Guest Column by Jessie Dye
Growing up as a Catholic in the 1960’s and 70’s I never heard a single sermon about caring for creation. The same could be said of most Christian denominations. That has changed in the last few decades, not because protecting Earth’s ecosystems is new in our faith tradition, but because there is a renewed commitment to living into the religious values of stewardship and justice. In fact, protecting the precious gift of the Earth is as old as Genesis and as central as the Gospels. My own organization, Earth Ministry, has been preaching and teaching about environmental issues from a faith perspective for over 25 years.
As a Catholic, my religious values call me to be a strong supporter of Initiative 1631, the “Clean Air, Clean Energy” measure on November’s ballot.
In June of 2016, Pope Francis published the first-ever Catholic encyclical on the environment called “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home.” An encyclical is a letter from a pope outlining basic Catholic dogma, and Laudato Si’ is no exception. The message of Pope Francis is clear: care for the Earth and care for the poor are two sides of the same coin. The well-being of creation is forever linked to the well-being of human communities. Catholics have a moral and spiritual obligation to care for and protect human and natural ecosystems.
Initiative 1631 so reflects the values and teachings of the Catholic Church on care for creation that is has earned the nickname, “the Laudato Si’ Initiative.” I-1631 is a practical first-step to ensure a transition to a clean energy economy and take 25 million tons of pollution out of our air every year. Money from a fee on fossil fuels will be used to build clean energy infrastructure such solar arrays and wind farms, restore streams, and promote forest health. Many of these investments will be made in Eastern Washington counties.
Justice for the poor and the most vulnerable of God’s children is a strong value in Catholic Social Teaching. Everywhere in the United States, zip codes with higher incomes have better air quality. Lower-income families, often communities of color, live in much more polluted neighborhoods where asthma is epidemic. Pope Francis would be pleased that advocates for low-income families helped draft Initiative 1631, which targets 35 percent of the clean-energy projects to be located in poorer neighborhoods. Tribes, especially, are on the front lines of climate change and are strong supporters of Initiative 1631.
I am proud to be a member of the I-1631 team, we stand together with the broadest coalition in Washington State’s history to draft and run an initiative. These are non-partisan experts like Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington State Medical Association, and American Lung Association, and conservation and community advocates like League of Women Voters and The Nature Conservancy. Together we are united to protect the home we all share.
Opposed to I-1631 are some of the world’s biggest polluters – oil companies who have donated the most money in our state’s history, more than $25 million dollars, against us. Fossil fuel corporations are spending this money to preserve their monopoly on dirty energy and protect their profits at the expense of the common good. “When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this…engenders immense inequality, injustice against the majority of humanity.” (Laudato Si’ 82) Trading the well-being of future generations for economic gain is not in line with Christian values.
Though the threats of climate change are dire, in fact the technology is already up and running to produce clean, cheaper, home-grown power in our own backyards. This requires major short-term investments to reap long-term reduction in pollution and energy costs. The fee on corporate polluters by I-1631 pays for those investments and begins the shift to a healthier economy and better future for all God’s children. In the words of Pope Francis, “All is not lost. Human beings…are capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start and embarking on new paths to authentic freedom.” (Laudato Si’ 205)
Join me in voting yes on Initiative 1631.
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Jessie Dye is a cradle Catholic from a big Irish-American family in St. Louis. She is a graduate of St. Louis University and Emory University School of Law in Atlanta. Since moving to the Northwest 40 years ago, she has watched the glaciers melt in the Cascade and Olympic mountains. Jessie is Senior Campaign Strategist for Earth Ministry, a statewide organization that connects people of faith with environmental stewardship and advocacy.