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Archives Catholic Climate Ambassador comes to St. Peter’s in Plattsburgh
Catholics urged to care for environment

May 10, 2017

By Shawn Ryan
Staff writer

Plattsburgh  - Planet Earth is sick. So sick in fact, she’s running a temperature that is climbing year after year. Dr. GaciochWe are her only doctor, and it’s up to Catholics to see to it that she is healed.

That was the gist of a talk given at St. Peter’s Church by Dr. Gerry Gacioch, a cardiologist and activist from Rochester, who is a leading voice for Catholic Environmental Stewardship.

Citing Pope Francis’ ground-breaking Laudato Si, Praise to You, about Catholics’ responsibility to protect the only Earth given to us by God, Dr. Gacioch gave both a strategy and a pep talk for those who hope to take up this mantel and run with it.

With fair warning given, the first part of Dr. Gacioch’s talk and Power Point presentation chronicled the ills facing our globe. From steadily rising temperatures (2015 was the hottest year on record, only to be surpassed by 2016 as the hottest year on record, and 2017 starting in its recent predecessor’s footprints) to 20 million people displaced each year by climate change, to children in the developing world living their entire lives in city-sized landfills, the picture he laid out is  dire.

But according to both Dr. Gacioch and Pope Francis, change is possible. It starts right here, and starts with the people who he calls climate change believers.

Throughout the dioceses in the United States, numerous churches can be found who have already started down that road.

At St. Peter’s for instance, an Environmental Stewardship Committee was started 10 years ago by Father John ClimateYonkovig.

The group meets regularly to discuss everything from local energy-saving measures that can be enacted on a parish level, to national and world political activities geared towards positively affecting climate change.

Getting involved in committees that already exist, and starting them where they don’t, is the type of grass-roots activism that Dr. Gacioch points out has long ushered in change in this country. Educate yourselves in the facts he says, and speak out.

“The climate deniers are just like the people in the 1950s and 60s who wanted to get people to believe that cigarettes weren’t bad for you,” he said. “Start by thanking God for what we have, then roll up your sleeves and work on the problems. Even though we’re doing O.K. now, the Pope says we can’t rest on our laurels.”

When getting involved in grass-roots education and activism, Dr. Gacioch warned people that Catholics will come up against an adamant, vocal and often confrontational fringe of climate change deniers.

His approach to these people is simple, and grounded firmly in Catholic tradition.

“Don’t respond to hate with hate,” he said. “We’re going to love them to death, and we’re going to win.”

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