Using Catholic Social Teaching to Combat Corporations Negative Effects on the Environment Simon Motherway

On April 20th, 2010 the biggest oil spill in history begun upon the Deepwater Horizon Rig owned by the British Petroleum Company. The rigs explosion killed eleven people and put a significant amount of wildlife and the environment in imminent danger.

“By the time the well was capped on July 15, 2010 (87 days later), an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil had leaked into the Gulf” (Frost, p.1). 3.19 million barrels of oil is 133,979,999 gallons. To get an idea I included a 16 second clip of underwater footage of the Oil spilling out of the well. Just in the 16 second clip below you get a slight idea of the amount of oil that leaked over that 87 day period.

In 2011, half of the area's bottlenose dolphins were sickened by lung disease. An NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) study reported this type of disease is caused by "toxic exposure to oil." Almost 20 percent were so ill they weren't expected to live.

Care for creation and dignity in work from Catholic Social Teaching were two main points that Bp should have used prior to the spill. They lost eleven men on that day, put a plethora of wild life in imminent danger and destroyed a mass amount of the vegetation in the sea and coastline.

Fracking happens all over and the everyday fracking along with the fossil fuel emission is a deadly combo for the earth. “Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention” (Francis p.190). Pope Francis is urging for a change and change needs to not just come from the top, but also from big business like BP and those polluting the earth daily to add to the millions/billions of dollars they already have.

"In 2010, the U.S. EPA estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water were used to fracture just 35,000 wells in the United States, more than was used by the city of Denver, Colorado in the same time period.” (Green Peace p.1).

Massive combustions of fossil fuels produce green house gases and big businesses contribute a lot to this problem. “Emissions linked to 50 investor-owned carbon producers, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Peabody, Shell and Total, were responsible for roughly 16 percent of the global average temperature increase from 1880 to 2010, and around 11 percent of the global sea level rise during the same time frame”(Heede p. 1).

Pope Francis tries to shine a light on the damage these fuels cause to people saying, “Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.”(Francis, p. 20). With the rate of usage fossil fuel usage from big corporations, there may come a day when we run out of fossil fuels and are living in one big smog.

Essentially these big companies right now have control over how fast our sea level rises and how fast the global average temperature rises.Pope Francis and Catholic Social Teaching both challenge us to take a look at the world as a whole not just now, but in the future as well. The goal is to look past ourselves and think about the future. It is not going to take just one individual like Pope Francis to fix the problem there needs to be worldwide change. We are treating the world we live in today literally as a garbage dump with no thought about the repercussions.

Pope Francis says, “All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.” (Francis p.14). The burden is not on one person, but instead on all of us to change.

Flint Michigan has been crying out for clean fresh water for years. When a change in water source was made to the Flint River thousands of people got sick from lead poising due to the lack of sufficient water treatment. The people in Flint are lacking a basic necessity of life, fresh water. Pope Francis warned of this danger in his Encylical saying, “Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls.”

“In 2010, the U.S. EPA estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water were used to fracture just 35,000 wells in the United States, more than was used by the city of Denver, Colorado in the same time period.” (Green Peace p.1). The water needs to be trucked in from outside sources, which costs money so instead many of these companies source the water locally, which in turn results in major impacts on the local water ways and water treatment facilities.

With the knowledge from Laudato Si and the guidance from the Catholic Social Teachings, a better world is attainable if we move our focus away from money and take a step back and look at the damage we have already done. Only then with the help of everyone will we see a cleaner and healthier earth.

Works Cited

Breslow, Jason. “Judge: BP Acted with ‘Gross Negligence’ in Gulf Oil Spill.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 4 Sept. 2014, www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/judge-bp-acted-with-gross- negligence-in-gulf-oil-spill/.

Fracking's Environmental Impacts: Water.” GREENPEACE New Zealand, www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/issues/fracking/environmental- impacts-water/.

Francis. “Laudato Si' (24 May 2015) | Francis.” Biography | Francis, w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa- francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.

Frost, Emily. “Gulf Oil Spill.” Ocean Portal | Smithsonian, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, 3 Apr. 2018, ocean.si.edu/gulf-oil-spill.

Heede, Richard. “Study Finds Top Fossil Fuel Producers' Emissions Responsible for as Much as Half of Global Surface Temperature Increase, Roughly 30 Percent of Global Sea Level Rise.” Union of Concerned Scientists, 7 Sept. 2017, www.ucsusa.org/press/2017/study-finds-top-fossil-fuel-producers- emissions-responsible-much-half-global-surface#.WvzywRMvzVo.

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