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Pope's Message on Global Warming Resonates in Utah

Judy Fahys/KUER
A fire scar in central Utah that caused downstream damage for years to come. The cost of wildfires and flooding are expected to increase with climate change.

  Pope Francis lent his voice Thursday to the argument that climate change is a moral problem with the release of his long-awaited encyclical on the issue.

Several groups in Utah are embracing the message.

Juliana Boerio-Goates is parish coordinator for the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Orem. She’s also a retired Brigham Young University physical sciences professor who’s grateful to hear Pope Francis talking about climate change in such strong, moral terms. His strongly worded message isn’t just for Christians but all humanity, she says. And it goes deeper than gas-guzzling cars and energy-efficient light bulbs.

“I think those are some of the simple lifestyle changes he’s encouraging us to think about,” she says, “Do I need the biggest, fastest, best-est? Or can I live a more simple life so that others can just live?”

Utah Catholic leaders will develop a kind of lesson plan this fall for putting the Pope’s ideas into action locally.

It’s the sort of work already being done by Interfaith Power and Light, a national, multi-denominational group with a Utah chapter headed by Susan Soleil. She says the Pope, in the encyclical, has refocused the conversation by acknowledging that the people least responsible for global warming suffer its harshest affects.

“We can’t talk about anymore whether or not the science is accepted,” she says. “We really just have to engage in the work that brings down our carbon footprint, because of the impact on the poor all around the world.”

Soleil says the encyclical can and should be a springboard among people of all faiths for a dialogue that’s needed urgently.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, declined to comment on the encyclical but did  provide a link to a church web page about environmental stewardship and conservation.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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