Religious leaders across a number of faiths are calling on the government of British Columbia to halt its plans to expand coal exports.
“We state emphatically that making money at the expense of the health and prosperity of the planet is wrong,” write clergy and faith leaders from Sikh, Jewish, Unitarian, Quaker, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church of Canada, Presbyterian, and Evangelical Lutheran communities along the southern coast, including Texada Island, the Sunshine Coast, Delta, New Westminster and Surrey in an open letter addressed to the Premier Christy Clark and three of her ministers.
The letter was a response to the B.C. government’s quiet approval of an expansion of coal exports from Texada Island in March. The move will increase shipments to between 10 and 20 times the current level, although residents of the island are already complaining that the beaches near the terminal are contaminated with arsenic laden coal.
Citing moral grounds, the leaders are asking the premier “to reconsider the recently approved permit for the augmentation of the Texada Island port facility that would enable the increased coal export, and to phase out all U.S. thermal coal exports from B.C. ports.”
Coal is at the root of “horrific air pollution problems” linked to rising CO2 emissions in China, the group states in their letter, adding we are morally responsible for any human suffering its export causes. “Contributing to the increase in coal-related disability among the Chinese weighs heavily on our conscience,” they write.
B.C.’s relatively small share of the coal supply does not mitigate the province's responsibility to act, they note.
“In our weekly sermons we encourage our congregations to adopt a sustainable lifestyle,” they say. “Now our congregations are asking us to act as emissaries of their message to you, to embrace a shift in the way to do business. Therefore we will not stand idly by when we see local actions that will contribute to climate destabilization.”
This call comes after Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged Canadians to examine the morality of profiting from oilsands at the expense of environmental health. In an editorial published in the Ottawa Citizen on May 9, the Nobel Peace Laureate called opposition to pipeline expansion a moral imperative.
“I stand in solidarity with communities across Canada and the United States that are opposing the proposed oilsands pipelines,” he wrote. “The struggle of citizens against the pipelines puts them on the front lines of one of the most important struggles in North America today: stopping the reckless expansion of the oilsands.”
Allowing the continued expansion of oilsands, he believes, makes us morally culpable for putting humanity at risk.
“Canada is now faced with a profoundly moral choice: Will the country embrace the oil industry’s plans for radical expansion of the oilsands and the pipelines that come with it, or will it slow down the frenzied rush and focus its efforts on another path that leads us as a global community in a more hopeful direction?”
He will be speaking at a two-day conference in Fort McMurray on May 31.
The Vatican also recently hosted a five-day conclave on sustainability and ethics. The event ended with a short meeting between Pope Francis and San Diego climate change researcher Ram Ramanathan. Afterward, the professor of atmospheric and climate science at Scripps Institution of Oceanography felt hopeful Pope Francis would help advance the goals of climate scientists.
Image Credit: Jordan Oram via Flickr