In the Laudato Si’ Pope Francis wrote “[The earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” How willing are people to make sacrifices to heal the earth and ensure a healthy planet for our youth and future generations? We all have the ability to adjust our energy usage as a meaningful way to make sacrifices for mother earth and one another.
Globally, crude oil provides about 33% of the world’s energy and 24% comes from natural gas. Humans continue to rely on coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, for about 27% of energy needs, down from 40% in 2013. The non-fossil fuel energy sources make up the rest. In 2000, wind delivered about 0.2% of the world’s energy and now contributes over 6%. In order to slow climate change, the burning of fossil fuels must decrease much more. When the pandemic slowed the transportation sector in 2020, the world’s fossil fuel production dropped. This translated into cleaner air and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – added proof of the pollution created from the burning of fossil fuels.
The world is back to near pre-pandemic production of fossil fuels – counter to the requirements to slow climate change. While more jobs are now done remotely and require less commuting, other changes have taken place, such as the reliance on home deliveries of goods. Many more packages have been delivered to homes since the pandemic, meaning more miles by delivery vehicles and much more packaging waste.
Individuals can do many things (small and/or large sacrifices) to reduce fossil fuel energy consumption. These include reducing and consolidating trips/errands, choosing electricity from clean energy, using daylight and passive solar heat (let the light in!), implementing more effective building insulation, shoveling, sweeping and raking (body energy vs burning gas!), taking public transportation (including school buses!), using LED lighting, unplugging chargers (some studies estimate that 75% of the energy used to power household electronics is consumed when they are switched off), reducing the water heater temperature, adjusting home thermometers a degree or two, reducing and consolidating purchases – especially those delivered to your house, and washing clothes in cold water. Small sacrifices by many people will make a measurable difference toward healing Mother Earth.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.