(Note: I submitted this Letter to the Editor of the Baltimore Sun hoping that it would be published today, 1-8-2020, the opening of the Maryland General Assembly. Our lawmakers must prioritize action on the climate emergency along with the many other bills, especially those related to education, that will better the lives of Marylanders. But this is about making lives still possible beyond this decade we have just begun.)
Reading about the opening of the Maryland 2020 Legislative Session (“Education Tops List of State Priorities” Jan. 5), I had to applaud the emphasis on education. With one daughter teaching at a Baltimore high school and the other working for Baltimore City Community College, I want both to have the resources they need to succeed as educators. Yet much as I think of education as a top priority, I could not help but think of Greta Thunberg, the now 17-year old Swedish child climate activist, who at age 15 chose to sit outside the Swedish Parliament instead of attending school. Her point? Why should she go to school to learn when the adults were destroying her future by burning up her planet? The house is on fire, as she put it (see Australia for the latest example), and the highest priority should be to stop fossil-fueling the fire. Attention must be paid, and right away. Thunberg’s action launched a worldwide climate strike movement, but will we see evidence of that urgency in Maryland’s 2020 legislative priorities? Last Sunday I attended the 43rd District Legislative Town Hall. I heard my Senator and Delegates speak of a host of legislation they will introduce to make our lives better; but I was listening for legislation not just to better our lives, but to make the continuation of our lives possible. I heard too little of that. All my legislators proposed to do were good things but will be meaningless if the climate is in full collapse by the end of this decade. Governor Hogan’s CARES energy legislation has some good elements (like not counting as clean the energy from trash incineration), but falls way short of what we need; and it backtracks by relying too much on widening highways, neglecting public transit and building out the infrastructure for fracked gas. When will the climate emergency and climate action top the agenda for state lawmakers? When my pastor, Fr. Joe Muth of St. Matthew Catholic Church, delivers the opening invocation for the Assembly, I pray that he prays for meaningful climate action this session.