By Fernanda Scharfenberger
My life was changed the moment I realized the true effects climate change has had on my community of Louisville, Ky. I have known of the situation of climate change for quite a while, as most do but I had decided to keep the issue distant and not one of my top priorities.
As I saw headlines with words such as “drought”, “wildfires”, “thousands left without safe homes, and drinkable water”, I remember telling myself that there were other people who would do the work and surely there was plenty of time to act on this crisis. I was wrong.
Rainfall in Kentucky has drastically increased with 10 of our record-breaking years in terms of rainfall being in the last 50 years. This past September our community struggled with the deaths of three people — an immigrant taxi driver, a 15-year-old boy by the name of Davey and an 8-year-old boy by the name of Bryce. Their deaths were due to heavy periods of rain and flooding that had occurred.
The taxi driver had been caught by flash floods, the 15-year-old had been sucked into a drain pipe and the 8-year-old had been swept away into the sewer. Davey was a freshman at Trinity and I thought of the loss many of Davey’s own classmates would have to endure.
These three deaths came in a week where 3.02 inches of rain was recorded one night, breaking the record of 1.67 inches, which occurred in 1876. If this climate crisis is not acted upon, there will be more damage, and more loss of innocent lives.
So, in the midst of being stressed out for all of my midterms, juggling sports and academics, and worrying about my growing to-do list I decided that I had no choice but to act.
That’s where I learned about Sunrise’s call to action, set to be the largest youth climate mobilization of the year. Sunrise is a youth-led movement to stop climate change and create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. I had the privilege of journeying with 75 other youth from Kentucky to this action with our state showing up in the largest numbers at the event.
Since my return home my inactivity towards environmental issues has dramatically changed. I am now participating in the Louisville Sunrise Hub and Our Earth Now, which last year fundraised for solar panels at Catholic high schools.
Though Sunrise is not affiliated with any religious group, my choice to act related directly back to my faith.
This brings me to my question, why should we, as faithful Catholics, care and want to act on this issue?
God as the creator of the world calls us to care for all of his creation. In fact caring for creation is one of the seven tenets of Catholic social teaching.
The poor and marginalized suffer the most from economic and environmental injustice. This is seen in our own town of Louisville in areas such as Rubbertown.
Looking at the bigger picture the theme of caring for creation is as old as Genesis, and as clear as the Sermon on the Mount.
The reason that I am making this choice to act is larger than just one moment. I am choosing for my family, all families, and my future family. I am choosing to fight because I believe in a nation that looks after its most vulnerable communities and that works for the people.
This value of justice is my drive. This is a value that my family, faith community and the city of Louisville have instilled in me.
The question we should be asking ourselves is extended by Pope Francis, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”
This question hits close for me, as my generation is the one showing up to change the narrative and the direction of our planet. But we cannot do it by ourselves and there is no time to waste.
Fernanda Scharfenberger is a junior at Presentation Academy and a member of St. William Church.