I had a driveway moment this weekend. You know – when you’re listening to the radio and don’t want to get out of your car?
I heard a phrase in a news story that was new to me – “climate refugee.” This phrase was defined as “people forced to flee due to alterations in the natural environment related to climate change.” I had never heard those words in that context, and I sat in the car to hear more.
The NPR story chronicled the stories of families in Louisiana who live in what are referred to as “vulnerable coastal areas” affected by increased flooding and sea level rise related to global warming. One family literally ties a canoe to their double-wide trailer and keeps “go” bags at the ready to row away from their home whenever it rains. Our sisters have taught religion and provided pastoral care to the most vulnerable along the bayous of Louisiana for years.
The Federal government had requested that government agencies cooperatively prepare for climate-related impact in 2013, and even awarded $48 million to move one community. But the Trump administration has rescinded this order, leaving more than 2,400 poor and elderly families on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico at the mercy of the weather.
Not only is the Trump Administration ignoring the scientific fact of climate change’s effect on coastal Louisiana, which has lost nearly 2,000 square miles to the Gulf of Mexico in the last 80 years, but it has put the area in more immediate danger as well. In December, the Administration began to roll back oil rig safety regulations enacted after the Deepwater Horizon Disaster in 2010, which dumped millions of gallons oil into the Gulf. In addition, the Trump Administration has also opened federal waters to new offshore oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico, creating a possible negative impact on tourism, fisheries, and recreation as well as the lives of those living on the coastline.
Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si, spoke of the importance of our oceans and waterways to the health of our planet. In response to this latest attack on the health of our oceans, the Adrian Dominican Sisters have released a statement urging elected leaders to oppose Trump’s dangerous unraveling of environmental protections. Let us also reach out to our representatives in government and industry to protect our oceans, our Earth, and those most vulnerable to environmental destruction.