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Maybe coronavirus pandemic has taught us how we can help in maintaining our environment: Effie Caldarola

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Reminders to be environmentally aware hang in a school.

Maybe you’ve read about people, who during our time of pandemic isolation, discovered rats had built nests under the hoods of their parked, neglected cars.

Apparently all those empty restaurant trash bins drove rats to find new accommodations and more suburban residential spots for dinner. Yikes.

Effie Caldarola
Effie Caldarola writes for the Catholic News Service column “For the Journey.” (CNS photo)

At this news, I immediately I took my car out for a spin to clear out the cobwebs, whether literal or metaphorical.

While cruising, (without rats, fortunately), I marveled at the nearly full tank of gas that had been in my car for weeks.

The wonderful news is that due to our enforced stay-at-homes and stay-parked cars, carbon emissions have “plunged at an unprecedented 17%” during the pandemic, according to a May article in The Washington Post.

“The wave of shutdowns and shuttered economies … fueled a momentous decline,” said the Post.

We’ve seen clear vistas in cities like Los Angeles during isolation. We’ve heard about animals venturing out again, like the fox who visits my daughter’s backyard in New Jersey.

All of this is good news. Well, maybe not the rats.

But here’s the more sobering news: These drastic carbon reductions and this friendlier natural world won’t last when things ramp up again. And we’ve just had a taste of the drastic reductions we need to turn the tide of climate change.

Climate change is real, it’s here and it’s an existential threat. And while we’re still struggling with the threat of COVID-19, we might harken to the warnings Pope Francis wrote about in “Laudato Si’,” his landmark encyclical on the environment which is now marking its fifth anniversary.

But let’s be positive. Let’s know that with God’s help, we’re up to meeting this challenge.

We’re up to reminding the candidates running for office this fall that we care about the environment. Let’s send those emails, write those letters, attend those candidate forums.

It will take government action around the world to save our earth. We need the Paris climate accord and much more.

Meanwhile, we’re up for personal change. Most of us recycle. Many are cutting down on plastics and reducing overall consumption. Composting is gaining popularity.

A local Catholic high school led the way by composting everything they can from their lunchroom as well as paper from around the school. Several public and private schools followed their lead by contracting with the same company. Waste is diverted from the landfill and transformed into beautiful soil. We should rejoice when we see this progress.

Raise your hand if you’ve promised, like me, to never use toilet paper so profligately again. A small change, but let’s multiply it by millions.

I am very eager to see folks back at work and see small business surviving and thriving. But I also hope we change the way we view our economy. More, more, more seems to be our national mantra.

What if we look at what we fundamentally value and began to realize that sometimes less is better than more, and that we have an unhealthy national obsession with acquiring “stuff.”

What if we endeavored to have a society where “economic growth” was not our national marker of progress? What if corporate leaders decided they have enough and began to share more with their hardworking employees?

I love this quote from Herbert Hoover, the president at the beginning of the Great Depression: “The only trouble with capitalism is capitalists. They’re too damn greedy.”

Let’s be hopeful and proactive. Take a walk, thank God for the beauty of this world and ask how you can help.