On June 1, President Donald Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, an accord adopted in 2015.
But in parts of the U.S. church the pope’s encyclical has sparked creativity and innovation with impacts not so easily set aside. One such experiment in California that the Vatican itself highlighted is the Diocese of Monterey’s advocacy of Community Choice Energy.
In the Diocese of Monterey, where some 200,000 Catholics live in four different counties, Bishop Richard J. Garcia had instituted a diocesan-wide climate campaign to consider concrete actions the diocese could take in response to “Laudato Si’.” He was inspired by the pope’s words and also by the realities of his diocese; five years of heat and drought had been brutal for farmers and their workers, most of whom are Mexican. Recent months saw three years worth of rainfall, causing floods, mudslides and the loss of homes and threatening the viability of the area’s drinking water.
Deacon Warren Hoy, who oversees the diocese’s environmental portfolio, says: “People [here] were feeling climate change in their day-to-day lives; the weather was affecting the way they live. So ‘Laudato Si’’ was not some weird thing that the pope wanted to talk about; it was an actual, physical, right-here-in-my-world issue.”
Meanwhile, in nearby Santa Cruz, the Romero Institute, an advocacy organization named after Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero and dedicated to serving underprivileged communities in California, had decided in light of “Laudato Si’” to pivot towards advocacy for Community Choice Energy. The non-profit Monterey Bay Community Power had a proposal on the books. It represented the first multi-county effort in the state—one that could potentially benefit 285,000 people both economically and environmentally by allowing them to direct more of their energy consumption to clean renewables.
In the diocese the institute found an unexpectedly eager partner. Bishop Garcia publicly endorsed the M.B.C.P. proposal and called on his priests and pastors to get their parishioners involved. He also allowed representatives of the Romero Institute to speak after Masses, an action that the institute’s deputy director Daniel Paul Nelson believes allowed them to reach some 30,000 of the 40,000 Catholics attending Masses in Monterey on any given weekend.
Almost 6,000 Catholics ended up signing individual letters of support for the M.B.C.P., which were then presented to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors by Mr. Hoy at a public hearing. The county went on to accept the proposal as did almost every other local jurisdiction. Of the 270,000 ratepayers now in the M.B.C.P., Mr. Nelson estimates that 120,000 to 145,000 came on board as a result of the action of motivated Catholics.
Full story at America Magazine.