Vail Daily column: How Catholics and citizens are taking responsibility for climate change | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: How Catholics and citizens are taking responsibility for climate change

Don Rogers
My View

Don Rogers

The Catholics have begun to divest their rather large assets from fossil fuels. It's about time the U.S. government did, too.

I have faith in the Catholics, but not so much in weaning off the subsidies, that most pernicious welfare of all, for corporations. Listen, we can't even shed mohair, never mind wasting public money on Exxon that ought to go to, I don't know … schools?

I know, the same government spending $700 billion annually, according to the International Monetary Fund, to prop up fossil fuels also has sanctioned the EPA to raise the bar on carbon emissions controls.

Money speaks louder than words, though. Policy and laws toy at the fringes, for all the credit professional talkers try to give legislation and litigation and regulation.

But something more powerful than money has begun to exert itself. When we look back, the pope may well have tipped the scales with his encyclical. Old Testament stewardship of the Earth runs a lot closer to his statement than largely Protestants slipping the hook of responsibility for what was entrusted to us.

A trickle of moral imperative, leading the divestment movement among not just the green funds but the Rockefellers and now the church, may well hasten a tide that washes away the artificial props for what we well know to be dirty energy. After all, there are no great gulf oil spills if the stuff ain't pumping.

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There's something more powerful yet, though hard as hell to awaken: the mass of regular people deciding to do something different, better.

This was what Monday's all-day Climate Challenge and Energy Fair at Colorado Mountain College's Edwards campus was really about.

It began with the usual lectures laying out the challenges and what various entities are doing. Yes, in their zeal the true believers, as well as the hardcore deniers, tend to overstate their cases, pulling equivocal evidence into their respective orbits and taking on a churchy certainty about their positions. But advocates by definition are evangelistic, as they must be. This is what it takes to overcome inertia.

The afternoon tapped into something I've found largely missing in the discussion about climate change, which sounds so huge and beyond what ordinary folk can do when whole governments and companies do little other than add to the problem.

The participants broke into four groups and did what techies do routinely while inventing such marvels as self-driving cars and making smart phones out of eyeglasses. They call it rapid prototyping.

The groups at CMC worked on challenges in education, engaging more Latino residents in the issue, encouraging zero waste and figuring out how to entice more Eagle County residents to take advantage of programs that can make their homes and businesses more efficient with pretty good money savings, too.

Their seeds of solutions run a bit long for this space. I expect we'll report on progress that began in these sessions as they become real. The point for me is the participants helped develop actions their group leaders actually will do.

Doing something takes helplessness away. And we're far from helpless. We're each a grain of sand, a drop of water — the most powerful force in nature to shape whole landscapes.

The props for fossil fuel businesses are more fragile than we imagine. The conspiracies and natural conservative longing to hold on to the past are no match for change when it's cheaper, easier and better for each of we grains of sand.

We know this simply by the smart phone, as an earlier generation knew by their cars replacing horse-drawn carriages and we'll understand as electric or hydrogen-fueled cars replace antiquated ones requiring gasoline.

The growing moral imperative to unhook from dirty energy sources, knowledge individuals indeed do make a difference, and economic progress all give me a lot of long-term hope for the future.

It's the present that's so frustrating, this era in which we've mistaken license for responsibility.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.