The U.S. bishops' committee leader on domestic justice said that clean air and environmental stewardship should be serious concerns within the pro-life movement.
“It is hard to imagine a situation that so clearly illustrates this link between the environment and life issues as the impact of mercury and other toxic air pollution on children’s health,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., who heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“Children, inside and outside the womb, are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards and exposure to toxic pollutants in the environment.”
Bishop Blaire made his remarks at a Nov. 7 address to leaders from various religions at the Festival of Faiths conference in Louisville, Ky. titled, “Sacred Air: Breath of Life.”
In his speech, he said that people honor and serve God “when we care for all living beings by protecting the air, which is God’s gift to us.”
Bishop Blaire made note in his address of the threats posed by mercury and other toxic air pollution to children, who are “more exposed than adults to such health hazards.”
“It is well known that power plants are the largest source of mercury and other toxic air pollution in the United States,” he said. “Scientists tell us that mercury from power plants is contaminating our lakes, streams, rivers and fish.”
“This is of great concern for pregnant women and their unborn and newborn children,” he added, reporting that a staggering “one in six babies are now born with harmful levels of mercury in their blood.”
Bishop Blaire also explained that excess greenhouse gases—primarily from the burning of fossil fuels—are seriously impacting our climate “with significant consequences for humanity.”
He said that just as the poorest U.S. citizens—such as migrant farmworkers, the elderly, the homeless—are the most impacted by local air pollution, poor people around the world suffer the most from climate change.
“They do not have the resources to protect themselves from extended droughts or severe flooding,” he said. “They do not have insurance policies to guard against crop failures, homes lost to floods or diseases exacerbated by hunger and thirst.”
“Unless we begin seriously to address our carbon footprint,” he stressed, “future generations may experience even greater hardship.”
Bishop Blaire cited Pope Benedict's 2009 encyclical letter “Caritas in Veritate,” which stated that the Church has “a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere.”
“As stewards of God’s creation we can live more simply, using the earth’s resources wisely, reducing our consumption, working to eliminate air pollution and reducing our carbon footprint,” he underscored.
“In the end it just makes good sense to want to have clean air for our children and families to breathe and for future generations.”