Simon and Ana tell us that Jesus is a ‘light to show truth.” In Psalm 27 we pray, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Are we Dominicans really committed to truth— the truth grounded in reality and experience? Reality is overwhelming these days, from devastating droughts and fires, hurricanes and earthquakes; the violence of inequities seen in state and civil oppression; refugees, trafficking and intolerances.
Another truth is looming for those of us in the United States as well – the loss of the concept of the ‘common good’ for all and, as a result, loss of clean water, air and healthy foods.
Do you like fish—perhaps fileted catfish or red snapper? Are you aware that the fish you eat as well as the bottled water you drink for your health from may contain minuscule particles of plastic?
Fumes from diesel trucks in transport may have contaminated your ‘fresh’ beans or broccoli or bananas. Our bees (honey and the noxious ones) are dying because of pesticides (neonicotinoids); without their existence, our farms lose the fertilization of flowers which become seeds and fruits. Our bountiful natural world of biodiversity is being lost to chemical pollution as found in Roundup (glyphosates) or pesticides (chlorpyrifos) which in turn impact negatively our human health—nervous system, breathing, brain development.
Back in 2016 [at the beginning of the Trump presidency], the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility stated:
Environmental regulations are designed to shift the cost of pollution away from individuals, insurance companies and businesses that are affected by climate change, and onto the companies responsible for creating the pollution.
The current administration has taken a contrary stance through its focus on cost/benefit analysis for business and eliminated so far 58 regulations and moving to reverse 37 others. Rules for companies to report and control toxic air emissions such as methane or benzene or remove the requirement for oil rig companies to have the money to remove the unproductive rig are considered burdensome and costly. If you live in Louisiana or Alabama in the vicinity of gas and oil refineries, you now breathe in more of these cancer carcinogens. The oil rigs in the Gulf being resold by Exxon Mobil or Chevron to independent oil drillers are like used cars whose new operators do not have finances to refurbish and maintain their rigs needed for the safety of rig-platform workers or to prevent more Deepwater Horizon-type explosions with its lasting pollution of the Gulf resources. Moreover, the rigs can now be abandoned to rust and leak into the fishing waters of the Gulf. As in the coal mining areas of the Appalachians, when the big seams of coal were mined, mountain top removal came in to get to the remnants. The land no longer supported the residents.
There are many other examples of rules abolished to the detriment of our health and safety:
- Coal power plants can now resume dumping their coal ash waste into unlined ponds or landfill which leak out into the groundwater their arsenic, mercury, lead, and chromium.
- Continued use of toxic pesticides such as chlorpyrifos for dusting food/fruit crops poisons area families, workers, and consumers.
- Weakened protections for wetlands and watershed areas, which are proven to reduce chemical run-off into lakes and rivers and to help prevent damaging floods.
- Deregulation of the levels of factory or chemical company releases of hazardous air toxins like benzene, dioxin, and lead cause health problems such as cancer and birth defects.
- Development projects are now fast-tracked to reduce the study of environmental consequences, so basic facts of water sources and flow, wind strength and directions, ground seepage are ignored. Cultural factors are also discounted.
- This administration ignores climate change caused by and exacerbated by industrial emissions, forest and land decimation which upset the natural biodiversity of Earth and the seasonality of rain and wind and sun.
These changes challenge all life to adapt to rapid change – a challenge that God’s creation, as wonderful as it is, just cannot meet.
The lights of truth as known through our study, contemplation, prayer must shine through in our communal and individual actions. Recovery of the concept of ‘the common good’ is vital to our well-being on Earth in health, safety, and peace.