Climate change

William P. Brown 4-17-2017

The resurrected Jesus is recognized not by his words but by his wounds, the wounds of his crucifixion. Herein lies a great irony. The crucifixion has left its indelible marks upon the resurrected one, such that the risen Jesus is recognizable only through them. On the one hand, resurrection has not erased his wounds. On the other hand, Jesus’ wounds no longer define him as a dead criminal, as determined by the state. Jesus doesn’t wince at Thomas’s touch. Even as his wounds remain, Jesus’ body is made whole and new.

Stephen Mattson 3-28-2017

As presidential orders and administrative policies continue to scale back environmental protections, it’s important for Christians to realize that this is a vitally important spiritual issue. Many Christians ignore environmental issues because they don’t view it as an important faith-related concern — but what if environmentalism was essential to evangelism? In many ways, taking care of our environment is a direct form of evangelism, but many Christians have yet to realize — and even reject — this truth.

Avery Davis 3-28-2017

The power of the order is found less in its immediate consequences, and more in its trajectory-setting results. While the world is slowly backing away from a crumbling cliff, this executive order represents a shift into drive to send the global climate hurtling toward the ledge.

A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

U.S. President Donald Trump will announce the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline at the White House on Friday, alongside the chief executive officer of builder TransCanada Corp, according to a senior administration official.

 

REMEMBER THAT  you are dust, and to dust you shall return. The prayer said around the world on Ash Wednesday wielded a rather pointed moral to the tail end of the hottest February on record where I live. Penitents in my neighborhood church shuffled in a sun-kissed line to receive ashes on tanned foreheads, summer sandals slapping the floor. Outside, overeager daffodils bloomed their Easter welcome. A strange one, this backward Lent: balmy with a side of dread.

This existential reversal felt nothing if not timely—all through the winter, a collective litany of weary newsfeeds asked whether we really needed quite so much of it. The first months of this year have witnessed a steady erosion of trust in whatever institutions we had left: the federal government, the electoral process, our checks and balances, our freedoms, our faith, each other. Some trace our hard skid sideways to the election, or the Super Bowl, or the Oscars. (I peg it to the Cubs’ win in November. I grew up in Chicagoland—I know reversing a curse has consequences.)

But there’s something particularly dizzying about the separation of church and earth. The globe is getting hotter every year now, but the effects of this ecological trauma, like any grief, are far from linear. If warming simply meant the usual weather, shifted a month early or late, we could figure out how to recalibrate—but our snowfall is breaking records and our ice caps are melting. A winter afternoon can begin as warm as an early summer day and suddenly drop 25 degrees to freezing rain.

the Web Editors 3-23-2017
A pumpjack retrieves oil from the group against a sunset background

The State Department is set to approve the Keystone XL pipeline by Monday, Politico reports. The cross-border permit that will allow construction to proceed is set to be signed by Undersecretary for political affairs Tom Shannon just before the end of the 60-day timeline President Donald Trump called for in January.

Image via RNS/Fredrick Nzwili

The drought in the Sahel — a region that forms a dry belt across northern Africa — has left millions without any water to drink, and is being linked to three deaths in recent days in Kenya, due to consumption of unsafe water.

“There are no drops to reduce, recycle, or reuse,” said professor Jesse Mugambi, of the University of Nairobi, who added that many in the region are spending World Water Day “praying for drops of rain to quench their thirst and that of their livestock.”

Bill McKibben 3-22-2017

WE ARE TOLD, in the classic story of Oedipus, about the king who managed to bring devastation to his city and family, a king who, when he finally learned the truth of his crimes, blinded himself.

I thought of that epic tragedy when I read of one decision by our current ruler, one event amid all the dozens of others. And this one was less immediately tragic—it didn’t involve pulling an immigrant with a brain tumor out of a hospital for deportation, nor forcing transgender Americans to produce a birth certificate before they pee. No, this tragedy will play out over a longer time.

In early March (and, of course, late on a Friday afternoon), his new team at the Commerce Department announced that they intended to cut the climate satellite program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by 22 percent. They proposed a lot of other terrible cuts the same day: virtually zeroing out the environmental justice programs at EPA and cutting the environmental education budget by 94 percent. But the one that future historians will, I think, obsess over is the satellites.

Consider: In the last few months, we’ve learned that 2016 set the all-time record for the hottest recorded year on planet earth. We’ve seen, over the last few years, the highest wind speeds ever recorded in one ocean basin after another, as record-hot water produces amped-up hurricanes. An iceberg a quarter the size of Wales (not a whale—Wales) is about to break off from the Larsen Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. And we’re going to blind ourselves? We’re going to start paying less attention?

The years ahead of us will be the most challenging our species has ever faced. For many of the other species that share this planet with us — and for some of our own people — it will be too much to survive. Dressing for a funeral doesn’t begin to prepare our hearts for this kind of devastation.

After sessions on gravitational waves, nuclear forensics, and artificial intelligence, one of the world’s largest general science conferences invited attendees to hear from an Episcopal priest.

The Rev. Fletcher Harper preached on climate change, and how to get a vast segment of the world’s population to pay better attention to what scientists know but many others doubt: that the problem is worsening and portends disaster.

“My entreaty for scientists is to be able to speak publicly about why you care,” said Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, an interfaith nonprofit that aims to galvanize religious people to safeguard the environment.

Image via RNS/Lee Pellegrini/Boston College

For Catholics, the key to working collaboratively with Pope Francis, on issues from mass migration to climate change to Hispanic evangelization, may be found in a controversial movement that many left for dead long ago: liberation theology.

That message reverberated, from Feb. 6 to Feb. 10, through the halls of Boston College and a nearby retreat center, as nearly 40 theologians gathered from across the Spanish-speaking world to discuss the movement’s future with its founding figures.

2-07-2017

If confirmed, Pruitt should walk into the halls of the Environmental Protection Agency with the same conviction of faith with which he walks into First Baptist Church of the Broken Arrow. He should promote policies to guard clean water and clean air, to protect children from pollution, and to safeguard all of us from the impacts of a changing climate. 

A child gathers water from a riverbed near Isiolo, Kenya, on July 30, 2013. Photo courtesy of EU/ECHO/Martin Karimi

At the Thatha Roman Catholic Mission, part of the Machakos Diocese, the Rev. Gerard Matolo increasingly sees more people seeking help.

“You can’t tell them that there is nothing,” Matolo said. “As their shepherd, I have to find a way to ensure they get something to eat. Sometimes I share my own food.”

Image via RNS/Creative Commons

Religion is increasingly viewed as highly politicized, not least due to the way that it is frequently covered in the newsNumerous studies have shown that news stories with emotional cues tend to both gain audience attention and prolong audience engagement.

It may therefore come as no surprise that online debates about religion are packed with emotional cues that evoke strong reactions from those who participate in them. This sets the stage for passionate online debates.

Theresa Martin 12-28-2016

Image via Theresa Martin.

I join with those who celebrate the birth of this spirit-child, even while knowing his life led to murder at the hands of a corrupt Roman regime that for years had been using power and wealth to silence and oppress people. It is said that after his murder, this same person rose from the dead, his body and bloodshed becoming a bridge from violence and trauma to wholeness and healing — showing that hope could conquer hate, and that the power of integrity, justice, and love could win over corruption, fear, and violence.

Grace Ji-Sun Kim 12-20-2016

FIVE HUNDRED YEARS after Martin Luther’s charge semper reformanda (“always reforming”), we stand on the precipice of climate disaster.

In Marrakesh, Morocco, people of faith met at the 2016 U.N. Climate Change conference (COP22) to face an impending climate disaster—a disaster that now seems likely to be exacerbated by U.S. political leadership rather than mitigated by it.

The World Council of Churches held an event in Marrakesh to emphasize how transitional justice- and rights-based approaches, alongside faith-based moral perspectives, can address challenges as complex as natural-resource management and ecological, humanitarian, and spiritual crises exacerbated by climate change. WCC organizer Henrik Grape hoped that “COP22 will take steps forward to fulfill the expectations from Paris and that nations will raise their ambitions to keep the temperature [rise] well under 2 degrees Celsius.”

A wide variety of church bodies were represented at the gathering. The Lutheran World Federation brought youth delegates from Africa to Marrakesh to promote intergenerational collaboration and solidarity with people most affected by climate change. “One of our thematic approaches to the commemoration of 500 years of Lutheran Reformation is the theme ‘Creation: Not For Sale,’” said Caroline Bader, youth secretary for the federation. The Act Alliance, a coalition of 143 churches and parachurch organizations, established a gender-climate change working group to address sustainability among poor and marginalized people through a gender lens.

Catholic theologian Guillermo Kerber believes that Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment is a turning point for the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, by including ecology in the social concerns of Catholics. “The celebration of the 500 years of the Reformation should be an opportunity to express an ecological conversion of all Christian denominations,” said Kerber.

Layton E. Williams 11-01-2016

Sometime over the weekend, I noticed a few friends unexpectedly “check-in” to Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, N.D., on Facebook. Given the recent rise in tensions between police and the water protectors protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, it made sense to me that some of my pastor-friends would go be a part of the protests.

Rick Herron 10-10-2016

Photo via Kaleb Nyquist

Grist’s Emma Merchant recently crunched the numbers on how frequently climate change has been discussed in the debates of the past five presidential election cycles (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016).

She found that, out of 1,500 minutes of presidential and vice-presidential debate, climate change got a paltry 37 minutes of discussion. In 2012, of course, climate change got a whopping zero minutes of debate time.

Bill Nye, left, with Ken Ham. Image via Answers in Genesis / RNS

Bill Nye, known from his 1990s TV show as “The Science Guy,” toured the new Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky with the head of the Christian apologetics ministry behind it.

And it was “like the debate all over again but more intense at times,” according to a blog post by Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis. Ham also posted on social media about Nye’s visit, which occurred on July 8.

lzf / Shutterstock

lzf / Shutterstock

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day. — E.B. White

ON A GORGEOUS FALL DAY, I bundle up just a bit and go sit on the rock under the apple tree in the middle of the field. The low-angled sun pours its subdued warmth onto the splashy orange of the maples, transient yellows of the tamarack, and faithfully green cedar. Further to the west, the mountains cut a postcard-perfect silhouette against the seasonally pale blue sky.

Such grace, warming my heart with joy.

A loving God calls us to experience such profligate joy. Now, in the latter decades of my life, time picks up its pace at an alarming rate. So I often promise myself to seek more opportunities to sit on rocks.

But instead, each morning, the genes of my activist mother, the teachings of my faith, and probably a bit too much of my own hubris conspire to bring on the conflicting desire to “improve” (well, okay ... save) the world.

So I strongly identify with E.B. White’s dilemma, softened by his gentle humor-with-a-touch-of-wistfulness.

Working for social justice seems like forever. I am weary of being tedious to those around me who do not understand my seemingly quixotic campaigns. I am weary listening to the current loud, vicious, largely irrelevant public clamor surrounding issues to which I am dedicated. I am weary knowing that those of us preaching minority positions that were once slammed as unrealistic have been proven right. But it took so long: civil rights, the Vietnam War, apartheid, climate change. As we slogged through our protests and The Powers That Be didn’t listen, lives were lost, billions of dollars spent, time wasted. I am impatient: Why can’t the arc of the moral universe run, rather than just bend, toward justice?

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