Consuming and wasting upsets the ecological balance and is inherently unjust
By Michael M. Barrick
ALUM BRIDGE, W.Va. – When the environmental encyclical by Pope Francis is released Thursday, it will launch a critical philosophical and political debate. Indeed, at least one writer has predicted that the encyclical is a revolutionary assault upon capitalism.
It probably will be. And, it is long overdue. What the pope is doing is addressing the root cause of climate chaos – unbridled materialism that leads to consuming and wasting that upsets the planet’s delicate ecological balance. It also creates huge injustices in distribution of vital resources such as food and water, which then creates a whole new set of problems, not the least of which is war. Of course, we shouldn’t forget famine, pestilence, inadequate or nonexistent medical care and education.
In short, the threats of climate chaos cannot be overstated.
Here, in the heart of West Virginia, this is not just a philosophical debate. It is reality. Public health and safety, the environment, the economy and human services are all compromised by the Mountain State’s reliance upon a fossil fuel mono-economy. In the southern reaches of the state, it is Mountaintop Removal (MTR).
To learn more about MTR, read these articles:
Citing Medical Studies, Activists Call for End to Mountaintop Removal Permits
Federal and State Agencies Targeted for Lax Oversight of Mountaintop Removal
Environmental Groups target W.Va. DEP over Mountaintop Removal Permitting
Here, in the central and northern section of West Virginia – as well as in neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania – the threat is fracking, a slang word for hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting a fluid consisting of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale. This fractures the rock, releasing natural gas, which is then extracted. In West Virginia, the Marcellus shale, a layer of rock 3,500 – 8,000 feet below the surface, is the object of fracking. The vertical depth of the formation is about 150 feet. Whether recovered or left behind, the frack fluid presents problems. The wastewater contains not only the chemicals added to the water, but also heaving minerals and radioactive materials recovered as part of the extraction process.
You can read several articles about the impact of fracking here:
A Dirty Dozen Reason to Oppose Fracking
Attorney Crisscrosses West Virginia and Beyond to Teach About Pipelines
Victim in Fracking Accident had Warned County Commissioners of Roadway Dangers
Voices Out of the Wilderness
Incompetency and Complacency Increases Dangers from Fracking
From ‘Almost Heaven’ to ‘Almost Hell’
Breaking Ground, Breaking Hearts
Health and Well-Being of Residents Being Subordinated to Fracking Industry
Filmmaker Finds Compelling Story in Her Own ‘Backyard’
These stories indicate that Pope Francis understands that the debate about climate chaos is beyond determining its validity. The facts are clear; the climate is changing. It is doing so rapidly and unpredictably. That is why referring to it as climate chaos is most appropriate. Change sounds slow and benign. What we are experiencing is anything but that. We are experiencing weather swings that can only be described as chaotic – and deadly, whether immediately as in natural disasters or over time, through public health epidemics and ecological destruction. Its source is not a mystery. It is excess by humankind.
That he would speak to the subject is not surprising. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states, “The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”
What gives offense, apparently, is that the pope actually is going to offer a prescription for what ails us – conserve, consider your neighbor and care for creation. Good shepherds lead their sheep. Pope Francis is doing so.
I suppose in some quarters, the concept of taking care of your home is foreign. So, caring for one’s neighbor is likely considered a rather quaint notion. The teachings of Jesus Christ, however, are the opposite. Apparently, this pope takes very seriously his apostolic calling to proclaim the Gospel – all of it.
Let those who have ears to hear take it as seriously as he does.
© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider supporting our independent writing by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships. Learn more.
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