Over the years, certain principles and issues have emerged that provide a focus for EJP’s policy efforts that are consistent with Catholic social teaching.
EJP recognizes several unique features associated with environmental policy issues, presenting peculiar challenges in the public policy arena:
- they are often broad in scope and overlap other policy issues;
- they often have simultaneous domestic and international dimensions;
- they are usually scientific and technical adding another degree
of complexity; and
- they are governed in large measure by regulation and not just by legislative statute.
When the bishops established the Environmental Justice Program, they explicitly mandated a broad policy framework encompassing four priority areas including:
- environmental justice: defined
as the strong link between social justice and environmental
protection emphasizing the needs of the poor;
- sustainable development: with
an emphasis on social and economic development that not only
protects the sustainability of natural resources but promotes
a just distribution of these resources today and for future
- worker protection: insisting
that workers' needs should not be sacrificed at the expense
of environmental protection or vice versa; and
- the “commons”: defined as protecting vital global shared resources such as the oceans, land, water and fisheries.
Priority Issues and Policy Focus
Within the policy framework recommended by the bishops, EJP, under the supervision of the Department of Social Development and World Peace, promotes policies and legislation that (click on the link to see more):
- Protect the Poor: we advocate
for just solutions to the disproportionate burdens of environmental
degradation borne by the poor and people of color. This includes
urban revitalization efforts like brownfields and the protection
of low-income neighborhoods from toxic hazards.
- Environmental Health and Safety:
protecting the public, workers, and especially vulnerable populations
(i.e. the elderly, children -- born and unborn, workers in chemical
intensive industries, the ill, etc.) from environmental harm
is an essential part of our policy focus. Currently, EJPin
cooperation with the Domestic Policy Office and other national
Catholic organizationsis focusing on children's environmental
- Common Good and Private Property:
EJP seeks to support efforts that achieve a balance between
the right to private property and a just use of property within
a common good ethic. This is seen most concretely in our approach
to various "takings" legislation before the Congress
as well as through other land management issues. This framework
has been useful to state Catholic conferences and dioceses when
local state takings legislation arises.
- Sustainable Environmental and Economic Development: EJP seeks to promote development which eradicates global poverty while preserving the ecological heritage of the earth. EJP continues to devote considerable attention to issues of debt relief and trade legislation as it effects the environment, as well as climate change.
For a historical survey of our background papers, policy statements, and action alerts, please visit our electronic archives.