Environment

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.

Climate Change, Poverty, Distractions, and Denial

Climate change photo, Sangoiri / Shutterstock.com

Climate change photo, Sangoiri / Shutterstock.com

Because the scientific evidence surrounding climate change is clear, and the implications for humankind are many, the response to these global challenges needs to be persistent, organized, and significant. As Jesus calls upon humankind to “love thy neighbor," and as the Old Testament prophets remind us to strive for justice, we recognize that within a deeply connected world “neighbor” implies all that God has created, and injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. 

So an implication of Jesus’ words and actions is to share and receive the Good News not only on Sunday mornings, but through daily acts of long-term advocacy that promotes sustainable livelihoods. With COP18 in Qatar on the horizon, the time has come when humanity can no longer afford to fight over our resources, and the moment is upon us to prod our elected officials toward legally binding legislation that values the gifts of creation that God has entrusted us to manage. 

Arctic Ice Melt and Our Christian Call

Melting icebergs, Denis Kichatof / Shutterstock.com

Melting icebergs, Denis Kichatof / Shutterstock.com

The melting of sea ice during summer in the Arctic is part a natural cycle, but the rate at which the sea ice is currently melting is unprecedented, as illustrated in today’s BBC News.  

"Norwegian researchers report that the sea ice is becoming significantly thinner and more vulnerable.

Last month, the annual thaw of the region's floating ice reached the lowest level since satellite monitoring began, more than 30 years ago.

It is thought the scale of the decline may even affect Europe's weather."

 

 

Conservationist: Dominique Bikaba

Dominique Bikaba

Dominique Bikaba

“Peace for humanity is not only the absence of war, or the end of violence ... For us Christians, peace is based on a fundamental new relationship between mankind and God. That is why Christ said he brought peace, ‘not as the world gives.’ He brought a different peace.” – Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, known as Don Samuel, a champion of the poor and of the indigenous people in southern Mexico

Eastern Congo is home to some of the world’s most stunning scenery—and some of its most brutal and unimaginable violence. The relationship between these two symbols of the region is a close one.

Part of the call of Christian peacemakers is not only to make peace between people a reality, but also to bring peace between people and the planet. In his work, conservationist Dominique Bikaba recognizes that peace between people and peace with our environment are closely intertwined, and he is seeking to bring about both.

Armed groups are waging war in eastern Congo, taking no heed of the grave impact that the conflict is having on the environment around them. The resources of the region are being exploited, to the detriment of future generations. This disregard for the communities of the region is a modern-day salting of the land. It’s a practice well known to the people of Israel in the Old Testament, in which armies would spread salt on the land of their adversaries so that nothing would grow there (see Judges 9:45).

The conflict in Congo is being waged on local communities—but Dominique is a problem-solver. He is seeking creative ways to conserve these communities while conserving the environment they inhabit, fostering the inherent relationship between the two. He is “bringing the forest to the community.”

An Olive Agenda: Our Path to Economic Opportunity and Environmental Sustainability

World photo, Denis Cristo / Shutterstock.com

World photo, Denis Cristo / Shutterstock.com

An examination of current public debate reveals a divide between the “brown agenda” of economic opportunity and the “green agenda” of environmental sustainability. 

On the one hand, a “brown agenda” concerns economic opportunity, or in other words, the alleviation of poverty. In light of ongoing distress surrounding malnutrition, infant mortality, and unemployment, the brown agenda is important, urgent, and worthy of support. On the other hand, a “green agenda” relates to environmental sustainability and care for the Earth. As scientific reports affirm the reality of climate change, and in recognition of decreased access to clean water and biodiversity around the world, the green agenda is also deeply important, urgent, and worthy of support.

With the above thoughts in mind, one recognizes that both brown and green agendas are essential for the promotion of life. However, the proponents of each agenda seem to be at odds with the adherents of the other. For example, far too many with a “brown agenda” believe that the best way to reduce poverty is to reduce environmental controls, and to the contrary, those engaged with the “green agenda” too often place the needs of the Earth before the livelihoods of the poor and marginalized. As a result of this persistent struggle between “brown” and “green," progress on both agendas is limited, and our path toward economic opportunity and environmental sustainability is severely off course. 

Why Bill McKibben is the New Noah

Earth photo, moomsabuy / Shutterstock.com

Earth photo, moomsabuy / Shutterstock.com

Last month, Rolling Stone magazine featured Bill McKibben's latest plea for climate sanity on its cover. And despite every pundit's whining proclamation that climate change is such a buzz-kill, Bill's article got forwarded, commented, tweeted, and otherwise pushed around the Internet more than anything else RS has put out lately.

So somebody out there is paying attention to climate change — even if the elites can't seem to grow a spine about it.

What I liked about Bill's article was that he lays out a clear, 3-pronged strategy for really doing something about climate change while there's still time.

If we do these three things, there's a possibility that we can reverse climate change, restore health to our skies, earth, and oceans, and move forward into a future where our grandkids can not just survive, but thrive.

Here's the plan.

Global Warming 'Converted Skeptic' Explains the Switch

Last weekend the New York Times published an op-ed by University of California-Berkeley physics professor, Richard Muller, who said he has changed his professional opinion on the cause of global warming:

“Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

Muller’s announcement sparked a media flurry throughout the week, and NPR’s Science Friday host, Ira Flatow, interviewed him today. You can listen to the audio recording HERE.

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