An end to the reign of 'Old King Coal'?

I rejoiced this week when President Barack Obama and Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, announced the new regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants. It’s the first step, albeit a baby step, in seriously dealing with the impending disaster of climate change.

Later, I opened one of the many interfaith emails I receive daily. This one came from the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, run by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a socially conscious leader of progressive Judaism.

The email’s headline read: “Old King Coal is a Lethal Old Soul!” 

How accurate, I thought. “Old King Coal” not only contributes to dangerous pollution and subsequent health problems, its continued mining and burning is a major contributor to climate change, which -- if unchecked -- could significantly alter life on the planet.

In fact, I have come to believe that climate change is the major moral issue of the 21st century.    

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Numerous faith groups, including Interfaith Power and Light, joined the chorus of approval for the new EPA regulations on existing power plants. The U.S. Catholic bishops also welcomed the regulations in advance of their announcement.  

In addition, groups like GreenFaith are urging religious organizations to divest from stocks in fossil fuels. The grassroots 350.org has planned a massive rally Sept. 20 and 21 in New York during a United Nations summit on climate change. Elsewhere, the word in Rome is that at some point Pope Francis will add his voice to the mix with an environment-focused encyclical.

“Old King Coal” -- and while we’re at it, his uncles: oil and eventually natural gas -- has to yield his throne to solar, wind, geo-thermal and other renewable forms of energy.

The alternative is an unlivable planet.  

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