CONTRIBUTORS

If you love your neighbor, don’t pollute your neighbor’s air

Posted Aug. 20, 2015, at 11:39 a.m.

Creation is God’s gracious gift that must be cultivated and cared for. “The Earth is the Lord’s and all it holds,” Psalm 24 reads.

Serving the people of Maine, as we do, is unlike any other ministry; our state is a special place unmatched in its wonderful people and beautiful scenery. Maine is sprawling canvases of rural life, urban development, welcoming beaches, the unmistakable aroma of the ocean while driving along its coast and the swishing of skis in its many mountainous areas. Maine is rich in its natural beauty. Taking care of that natural beauty — the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land that nourishes life — should be seen as showing respect and love for our Creator. Such care is, in essence, answering God’s call to protect the earth as well as one other.

As bishops and people of faith, we do not speak with scientific authority or expertise on issues such as carbon pollution or climate change. Instead, as pastors, we share the wisdom that our faith tradition has taught us. “Love one another,” we are commanded. To live in peace, not only with ourselves but with respect for the resources of our earth, is the way we live out that mandate. Within this perspective, it is clear the time to confront honestly the impact of climate change certainly has arrived.

We see around us the harmful effects of pollution. Carbon pollution, for example, poses a threat to important Maine industries such as the shrimp, lobster, clam and oyster fisheries. Pope Francis explained in his recent encyclical Laudato Si’, that those living in poverty have contributed least to climate change yet are disproportionately impacted by it. This is a direct result of excessive use of natural resources by wealthier nations. Moreover, drought and air pollution reduce the capacity of subsistence farmers to feed their families. We have an obligation to care for the poor and vulnerable among us. We have an obligation, therefore, to protect the resources of the earth for all people.

Global climate change and its effect on humanity and our environment is a complex issue, often politicized and used to divide. However, from a faith perspective, the proper response is simple and unifying. If you love your neighbor, you do not pollute your neighbor’s air nor hinder your neighbor’s ability to share in the bounty of God’s creation with future generations. We should not use resources given into our collective care in ways that diminish the ability of others to use those same resources to enrich their lives in the future.

The Clean Power Plan addresses climate change through the protection of public health and the environment. Climate change and carbon pollution threaten industries crucial to Maine’s economic future and contribute to public health problems including asthma and the spread of tick-borne illnesses. Again, the heaviest burden often falls on the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. Climate change is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics as the common good of humanity and our planet are being challenged. And it’s urgent: The long-term drought in California threatens the breadbasket of our nation.

We ask Maine’s congressional delegation to support the Clean Power Plan should it face any challenges in Congress. It would reward Maine for its climate leadership and ensure we have fresh air to breathe by limiting carbon pollution at power plants across the country. Experts say it is clear that this pollution, though emanating from other states, clearly is impacting Maine in many ways.

While it is not comprehensive, the plan is a step forward. We pray our political leaders recognize the importance of addressing these challenges and, by acting now, can help ensure that future generations experience the beauty and purity of nature, God’s gracious gift to all.

Bishop Robert P. Deeley, JCD, is the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. Bishop Stephen Lane is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.

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