May 22, 2016

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For many years, I have felt a calling to protect our environment and our communities through my personal and professional pursuits. My Catholic faith has been a key element of this for me. I am called to care for God’s creation so that all living creatures can thrive together. Climate change is a threat to life as we know it.

This place we call home – our planet – is the only planet we have. We share this place on Earth with other living creatures, and our descendants will inherit whatever we leave behind.

In 2001, 12 bishops of the Northwest stated in a pastoral letter, “God entrusts the Earth to human care. People are the stewards of God's world.” These faith leaders were urging watershed-wide conservation along the Columbia River. I was deeply inspired by  the letter and joined my parish’s environmental stewardship as a result. The message is true for our environment as a whole.

In the creation story in Genesis, God gives human beings dominion over all living creatures:  “fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.” However, later in Genesis, God makes a covenant with Noah and with every living creature-- as equals after the flood. I feel called to live in a way that does not dominate other creatures and instead recognizes our profound interdependence with all living things. 

Our environment is part of God’s creation on Earth, and we must care for God’s creation. Man-made pollution is causing more severe, deadly storms, drought and ever-worsening wildfires. Pollution is changing the water in the oceans so it is no longer habitable for shellfish and shaking up the food chain. We must stop this pollution and reverse the damage done. We can transition from polluting energy to clean, renewable sources from sunshine, the wind and the heat from the earth.

I see the biggest challenge of our times being climate change. Matters of social justice, equity, and sustainability are all key concerns in my life and I work to make a difference in our world – for humankind and all of God’s creation. For me personally, the role of faith plays a strong role in why I care – quite simply, it is a moral issue.

Jackie Yerby has been a parishioner at the St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Portland since 1999. She is a lector and a Eucharistic minister. She served on the board of Catholic Charities from 2006 – 2012, and was also the lead organizer for Catholic Oregonians for Marriage Equality.