The Common Good

As the Climate Change Clock Ticks Toward Copenhagen, Global Activists Take to the Streets

Climate change has become a major worldwide grassroots movement -- one that doesn't acknowledge geographic or sociological borders. This movement will blossom on Saturday for the International Day of Climate Action -- a day to prove that our movement can show solidarity regarding one of our world's most urgent crises.

I will march with thousands of friends to the White House, and look to Saturday's events with great anticipation. Why? Because our faith calls us to action. Because God entrusted us with this earth. Because the poor among us will be most affected. Because stewardship of creation is a biblical call.

And ultimately, because our leaders in the United States have so far thought otherwise. A week ago, Al Gore predicted that our Senate will pass a climate change bill before the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December. But 46 million people still don't have health care in this country, and while that issue dominates the legislative agenda, climate change is on the back burner.

In the meantime, Thomas Friedman recently declared "that the most important thing to happen in the last 18 months was that Red China decided to become Green China." As China grows, its leaders realize they must innovatively develop a cleaner system. But while China greens itself out of strategic necessity, the U.S. paralyzes itself with indecision. And for better or worse, the world looks to the U.S., not China, for direction.

Given that reality, I'm only soberly optimistic about the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December. According to The New York Times, "there is little chance" that a comprehensive treaty will be signed there.

The United States and many other major pollutant-emitting countries have concluded that it is more useful to take incremental but important steps toward a global agreement.

In the same article, Nigel Purvis, a former U.S. State Department climate negotiator, says that we'll likely have a "statement," a non-legally binding assortment of that "sends a signal to the world of the direction the negotiations are going."

So while European officials seek a binding treaty to succeed the Kyoto protocol, and Red China becomes Green China, without the support of U.S. diplomats, discussions in Copenhagen won't go any farther than, well, discussions. The longer we procrastinate, the longer the world -- and especially the world's poor -- will suffer.

So on Saturday, I'll join activists around the globe who will call our leaders to change. Because while our leaders are inactive, our faith is not. Our faith can redefine what the world might become. But we're running out of time, starting now.

Sheldon C. Good is the media assistant for Sojourners.

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