By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.
The ‘transportation prison’ is trapping more and more people in the United States, unable to keep up with the renewed sprawl of jobs and homes. In ‘Laudato Si,’ Pope Francis described the ‘suffering’ associated with a worldwide dependence on cars, ‘causing traffic congestion, raising the level of pollution, and consuming enormous quantities of non-renewable energy’ (No. 153).
—“The Right to Ride,” America magazine, January 2, 2017 (page 5)
Earth Day is April 22, 2017; the more ambitious supporters extend it to Earth Week, April 22-29, 2017; the most ambitious supporters extend it to Earth Month, April 2017. How about considering the connection between transportation and Catholic Social Teaching this month?
Pope Francis’ work to connect transportation to care for our common home is quite pertinent in my small corner of the world:
- St. Norbert College leaders cite a lack of parking as a major challenge facing the institution, and the college is remapping the campus to replace its existing First Street.
- The 2016 Brown County LIFE (Leading Indicators For Excellence) Study reports that 85 percent of all Brown County workers drive alone to their jobs; the state average for Wisconsin is 81 percent and the national average is 77 percent.
- Wisconsin’s governor and legislative leaders, though of the same party, cannot agree on how to fund Wisconsin’s state roads and highways.
Our communities pay dearly to meet the American love affair with single-person transit and car ownership. Convenience and independence have great indirect costs, including dirtier air, less fit citizens, expensive roads and highways, and sacrifice of green space and farmland for road construction. Mass transit is indeed a common good; its support falls clearly within the purview of Catholic Social Teaching.
How about this Earth Day 2017 resolution?
Commit to reduce the times you drive alone to work AND commit to reduce trips to the store for a single item or purpose.