Environment

Cue the Math: McKibben’s Roadshow Takes Aim at Big Oil

Seth Butler / www.sethbutler.com

Bill McKibben Speaking at Waitsfield, VT Connect The Dots Rally. Seth Butler / www.sethbutler.com

It was game time. The Saturday night crowd on the Vermont campus was festive, boisterous, pumped. People cheered and whooped when told that one of their heroes, climate activist Tim DeChristopher — serving a two-year federal sentence for his civil disobedience opposing new oil and gas drilling in Utah — would soon be back on the field.

When the man on the stage, 350.org’s Bill McKibben, said it was time to march not just on Washington but on the headquarters of fossil fuel companies — “it’s time to march on Dallas” — and asked those to stand who’d be willing to join in the fight, seemingly every person filling the University of Vermont’s cavernous Ira Allen Chapel, some 800 souls, rose to their feet.

McKibben and 350, the folks who brought us the Keystone XL pipeline protests, are now calling for a nationwide divestment campaign aimed at fossil fuel companies’ bottom line. Beginning with student-led campaigns on college campuses, modeled on the anti-apartheid campaigns of the 1980s, they’ll pressure institutions to withdraw all investments from big oil and coal and gas. Their larger goal is to ignite a morally charged movement to strip the industry of its legitimacy.

“The fossil fuel industry has behaved so recklessly that they should lose their social license — their veneer of respectability,” McKibben tells his audience. “You want to take away our planet and our future? We’re going to take away your money and your good name.”

Changing the Debate on Climate Action

Knox outside the second presidential debate.

Knox outside the second presidential debate.

Last Friday I found out I would be traveling to New York for a Climate Action Prayer Rally at the second presidential debate. I barely slept all weekend, I was so excited. I’ve never been north of Washington, D.C., before, never seen cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, or New York. But I wasn’t just excited to see these cities, I was excited because of the reason I was going to see these cities.

I accompanied our Creation Care Campaign Director, Alycia Ashburn, and our friends from Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA) to Long Island, where we would make our presence known at the debate. 

Creation care is something I feel very passionately about. As a person of faith I think it is my responsibility to protect this beautiful planet that God has given us. To advocate for creation care at such an important venue is truly an honor and privilege; as I joined my brothers and sisters in sending forth a ripple of hope in the water and offering a witness that is faithful and just.

Sustainability: God's Gift and Charge

Sustainability image, danymages / Shutterstock.com

Sustainability image, danymages / Shutterstock.com

God created the earth to produce every thing Adam and then Eve — and then their issue, and then all of us — would need. In the beginning, the garden needed little tending, but — due to a rather fortunate fall — eventually Adam and Eve, as his helpmate, and their children and the issue of generations had to toil the earth to pull from the garden those things God intended to meet their needs. 

Along the way, progress was made in the form of extensions of the garden bounds, the distribution of water and other nutrients, applications of healthful foods and herbs, techniques for every aspect of garden production. A community grew from a couple who worked hard as stewards, first out of penance and then, I think, out of love for the land provided to sustain them and for each other as they worked together. This is the story of how sustainability came to be. 

To simplify: God created the Heavens and Earth. He designed a glorious garden and put in it everything needed to make that garden productive: plants, water, clean air, soil, enrichers (bugs, worms, life, decay), animals, and the Sun, the first and last fuel. And, finally, He made man and woman. 

10 Reasons Climate Change Should Be An Election Issue

Arctic ice, Volodymyr Goinyk / Shutterstock.com

Arctic ice, Volodymyr Goinyk / Shutterstock.com

I’ll be traveling to New York tomorrow with a number of Christian colleagues. We’re having a rally — a Climate Action Prayer Rally!  And you can join us

I’m not sure about you, but I’m incredibly disappointed that our nation’s leaders – from all sectors, all parties, and all levels – continually neglect to take leadership on our climate and energy crisis. 

There are many reasons that climate change should be a top election issue, but here are just a handful of the most important ones.

Larry Gibson, Keeper of the Mountains

Photo by Paul Corbit Brown

Photo by Paul Corbit Brown

Larry Gibson, “Keeper of the Mountains,” died Sunday, Sept. 9 at his home on Kayford Mountain, W.V. He was 66. His wife and three adult children survive. Gibson had a fifth grade education, a career as a custodian at an Ohio automobile factory, and retired to the obscure and abandoned place of his birth. Gibson stood 5’2”. 

“God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27b). From the halls of the nation’s most prestigious universities, through innumerable rallies, protests, and arrests, to the many hundreds of tours he hosted on Kayford, Gibson spoke truth to power with uncompromising integrity, unflagging determination, and heroic courage. 

Larry Gibson returned to West Virginia in the 1990s, and to his shock, learned that a new method of coal extraction was literally blasting mountains apart to extract coal while shoving the vast remaining rubble into adjacent valleys burying small streams. Ecosystems were being severely, irrevocably degraded. Scarcely anyone knew about mountaintop removal back then, let alone cared. 

New Software Tracks Carbon Emissions Close to Home

New tracking software developed by Kevin Gurney, an ecologist at Arizona State University is intended to help cities across the country keep their word on climate. Many mayors have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint, but they have no objective way to measure progress. The software will allow them to identify and target areas of the city that are releasing the most carbon, in order to address the real problem areas.

The idea of a personal carbon footprint is not new, but software that can follow our dirty tailpipes down the street is certainly revolutionary. Could the uncomfortable feeling of being watched be the encouragement city residents need to change their habits?

"Gurney collects piles of information about a city's energy diet — from utilities, transportation departments and air-pollution monitors. When he analyzed Indianapolis, Gurney and colleagues from Purdue University and other institutions could pinpoint emissions down to the level of a building or a street."

Read more on NPR.

Report: Climate Change Linked to Costly Natural Disasters

It’s been a good week for getting real. After Tuesday’s revelation that the majority of Americans link increased natural disasters with climate change, a new report yesterday indicates that they may be right.

In their newly-published report, reinsurance company Munich Re claimed that global climate change has been driving natural disasters and extreme weather events, and that this trend will increase as the climate continues to change.

The Next Great Moral Movement

Climate change illustration, B Calkins / Shutterstock.com

Climate change illustration, B Calkins / Shutterstock.com

In my last column, "Three Numbers that Predict the Future of the Planet", I wrote about the state of the climate crisis and focused on three key data points that reveal a bleak, though not altogether hopeless, reality for us and for the rest of the planet.

As promised, this column is forward-looking and moves from describing the problem to prescribing the solution. To this end, I continue to draw heavily from the wisdom of Bill McKibben, Jim Ball, and other climate prophets who understand the times and are faithfully fighting to get us on the right track.

The way forward is not easy, but it will be good in the long run. Essentially, we need to set and enforce a limit on all remaining global warming pollution on the national and international scale, which will, we hope, keep warming to within 2oC. This will include some sort of pricing mechanism so that polluters have to take responsibility for paying for the costs of their own pollution. The problem is that we have not yet been able to muster the socio-political momentum necessary to reach these binding agreements. Turns out the polluters (largely the fossil fuel industry) don’t want to have to clean up after themselves. They’re also willing to fight with billions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying money to keep the status quo.

Three Numbers that Predict the Future of the Planet

Green alarm clock, Alex Staroseltsev / Shutterstock.com

Green alarm clock, Alex Staroseltsev / Shutterstock.com

The climate crisis is getting bad and we may be finally starting to notice. With increasingly crazy weather across America—scorching heat waves, massive fires, destructive derechos, devastating droughts—polls are starting to show a growing awareness of and concern for how our massive amounts of pollution are changing the weather and therefore changing our lives (mostly for the worse).

I know this is starting to sound alarmist and extreme. It should. Because reality is starting to get pretty desperate for those whose lives and livelihoods depend on a relatively stable and predictable climate. At the end of the day, that’s all of us. The first to get hit, however—and they are currently getting hit hard—are those who grow and raise our food (farmers, ranchers, fishermen, etc.), those who are economically and physically vulnerable (the elderly, sickly, homeless, etc.), and those who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (the victims of these storms and fires). And while we’re starting to feel the impact of climate change in the United States, our global neighbors in regions such as Africa have been the ones bearing the brunt of the suffering.

After decades of scientific studies and expert warnings, climate change is no longer something being debated; it is something being experienced. Let’s just hope we do what’s right to overcome this crisis before it is too late. Because “too late” may be coming a lot sooner than we realize, and “what’s right” may be a lot harder than we want to accept.

A Christian With Conjunctions

Reflection of mount Assiniboine on Magog lake at sunrise, Alberta, Canada.

For most of my life, I have been a “Christian with conjunctions.”

So I’m a Christian BUT… I’m not like that street preacher who yells about hell and damnation on the downtown corner.

I’m a Christian BUT I’m different from the televangelist who raises his fist in the air and screams about salvation.

My own priest, the Rev. Thomas Murphy, first described himself as a Christian with conjunctions in a sermon the morning before our Episcopal congregation took to the streets during a festival in downtown Asheville, N.C. Across the street from a karaoke booth, we handed out cold water to festivalgoers and offered a simple ministry with no judgment or obligation.

For most of us, it was the first time we had prayed the Eucharist in public, with our colleagues, students, and neighbors walking past. The white banner above us proclaimed: “God loves you. No exceptions.”

I have realized that the ubiquitous street preacher has something to teach me: there is virtue in being bold about my faith. Through my research on congregations and climate change, this public witness to God’s love has become easier for me as my church life now reflects my deep value of God’s good earth.

The stakes of silence are high. If we don’t speak out and act on our moral mandate to reconcile with creation, we risk destroying God’s very creation.

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