Earth in the Balance

By profession I am a climate scientist. For almost 40 years I have explored the puzzles and complexities of the earth's weather and climate, looking deeper for insight and understanding, to help us craft models of the earth system so we can look more clearly into the future: the weather next week or the climate for our grandchildren. So why would a scientist, with a very eclectic understanding of the spiritual, be speaking to a community of faith? It is because it is time for all of us to reflect more deeply on our responsibility for the stewardship of this planet.

In less than a century, our human industrial society has become the major driver determining the future of the earth, its fauna, forests, and its very climate. We have gone from being one small part of creation—who thought of ourselves a little self-importantly as rather separate from it—to the central player. We have become as gods without the wisdom or understanding or any deep acceptance of our responsibility for the future of the earth.

In fact, this has not happened by conscious choice. The discovery of the rich source of energy in fossil fuels drove the industrial revolution; and our economy, if it continues with business-as-usual, is on a path to burn all our fossil fuel reserves in a few centuries. This will return to the atmosphere fossil carbon that has been locked in the earth for hundreds of millions of years and propel us to a future with a transformed planet with no ice caps and a sea level 200 feet higher. We don't know all the details, just the broad outlines, but we know enough (and every year the diligent work of tens of thousands of scientists fills in more of the map).

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Sojourners Magazine April 2007
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