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Br. Steve Herro's Blog


Br. Steve HerroBr. Steve Herro, O. Praem., professed solemn vows to the Community of St. Norbert Abbey in 1991. For several years, he headed the justice and peace ministry of St. Norbert Abbey and presently serves as Manager of Mission and Ministry, Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria, VA. His current ministry connects him to national Catholic issues and Church ministers throughout the country.

DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro's own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of neither of the organizations, St. Norbert Abbey nor Catholic Charities USA, nor of any of the organizations' members.

April 1, 2015
Entry #38: "Personal discovery as a result of a night at the Environmental Film Festival"

by Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

One of my favorite Washington, D.C., pastimes is the annual Environmental Film Festival. While much of the country is glued to various forms of March (basketball) Madness, Washingtonians are treated to more than 100 environmental film options throughout the District. Most are free; the genre and variety of targeted age levels satisfy any eco-moviegoer.

I have been boning up on the why, how, and aftereffects of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for several years. Hence, when I saw the listing for the series Dear President Obama, Americans Against Fracking in One Voice, I was immediately intrigued. The producer addressed us before and after the showing; he is not done with the production, and our comments based on the portions of the uncompleted film could help him round out the work. One premise of the movie is this: If Governor Cuomo can ban fracking in the entire state of New York, why cannot the President of the United States ban fracking in the entire country?

I left the film more convinced than ever that fracking is not in our best interest. Yes, natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel than most, but its burning for energy still emits more carbon than solar, wind, or geothermal energy production. Furthermore, the process has a gigantic water footprint and processed waste products can cause extreme groundwater poisoning. But I left the movie thinking to myself and asking one environmental organizer who was collecting signatures:

1.  Do we really think that any president has the courage to sign an executive order against fracking? The current president acknowledges his own failure to execute the closing of Guantanamo Bay and has failed to act decisively on the TransCanada pipeline in six years. The Washington climate does not bode well for unilateral bold actions.

2. As political opponents have wasted days bringing to vote 50 bills to strike the Affordable Health Care Act and have stalled executive action on much needed immigration reform (that they have refused to address), can you just imagine what partisan adversaries would do with an attempt to ban fracking? In the current political climate, I contend that any adversary would find a way to take an opponent to court over a cancer cure!

3. Why are faith leaders so reluctant to emphatically oppose a process that poses such environmental (carbon emission) and health risks (groundwater poisoning)? A roomful of Catholic social action leaders also scratched their heads over this same question when we discussed it at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in February 2014.

And what about you, Steve? How did my thought process and behavior that night surprise me? On the one hand, I noticed how “resolved” I have come to discount any hope for legislative and social progress because of Congressional and Executive gridlock. On the other hand, I also noticed how I freely disclosed to the petition worker that I worked in social ministry for the Catholic Church. To be honest, I believe that this might have been the first time that I articulated this role in a non-Catholic social action setting at the outset of a conversation.

Even after 15 years of Catholic social action ministry, there is still lots of room for personal, spiritual, and professional growth.


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