A windmill churns at sunrise. (Catholic News Service)
A windmill churns at sunrise. (Catholic News Service)

Many Catholics in the Portland area put their faith into action a few months ago by circulating the petition to put Measure 26-201, a social justice/climate action initiative, onto the ballot. Jesuit Father Craig Boly of St. Ignatius Parish endorsed the measure, and hundreds of Catholics signed the petition, along with thousands of other Portlanders. The measure made the ballot, and now we have the opportunity to put our faith into action again by voting for it.

How does Measure 26-201, also known as the Portland Clean Energy Initative (PCEI), relate to our Catholic faith? It provides stewardship of God’s creation and fulfills Catholic teaching on the preferential option for the poor. It reduces climate emissions while creating clean energy jobs (minimum $21.60/hour) and weatherization (creating warmer homes in the winter), particularly for people with low incomes and other disadvantages.    

Ed Kaiel is a member of St. Ignatius who has volunteered extensively for PCEI, after getting involved with it through EcoFaith Recovery. “I spent many hours in May and June gathering signatures to put the referendum on the ballot this November,” Ed says. “We accomplished that. Now I’m knocking on doors, canvassing, to get out the votes needed to pass it. Why am I doing this? I identify with and care about those on the margins who are already bearing the brunt, as Pope Francis notes in ‘Laudato Si’,’ of our climate crisis. And, I know what it’s like to try and raise a family while not earning a living wage.”

Tyler Wagner, a former Jesuit Volunteer Corps member and a recent St. Ignatius Fellow, has also worked hard to help get Measure 21-206 passed. “I’m called as a Catholic to respond in loving, faithful ways to injustice. And this measure addresses environmental, racial and economic injustice,” he says. “It was created by communities of color, and standing in solidarity with them is part of our faith.”   

If passed, PCEI will raise $30 million annually for clean energy projects and clean energy jobs in Portland, focusing particularly on people with low incomes and other disadvantaged groups. Funding comes from a 1 percent surcharge on retail sales of billionaire corporations, such as Home Depot, Target and Ikea. (These businesses recently had their tax rate cut from 35 percent to 21 percent, the largest corporate tax break in history).  Examples of clean energy projects are home weatherization and installation of solar panels, both of which lower people’s utility bills and reduce the emissions that drive climate change. Lower utility bills leave more money for food on the table and medical care. More examples are community gardens, green infrastructure and tree canopies, which protect neighborhoods from the increasingly intense summer heat.

“I want warm dwellings on winter nights for all in our community,” Ed says. “I want workers to have marketable skills that serve ecology and human dignity. I want to combat the imbalance in the U.S. economy. And I’m concerned about my children and grandchildren who will suffer the consequences of an overheated climate. Helping to pass Measure 26-201 is one small way I can follow Jesus to the margins to establish right relationships, justice and the reign of God.”

Wiley and Earnest are members of St. Ignatius Parish.