As an educator, I am entrusted every day with the well-being of children. Our children represent the very best of us; they are all our hopes for a better world embodied.
When it comes to fighting for a better world for future generations, I know we all are invested. But for those of us who have children or grandchildren, work with children, are an aunt or an uncle, godmother or godfather, the concept of “future generations” is not an abstract one; it’s a concept we immediately associate with a real child we love, and the type of world that they will inherit.
So when it comes to thinking about something like climate change and how scientists say it is harming this young generation, I don’t think of that in an abstract way. I think of the kids I work with, and what it means for their futures.
For many years, I was a science teacher at a Catholic high school. My colleagues and I taught our students the science of climate change, while also working to sharpen their moral compass using the foundation of our shared faith. I not only wanted my students to understand the science, I also wanted to motivate them to create a better world.
For Roman Catholics — really, for all of us — the imperative to act was heralded by Pope Francis in 2015 with his encyclical Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home. The mandate for every Christian to take stewardship of God’s creation is also made clear in the scriptures.
In Ezekiel 34:18, we are reproached for our lack of stewardship, so evident today in the global effects of climate change: “Is it not enough for you to feed on the green pastures? Must you also trample them with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink the pure water? Must you also muddy it with your feet?”
The stark scientific reality is laid out in the latest federal report on climate change, authored by 300 scientists from 13 different federal agencies. Oregon will see a 160 percent increase in toxic air levels levels in our kids’ lifetimes because of wildfires. Drought, as we have experienced in recent years, will become a seasonal trend. Heat-related deaths will rise. Our natural resource heritage and homegrown industries, from agriculture to skiing, will suffer.
Thankfully, there are public policy strategies developed to help us in our spiritual task to care for God’s creation. In Oregon, we have a chance this legislative session to move away from the use of fossil fuels toward cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy. The Clean Energy Jobs bill would place a limit and price on climate pollution from the largest polluters in the state, and secure greenhouse gas reductions and reinvestment into communities across Oregon.
It’s a bill that will create homegrown, family-wage paying, clean energy jobs and a thriving economy. Proceeds from the price on climate pollution will be used to build up and clean up communities hit first and worst by climate change and dirty fossil fuels — such as low-income, rural and communities of color.
Climate change won’t be resolved without broad, sweeping action on a community, state and national level. The Clean Energy Jobs bill is the biggest and boldest action we can take to protect the climate in Oregon. It’s a policy other states can model, meaning we have the chance to not only do our part, but create a framework that makes it easier for other states to do theirs too.
What is the most meaningful thing we as individuals can do to avoid the climate crisis? How do we answer our moral calling? Use your voice. Urge your legislator to pass this important legislation.
June Miller is a high school liaison for Lane Community College. She previously taught science at Marist Catholic High School and lives in Eugene.
By: June Miller