The National Climate Assessment, jointly released by 13 federal agencies in November, affirmed this risk, noting that across all climate risks, “low-income communities, some communities of color, and those experiencing discrimination are disproportionately affected by extreme weather and climate events, partially because they are often excluded in planning processes.”
IF YOU’RE LIKE me, your first response to the title of Eduardo Sasso’s book was “What?!” But, as unusual as the pairing of climate change and sex is, Sasso proves that their association is fitting. A Climate of Desire argues that the challenge of today’s climate crisis is ultimately not about technology, science, or political will. Rather, like sex, it’s “about desire: about what we long for and about the consequences of our longings.”
Our longings have always been ripe for co-optation. Sasso’s book shows how, throughout history, from the tower of Babel to the tech frontier of modern California, people have been tempted to forsake their God-given humanity for an artificial substitute. Our problem today, though, is that our refusal to learn from the past comes with an exorbitant price tag. Fossil fuels have enabled the unrestrained indulgence of our misplaced desires, transforming our cities into engines of unprecedented ecological devastation.
In A Climate of Desire, Sasso reminds us that the Spirit-inspired imagination of ancient truth-tellers such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Jesus himself has a great deal to offer us in our current predicament. Calling their contemporaries to repentance, these holy dreamers denounced the harlotry of cities and nations that were running after false gods of wealth and power. They proclaimed visions of the holy that bordered on the psychedelic and grasped that at the heart of injustice and violence is misplaced desire.
Sasso finds tremendous strength in these ancient voices. But he also gains inspiration from recent campaigns for civil rights and contemporary initiatives for ecological renewal, such as the Transition Network and the fossil-free divestment movement.
THERE ARE SEVERAL good and interesting arguments to be had about climate change: Should we tax carbon? How much? Concentrate on electric cars or on public transit? How best to reduce the factory farming that creates so many emissions? Dealing with this crisis will involve the biggest and most rapid transition in economic history, so it would be strange if there weren’t debates about how to proceed.
But one debate not to have is: Is global warming real? By now it’s entirely obvious that the scientists are basically right—that’s why there’s half as much ice in the Arctic as when they started warning us, and half as many coral reefs. Donald Trump aside (there’s a nice thought), this one is so clear even the oil companies don’t dispute it, though of course they try to delay and minimize the need for real change.
Deprived of that point of contention, those who want to disrupt the push for climate action fall back on two particularly dumb straw-man arguments, which are worth engaging just long enough to dispose of.
One is that climate activists want to “turn off fossil fuels tomorrow.” You hear this from oil companies, but you also hear it from liberal politicians who don’t want to take strong action against oil companies. When local environmental justice groups, for instance, asked then-California Gov. Jerry Brown to stop permitting new oil wells next to their schools and homes, he responded with roughly the sensitivity and candor of Oklahoma’s climate-denying Sen. Jim Inhofe. Environmentalists, he said, wanted him to “snap my fingers and eliminate all gasoline in all California gasoline stations.” And if he did that, he said, “What would happen? Revolution? Killings? Shootings?”
Steel slats, concrete, walls and fences: here’s what Trump actually wants to build, and what Congress might be willing to pay for.
“They are unafraid to wear their identities on their sleeves, helping to mark a striking shift in how politicians—and specifically, women in politics—have traditionally been expected to present.”
Stormwater pollution is the fastest growing source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed—a 64,000 square mile drainage basin that sprawls across parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, New York, and Washington, D.C. One of the contributors: religious congregations.
AT THE VERY hour when modern humanity arrived at the pinnacle of triumph—a global marketplace promising riches for all—the skies have been darkened by the terrible specters of ecological crisis and social disruption. This realization dawns just as the urban age has been declared: More than half of humanity now lives in cities.
Surely these occurrences—the urban age and the overlapping crises of our time—are connected. Indeed, any reconciliation with the Earth will doubtless involve a “great resettlement” of our species, through which we, homo urbanis, endeavor to reconcile our urbanity with planetary limits—the epoch of the great suburban dispensation.
Our work defines this challenge by focusing on the suburbs: the sprawling, low-density urban landscape that surrounds large cities, especially in the “new world” of North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
The United Nations climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland — the follow-up to the blockbuster 2015 Paris conference — came to a dramatic close on Dec. 15 with the adoption of the "Katowice Climate Package." The package represents significant progress on global climate action and will allow nations to move forward in setting and meeting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets over the next five years. However, the roadmap will need major improvements to reach the level of “ambition” the scientific community says is needed to protect the most vulnerable.
More than 1,000 young adults risked arrest Monday in Washington, D.C. by flooding the offices of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). It’s the second time this winter that the Sunrise Movement has taken to the capitol in what Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash referred to as part of a concentrated effort, “[to] build policy support and people power” around a Green New Deal.
A recent U.S. climate assessment made headlines last week for its conclusion that the victims of climate change are no longer some future generation, but us — and we’re feeling the effects now.
LEADERSHIP COMES from unlikely places—Christians know that better, perhaps, than anyone else. So as we face the savage crisis of climate change, a crisis made far worse by our inaction, it is very good news that a 15-year-old autistic Swedish girl has shown the rest of us new directions in this battle.
When school began in the fall, Greta Thunberg decided not to go. Inspired in part by the Parkland students and their school walkouts over gun violence, she sat down on the steps of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm every morning and stayed there the entire school day. Every day. Her argument, at its core, was that if the country’s politicians couldn’t be bothered to fix climate change, there was no real reason for her to be studying, since the world she would inherit would be so fatally compromised.
Her protest drew widespread attention in Sweden, in part because her father is a well-known actor and her mother a famous opera singer (albeit one who has given up her international performing career, persuaded by her daughter that flying to concerts was a waste of carbon). Others noticed too. She came to Finland this fall to address the largest climate rally in Helsinki history, and then to London for the launch of a civil disobedience movement called Extinction Rebellion.
IN OCTOBER, The New York Times published an article that, despite its dire implications, seemed to wash away in the rapid news cycle. It described how, according to the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s population will see major consequences, as early as 2040, from its mistreatment of the planet. More droughts, more wildfires, more poverty, and higher temperatures—in only 22 years. When that time comes, when nature begins to resemble Hell, how will we have to live?
Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker David Conover has been thinking about this question for 12 years. “I was a parent of two young kids,” Conover told me about the moment when he began to ruminate on creation care, “and was trying to understand the world they were growing into: pollution, severe weather with fires, flooding, droughts, struggles with realities that weren’t that apparent even a generation ago.
“There have been many films made about those things, how we know that they’re happening, what’s causing them, and so on. But there haven’t been any films about people and their experience of exploring the very tough question of how to live right today in this climate.”
Conover’s wrestling with how to live a moral life during a time of environmental hardship has culminated in the production and release of his newest documentary, Behold the Earth, which explores contemporary Christianity’s relationship with creation care.
IT'S EASY to get discouraged. The Paris climate accord is the most significant multinational agreement yet to address climate change. Every country in the world, and Palestine, signed it. “That’s a lot of countries!” said former President Obama.
But on June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. By abdicating U.S. presidential leadership, Trump left it to the rest of the world’s governments to address the greatest crisis humanity has ever seen.
The depressing actions of the current administration are legion. Using federal agencies and executive orders, Trump is dismantling the climate progress so many have worked for. In September, federal agencies deregulated the release of methane gas, which traps about 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide does. The Trump administration has allowed land set aside as national monuments to be pillaged for oil and gas drilling and mineral extraction. A fossil fuel corporate lawyer now working for the Environmental Protection Agency has dismantled our clean air regulations. The EPA has established incentives to encourage more than 300 coal plants to continue polluting our air and land.
If human-induced atmospheric warming continues at the current rate, the world will cross the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold of global temperature increase around 2040, much earlier than previously estimated, according to an October 2018 report from the International Panel on Climate Change, the first update since the Paris Agreement. Without aggressive action, food shortages and wildfires will worsen, water shortages will hit urban areas, killer heatwaves and violent storms will be more frequent, coastal areas will experience sea level rise, and populations will migrate. Humanity must become laser focused on achieving net zero emissions if creation as we know it is to survive. In other words, it’s now or never on climate change.
A dystopian scene is unfolding across California. Charred car skeletons sit idle on the side of roads in the working-class town of Paradise, Calif. In one video, a camera pans to reveal what looks like an apocalyptic movie set — passing the remains of an abandoned school bus, begging us to ask what happened to those who were inside.
Juliana was in high school when she first joined Our Children’s Trust to sue the Governor of Oregon for a stable climate. During my environmental education classes, I’ve discussed the litigation to illustrate the importance of a long-term view even for an urgent planetary crisis. When my undergraduates prepare conservation workshops for local schools, they know that Juliana once sat in their places. She hopes to advocate for them in the U.S. District Courthouse in Eugene, Ore. in what may be the lawsuit of their lifetimes. And regardless of this Supreme Court’s decision, youth will gather on the courthouse steps to call for their right to a stable climate.
A new United Nations report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC ) paints a dire future for life on earth. Even if nations are able to fulfill commitments made during the 2016 Paris Agreement, the report asserts that the world is still headed in the direction of warming by 3 degrees Celsius or more - a temperature increase that would drive worsening food shortages, wild fires, heatwaves, coastal flooding, and poverty.
1. Scientist Calmly Explain That Civilization Is at Stake if We Don’t Act Now
“The world has already warmed by about 1 degree C and without a global coordinated effort, the world will reach 1.5 degrees in as little as 12 years. ‘Several hundred million’ lives are at stake, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
2. To Protect the Environment, Buddhist Monks Are Ordaining Trees
To harm an ordained monk is a religious taboo and legal offense. An ordination extends this sacred status to the tree. Communities that ordain trees often patrol the forest, taking photos of illegal activity and reporting wrongdoers.
EVERY POLITICAL LEADER on the planet should be stuck aboard a jet and taken north to see the Greenland ice sheet—it would be well worth the carbon emissions to show them just how fast climate change is now happening.
Case in point: I was aboard a boat en route to the Qaterlait glacier in August when I looked up at the GPS unit above the captain’s head. It showed an icon of the boat, steaming rapidly across ... solid land. That’s because when the chart was drawn a decade ago, the bay we were crossing didn’t exist: It was still solid ice.
I had the great fortune of journeying to the ice sheet with two young poets—a Greenlander named Aka Niviâna and a native of the Marshall Islands, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner. These two remarkable women were at opposite ends of the same story—as the ice melted, the traditional life of Greenlanders was beginning to disappear. And the water that poured into the oceans is now drowning low-lying islands such as the Marshalls.
A desire to care for the environment also stems from the Christian traditions of compassion and love. Congregations have long worked to alleviate hunger, lift the poor and the vulnerable, and comfort the sick. Creating community gardens, making energy more affordable, and working to avoid the worst effects of climate change, which are disproportionately felt by low-income communities, stem from these traditions.