The end may be near, but radical change can save the Earth, says climate activist Mary Nichols – Episcopal News Service


Environmental attorney and climate activist Mary D. Nichols gave a lecture to Margaret Parker during the annual meeting of the Diocese of Los Angeles on November 13 held in Riverside, California. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

[Diocese of Los Angeles] Unless radical changes are made to current energy use, “the guy with the sign that says, ‘The end is near’ is right – probably before the end of this century,” environmental lawyer and climate activist Mary D. Nichols told delegates who attended the Nov. 13 annual meeting of the Diocese of Los Angeles in Riverside.

But there is great hope if people of faith work together on solutions, added Nichols, a parishioner of St. Mary’s Church. James in-the-City in Los Angeles, giving a two-year lecture by Margaret Parker at the Diocesan Convention. She has just returned from the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP26 from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Canon for the ordinary Melissa McCarthy presented Nichols as the “Queen of Green” who was declared “the only most influential environmental regulator in history”. McCarthy attended COP26 virtually, as part of a delegation by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church. (See a related story here.)

“If you’ve watched our skies become less smog, you have to thank Mary Nichols for that,” said McCarthy, who should lead a new diocesan climate change task force.

Nichols, a graduate of Yale University School of Law, is currently a distinguished visiting associate at Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy. She is a former chair of the California Air Resources Committee, where she held the position of attorney before she completed her last term on December 31, 2020. She was appointed to the committee by Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr. (1975-82 and 2010-18) and were reappointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (2007-2010) and Governor Gavin Newsom (2019-2020). She was also the California Secretary of Natural Resources (1999-2003), appointed by Governor Gray Davis.

McCarthy said Nichols started in Riverside where, as a new attorney, she sued the federal government, arguing that under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency “must force California to develop the right plan to tackle pollution.”

Mission to spread the word about California

While the Glasgow conference ended without a “big, courageous agreement,” the fight against climate change is taking place at the state and local levels, as seen in California’s progressive politics, said Nichols, whose address was often interrupted by enthusiastic applause.

For example, “when California introduced a‘ restriction and trade ’or carbon system, the state required the power industry to purchase permits to cover their carbon emissions. The state has also offered incentives to reduce those emissions by switching to efficiency improvements or providing carbon-free electricity, such as wind and solar, to its customers. The benefit should have been passed on to consumers in the form of credit for bills, ”she said.

The point is to place the burden of meeting climate requirements on those responsible for switching to cleaner fuels, while sparing their customers the cost and impossible task of switching to cleaner fuels.

Nichols ’personal mission for at least a decade has been to“ spread the word about California’s zero-emission mandate for new cars and trucks … (which) has done more to inspire growing demand for advanced technology vehicles and a broad response from manufacturers than any other individual factor. She said.

Other significant climate actions in California include:

  • A goal of 100% renewable electricity and low-carbon fuel standards that uses a charge for gasoline and conventional diesel fuel to provide incentives for renewable biodiesel and other ultra-low-emission fuels;
  • The first oil refinery converted to produce 100% renewable aviation fuel – located in Los Angeles. Two more such conversions are in preparation.

Nichols said the Glasgow conference also offered opportunities to learn from what others are doing, “like Ikea’s campaign to make all its worldwide deliveries by 2025 by zero-emission trucks or New Mexico’s plans to wean itself off its role as one of the the best oil and gas producers in the United States by 2045.

Great thinking management; it works out of love, not out of fear

Switching from the side effects of fossil fuels is necessary, and it is the responsibility of people of faith, Nichols said, to look for tools to make the transition happen as quickly as possible and with as little harm to individuals as possible.

We need to “act out of hope and out of love, not out of fear … to deal with each other, spread good deeds, try solutions and keep trying,” she said.

“The persistence of poverty, racism, unequal justice requires us to keep working. Addressing the climate change disaster must be done as part of and in conjunction with our ethical duty to address these evils. And don’t be afraid to think big. “

Churches and individuals can begin by integrating sustainable energy into ongoing plans, whether it involves asset management or the investment of diocesan funds.

“We can all learn more about the possibilities of greening our environment with trees adapted to the climate, which helps reduce the cost of air conditioning, preserve imported water, reduce food waste and disposable plastic in our schools and homes. But, ”she added,“ we also need to insist that governments at all levels stop subsidizing the oil and gas industry and force them to clean up their waste.

Seeking allies is also important, she said.

“As car companies work together to reduce the high cost of batteries, we can find ways to share purchases and services with neighboring institutions. Above all, we must support each other by talking about our concerns and learning what can be done.

“If we find the energy and courage to start a conversation, I believe we can discover new ways to succeed in this monumental but absolutely essential task of governance. I look forward to taking the next steps with you. ”

A recording of the entire lecture is here.

The lecture series pays tribute to Parker’s life and ministry by addressing themes of peace and justice through the empowerment of women. The series was launched in 2008, a year after Parker died at the age of 93. She was a layman and a partner in the ministry with her husband, the Reverend Canon Richard IS Parker, who served as rector of St. Paul’s Church for 42 years. Hermosa Beach.

Parker was actively involved in the Episcopal Church Women of the Diocese and Church Women United. She helped lead the way when the Episcopal Church began to include women and colored men in leading roles in the 1960s and 1970s. Bishop J. Jon Bruno proclaimed her an honorary canon in 2003.

The then presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, gave an inaugural address in 2008. Other guest speakers included Rev. Jim Wallis, evangelical leader, author and founder of Sojourners magazine; Bishop Sufragan Barbara C. Harris, the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion; and labor activist Dolores Huerta.

Richard Parker, a public policy lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who attended Nichols ’November 13 address along with his brother Stephen, said that Nichols’ life and work, “models our mother’s vision of women’s voices in creating justice not only on the basis of God’s Earth – but for the Earth itself. “

The California Air Resources Committee website notes that Nichols, when not working for the state of California, served as a senior attorney on the Natural Resources Defense Council; Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Air and Radiation Administration (EPA), in the administration of President Bill Clinton; and ran the Institute for Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. During her career as an environmental lawyer for more than 45 years, “Mary Nichols has played a key role in California and the nation’s progress toward healthy air. She also led the committee in drafting the internationally recognized California Climate Action Plan. ”

Nichols said her current priorities include equipping young leaders “with a mandate to help us move forward” and “creating opportunities that encourage people of all ages to take authority” to protect the environment and help reverse climate change.

McCarthy, who looks ahead to the work of the new diocesan working group, said the lecture set the tone for future opportunities for environmental action.





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