By Angélica Gonzalez-Apple
Program Manager, North America
Global Catholic Climate Movement
My son was only six months old, but already he was experiencing the climate emergency. Thirteen years ago, as another fire made worse by the climate crisis devastated my home state of California, high winds blew smoke and ash into our neighborhood.
After a few weeks of enduring the poor air quality, my little baby started coughing. A lot. Tomás’ persistent cough eventually became chronic asthma.
After the Mount Baldy fire was long extinguished, we were still in and out of emergency rooms for months. Before long, we decided that we couldn’t take what the climate crisis had wrought, and we moved to improve my son’s health.
The climate crisis set the stage for the wildfires that did long-term damage to my son’s lungs. Hotter and hotter years have created dry conditions that have made wildfires bigger and more dangerous than ever. Five of the six largest fires in modern California history occurred last year.
Today is World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, and I’m sharing my story to help raise awareness about how all of us can unite to combat desertification and drought, two of the many terrifying byproducts of the ecological crisis and climate emergency.
I encourage you to join the thousands of Catholics who are taking action by becoming a Laudato Si’ Animator, champions for Catholic action against the climate crisis.
During the free six-week Animator training, Animators from six continents come together to learn about the root causes of the climate crisis and the key messages of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’.
To finish the training, which I help lead, you’ll get to practice leading your community in caring for our common home. I warmly invite you to become a Laudato Si’ Animator today.
In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis addresses the pain we all should feel when we inflict harm upon creation through desertification.
“God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement” (LS 89).
These droughts, which lead to fires, inflict damage upon our ecosystems, all members of creation, and neighboring communities.
This year, my region of North America is bracing for what is expected to be yet another record-breaking fire season. In an all too familiar pattern, unfortunately, this winter we had very little rainfall. We worry what awaits us as summer extends into August and September.
Droughts are not unnatural to California. Our mediterranean climate has long had dry summers and mild winters. But the climate crisis and rising temperatures are aggravating the situation.
Drought, as defined by the National Weather Service, isn’t a sudden onset of characteristics but rather a terrifying trend. It’s classified after a period of time, when the prolonged lack of water in a system causes problems in a particular area, such as crop damages or supply issues.
With drier conditions in my region, as seen through the browning of hillsides and the dying of trees, the risk of large fires increases. Along with wildfire risks, short water supply is putting immense pressure on my state’s agricultural industry, which grows over one-third of the country’s vegetables and supplies two-thirds of the fruits and nuts for the entire U.S.
My family is too familiar with the impacts of wildfires and the harmful air pollutants they produce. But we’re not sitting back and waiting for the fires to come; we’re joining Catholics all over the world and working to bring Laudato Si’ to life. Please join us and help create a better future for our children and future grandchildren.