we to step out of our boxes as individual consumers and think and act in defense of our common humanity? How willing are we to work with others in our communities, first to reduce and then stop our consumption of oil, natural gas and coal, not to mention reducing the mountains of plastics, metals and coal. other waste that we generate?
The Pope condemned âcreeping individualismâ and a âegocentric culture of instant gratificationâ in âLaudato Siâ.
This thought makes a very conservative point. We need to spend less time thinking about consuming more and more products, which give us a momentary thrill, and quickly fade from memory, and devote more of our long-term energies to building a better world, which not be threatened by the drastic weather that we unleash so casually because of what we consume and how we consume it.
Another important question the Pope raised was this: âYoung people demand change. They wonder how we can claim to build a better future without thinking about the environmental crisis and the suffering of the excluded.
This is a critical issue. We need to think about our children and the world we leave to them. Every parent wants their child to be successful. If we leave them with an unstable climate, we greatly diminish their chances of succeeding in life. In fact, we can harm their future ability to survive.
We need to support the church as it builds more and more solar installations on rooftops and in parking lots and increases the amount of renewable energy it can generate.
Other organizations should follow the church’s lead. For example, parking lots in schools, towns and shopping centers are prime candidates for the type of solar canopy installed in Maryknoll.
Car parks stretching for hundreds of yards in all directions are scattered throughout Westchester, from village stations to shopping malls. The stores in these malls have huge roofs that are ripe for installing solar panels.
Every business owner, government entity and school administrator should start thinking about how they can install solar panels on their rooftops and in their parking lots. This will save them money on their electricity bills. In addition, they can earn payments for the rental of their roofs and land. And it’s good for everyone who lives on the planet.
The always optimistic Pope wrote: âHumanity always has the capacity to work together to build our common home.
I want to believe it. Businesses, schools and governments need to follow the church’s lead and do much more to stop using fossil fuels and build our renewable energy capabilities.
Michael Gold has written opinion pieces on the environment for the New York Daily News, the Albany Times-Union, the Virginian-Pilot and other newspapers.