The immediate effects of the oil spill pale in comparison to the economic and environmental damage for decades to come. While residents of the Gulf Coast wait for a resolution to the oil leak, despair and anger has set in.
What can people here in the Diocese of Green Bay do to offer comfort and help to our neighbors to the south and to our environment? First, as people of faith, we can offer up our prayers: for the welfare of those whose livelihood is linked to the coastal waters now polluted by oil; for the ingenuity of engineers and others who seek a remedy to end the catastrophe; and for an effective and timely cleanup of water and land polluted by the oil.
Secondly, we can reflect on how our lifestyles increase the demand for fossil fuels. Whether it is electricity in our homes or gas in our cars, workers take risks to replenish our energy sources. As we have seen in recent years, safety risks in the oil and mining industries are a real problem.
Dan Misleh, executive director of the Washington-based Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, told Catholic News Service June 16 that the oil spill is an occasion for “contrition.” He noted that the deaths of 11 oil rig workers come on the heels of the 29 West Virginia coal miners who died April 6.
“There’s a lot of risk in extracting fossil fuels that I think most of us take for granted,” Misleh told CNS. “We turn on the light switch and we get electricity. We start up the car and we go. … We haven’t caused their suffering, but by our appetite for energy we ask them to do riskier and riskier things … to run our economy.”
Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, also gives us thoughts to ponder about our consumption of fossil fuels. We need to be more prudent in our use of natural resources — and we need to be more humble, he said.
“Technology will advance. But if a relatively simple production process leaves us so helpless, what will we do if much more complex processes get out of hand, such as those affecting the energy hidden in the heart of matter or moreover in the processes of the formation of life?” he asked.
The suffering on the Gulf Coast continues. Let us examine our consciences and our lifestyles and determine what we can do to prevent future catastrophes in the name of creature comforts.