Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A New Thing

At the 147th Annual Council of the Diocese of Nebraska in Scottsbluff last Saturday, we passed a resolution calling on the Episcopal Church Pension Fund and the Episcopal Church Endowment Fund to divest from the fossil fuel industry and reinvest funds in the clean energy sector. Between now and General Convention, other dioceses are expected to offer resolutions about divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
The theme of our Annual Council was “Behold, I am doing a new thing!” The people of the Diocese of Nebraska showed that we are indeed open to something new. In response to a global warming crisis that is unlike anything humankind has ever faced, a crisis that makes the future of humankind itself uncertain, we are willing to imagine a different world. We are willing to imagine a world in which we no longer burn fossil fuels to create energy, a world in which we instead harness the energy of the wind and the sun. We are willing to imagine a world in which we mitigate climate change resulting from global warming rather than continuing to accelerate global warming. With faith and hope, the people of the 147th Annual Council were willing to think about the reality of global warming and do something in response. 

The resolution itself outlined two moral reasons and two financial reasons to divest from the fossil fuel industry and reinvest in the clean energy sector. In presenting the resolution, I reviewed the resolution and then shared some of my own some of my deeper personal reasons for working hard for the church to address climate change in a significant way. Here is an excerpt:
First are the justice issues arising from climate change and Jesus’ straightforward commandments to serve the poor. Some of the world’s poorest people are being affected first and worst by climate change — people in Pacific Island nations like Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands who are trying to figure out where they can go as their islands disappear; people in many places around the world who rely on traditional subsistence farming who no longer know when to plant and harvest because seasonal weather patterns have been disrupted by climate change; people in traditional Arctic villages built on permafrost — or what used to be permafrost — losing their homes and often their way of life, their culture and language; and all those affected by increasing tropical diseases, flooding, decreased water supplies as glaciers shrink or disappear, and so forth. 
Second is personal grief over the loss of familiar plants, birds, and trees. As a child, I first experienced the Holy in nature, and I still feel a special nearness to God when I feel close to God’s sacred creation. The loss of these things breaks my heart. 
Third is the knowledge that I can only begin to really comprehend of two things: first, what I know scientists tell us we will all face — us, our children, and whatever generations might come after — as global warming shoots beyond 2 degrees Celsius and goes on to 4 degrees or even 6 degrees warming, and what I know political and military analysts tell us about the breakdown of security around the world that would accompany these changes; and second, the knowledge that we — governments and industries and other institutions around the world — are failing to do much of anything right now to stop this. This isn’t hard to understand because the information isn’t there; it’s hard to understand because it is too terrible to contemplate. Somehow that has brought us to a point of inaction rather than action.
One reason we are reluctant to act significantly is that we are scared of facing the reality. Have you noticed how little we hear about global warming from politicians and pundits, or from pulpits, or even from one another in conversations? Talking about climate change is a big social taboo. One reason we sometimes get angry or annoyed with people like me who talk about such things is that we are all frightened of what is unfolding and perhaps a little ashamed at the things we have done or left undone that helped get us to this point. Along with that is that resistance to change that Mike Wagner talked about yesterday.
 At one point, Mike talked about the gap between the rate of cultural change and the rate of change most of us can readily accept. But what we needed to understand about Daniel’s ability to embrace change, he said, was that Daniel understood “You’ll be in Babylon in two weeks.” 
Graphs of carbon emissions and warming global temperatures show a similar shape to each other and a similar accelerated rate of change to those graphs of cultural change that Mike discussed. So far, the gap between those curves and a line showing our response to the global warming crisis has done nothing but increase. We won’t be in Babylon in two weeks, but we already see the beginnings of the change, and we will be in a whole new world by the middle of this century or perhaps as soon as 2030 — 16 years from now — if we continue to do too little too late. 
A church that leads in recognizing the moral issues involved in climate change and responding in a big way to this crisis — a crisis that is as much a spiritual crisis as a physical crisis — is a church that will continue to live and minister to God’s people in a changing world. I ask you to be that church and vote in favor of this resolution. 
I ask your prayers for other dioceses that will be looking at divestment and reinvestment between now and General Convention in 2015. Please pray for those of us working on this issue, that we might have the courage to work for a strong resolution at General Convention, the wisdom to do that work well, and hope to sustain us as we contemplate this issue.





Saturday, October 4, 2014

St. Francis and the Birds: Lament

One of the most beloved stories about St. Francis is the story of Francis preaching to the birds. Francis reminded the birds of the gifts they received from God and exhorted them to express their gratitude by praising God. At the conclusion of his sermon, the birds bowed their heads to the ground and then sang to praise God.

The sights and sounds of birds give us much joy and remind us of the gift of beauty and wonder God has given us through the diversity of God’s good creation. This year we observe St. Francis Day not long after the Audubon Society’s release of their Birds and Climate Change report. This report tells us that about half the birds in the United States and Canada are in danger of losing more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080.

This video summarizes some of the report’s findings:


We know the birds aren’t the only living things in trouble. People are endangered by climate change, too; young walruses endangered by stampeding as great numbers of walruses gather on beaches because there are few ice floes on which they can rest have been in the news recently; and articles and books about the Sixth Extinction — see, for example, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History — describe the current unprecedented rapid rate of species extinction of both animals and plants.

St. Francis taught us compassion for all living things. Such compassion leaves us vulnerable to heartbreak and grief as we contemplate the loss of our familiar birds or realize we are witnessing one of the planet’s few eras of tremendous loss of species in a relatively short time. How might we respond to such loss in the spirit of St. Francis?

Lament

Being good stewards of God’s creation, including advocacy for the people and other living things who are suffering first and worst from climate change, is an important part of our response as people of faith to the climate crisis. Preparing ourselves to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of people affected by climate change, whether they be people directly affected by natural disasters or people simply having trouble processing the great changes occurring in the world, is also an important task for the church. 

Along with those actions, though, an honest response to the climate crisis and the loss of so much in our biosphere requires us to relearn the practice of lament. The Psalms teach us how to do this: bring our sorrows, our grief, our complaint out loud to God while acknowledging our ongoing faith that God is somewhere in all of this and and our belief in a God whose goodness and lovingkindness are steadfast even in the worst of times. 

I’d love to see people with gifts for leading liturgy help us engage in public lament. For now, I’ll be using this space from time to time to highlight some of the losses, some of the heartbreak, sorrow, and grief, that might call us to respond with lament. Just as allowing ourselves to publicly mourn the loss of a loved one helps us both realize the depth of our loss and begin to move on, so the practice of lament might help us be more conscious of our emotional and spiritual response to the losses we are suffering collectively and help us be better prepared for the work of stewardship, advocacy, and ministry as the climate crisis continues to unfold.

Lamenting the immanent loss of some of our bird companions is a place to begin the work of lament.

Giotto: St. Francis Preaches to the Birds


Monday, September 22, 2014

Marching to Nineveh

In churches where yesterday’s Old Testament lesson was the last part of the Book of Jonah (Jonah 3:10-4:11), we heard about Jonah’s anger at God’s mercy to the Ninevites, who had listened to the message Jonah brought them from God and had repented. Jonah gets angry all over again when a bush God sent to give Jonah some shade dies after a day. God points out to Jonah that he is concerned about a single bush and yet begrudges God’s mercy to the people of Nineveh: “And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and went thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” 

Yesterday was also the day of the huge People’s Climate March in New York City. Smaller marches and rallies gathered around the world in support. The People’s Climate March was timed to occur as participants began gathering for a UN Climate Summit, and a theme of the estimated 400,000 marchers was that inaction on climate change is unacceptable. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called world leaders to gather this week in order to build momentum toward a significant agreement at next year’s climate conference in Paris.

While the first part of the story of Jonah — his running away from God that results in his spending three days in the belly of a whale — is perhaps the most well-known part of the story, what happens when Jonah obeys God and goes to Nineveh to proclaim, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4) is a classic story about human nature. As I heard this read yesterday morning with the People’s Climate March and my many friends taking part in it on my mind and in my heart, I became aware of some places where the story of Jonah and the story of the climate march intersect. These intersections can help us as Christians formulate our response to climate change.

Proclaiming the truth

Many of the people marching yesterday have been speaking and writing about climate change for years. No matter how long they have been at it, though, a principal purpose of bringing together a large and diverse crowd of people around the issue was to raise awareness of climate change and its effects on people. The march had an environmental justice focus that brought together people from a variety of sectors — indigenous people, people of faith, union members, people who work for affordable housing, people from island nations, Appalachia, and our own Nebraska sandhills — who brought their own messages about the harmful effects of climate change on particular groups of people.

Jonah resisted telling the truth, and we as a society have been slow to tell the truth about climate change. Media Matters reported that the “Sunday news shows on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox failed to cover the People's Climate March”; coverage of climate change in general has been dismal in the mainstream American press. Unlike too many news reporters and political leaders, the people marching yesterday were there to proclaim the truth; they were there to be heard.

Repentance and reconciliation

When the Ninevites hear Jonah’s message and repent, Jonah is angry because he doesn’t think they deserve God’s grace. Given that God’s grace got Jonah out of the belly of the whale, his resentment of the Ninevites seems especially petty.

Last Friday, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori along with the heads for the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the  Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, issued a pastoral message on climate change. In it, the Bishops encourage us to leave behind our tendency to divide into factions and point fingers at one another, and instead to work toward reconciliation: 
Moreover, we need not surrender to political ideologies and other modern mythologies that would divide us into partisan factions — deserving and undeserving, powerless victims and godless oppressors. In Christ we have the promise of a life where God has reconciled the human community. In Christ God sets us free from the captivity of blaming and shaming. God liberates us for shared endeavors where we find each other at our best.
Encouraging reconciliation, and especially rejoicing as more and more people repent of our contributions to climate change and try to change our ways, is one of the gifts we Christians can offer the world at this time. Healing ourselves and learning to love one another is an essential piece of healing the planet. Politics as usual will not get us where we need to go.

Divestment and reinvestment

Divestment from the fossil fuel industry and reinvestment in clean energy would give the church an opportunity to practice repentance for our contributions to climate change and to lead the way to a better future for all living things. This weekend we learned that the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation — the philanthropic foundation for a family whose wealth originated with oil — is joining the divestment movement.

Resolutions will be introduced at several diocesan annual councils this fall calling on the Episcopal Church Pension Fund and the Episcopal Church Endowment Fund to divest from the fossil fuel industry. These resolutions lay the groundwork for an effort to bring the issue to General Convention in 2015. (I’ve proposed a divestment and reinvestment resolution for consideration at the Diocese of Nebraska’s Annual Council.)

God told Jonah that his concern about the death of one plant should extend to the entire population of Nineveh, both people and animals. When we Christians respond to climate change through truth-telling and acts of repentance and reconciliation, we will help save the lives of people and all other living things all over the world. 









Saturday, August 2, 2014

New Questions for a New Time

Loaves and Fishes Revisited

As greenhouse gas emissions and global warming increase exponentially, it becomes more obvious each day that treating this challenge as just another social or political issue is not only ineffective, but dangerously distracting. We know we can’t continue business as usual in many areas of our lives if we are to mitigate global warming; why would we think that the usual paradigms to effect change would be appropriate in this case?

In particular, what should the church do to respond to global warming and other forms of environmental degradation? Should we do a religiously informed version of what other environmental activists do to advocate for climate stability and cleaner air and water, or are we called to do something different?

This week’s Sunday Gospel passage has brought me back to a persistent feeling I have that the church’s call in the face of pressing environmental concerns needs to be very different in kind from what other environmentalists are doing. Perhaps we need to look beyond dressing up the talking points or action steps of other groups with theological language and do something unique that might better match the uniqueness of this moment in human history and the uniqueness of the church as the Body of Christ.

This Sunday’s Gospel lesson is Matthew’s version of the story of the loaves and the fishes (Matthew 14:13-21) At the end of January, I posted a reflection on John’s version of the story. In John’s version, Jesus asks the disciples where they will find something for the crowd to eat, and while the disciples have a conversation about all the reasons it can’t be done, a boy offers the five barley loaves and two fish that he has. That post suggested that offering whatever we have in faith can have surprising results. The many grassroots efforts to address climate change may not look like much compared to the influence of the fossil fuel industry, and we can give lots of reasons to think they are not sufficient to make a significant difference, but when we offer these efforts in faith, they can do more than we can imagine they can do.

But Matthew’s version is different; it adds a different twist that makes it about more than having faith that even our small efforts can make a difference. This version starts with the disciples being proactive about feeding the crowd. They realize that people will start getting hungry soon, and they very sensibly suggest to Jesus that he send the crowd away so people can go into the villages and buy some food. They aren’t stumped about how to make sure no one goes hungry: Jesus simply needs to break up the gathering so people can go off and buy some food. But Jesus says they don’t have to go away. The way this situation would usually be handled is not necessarily the best approach. After all, this is not just any gathering with just any teacher; this is a gathering of people wanting to be with Jesus. So Jesus says, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

It’s as if Jesus says, “Don’t send them away. Think outside of the box; come up with a new solution for a new kind of situation.” And when the disciples can’t think of a different solution, Jesus asks for what they have and shows them something very new: the blessing, breaking, and distribution of the bread to feed a crowd of people who came hungry for something only Jesus could give them.

What people outside of faith communities are doing to address climate change and pollution are often very sensible projects bent on changing government policies or encouraging conservation or advocating for environmental justice. They are sensible and proactive approaches, often the same approaches that activists have found successful to effect change in other areas. But global warming in particular is a new problem unlike any other we have ever faced. And the church is different in kind from any other type of institution. Put those two things together, and it seems to resonate with Jesus saying, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” It sounds like, “You don’t need to rely on old paradigms to effect change; figure out something different.” Perhaps we are called to figure out something that looks like Jesus blessing, breaking, and distributing something we already have.

These are the questions for prayer, reflection, and discussion that have risen up for me in light of this Gospel text: What do we as the church have to offer? How do we offer it to Christ so that people can be fed what we need here and now, in this world where we face a very real threat to life on this planet unlike any other humankind has ever faced? How do we offer the church’s unique gifts so Christ can use them to meet the unique needs of this point in human history?

I invite others to sit with these questions with me. Sitting prayerfully and openly with these difficult questions in this nearly unthinkable situation may be the first step of doing what God calls us to do in this time.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Feast of St. James: Scallops and their companions

Carlo Crivelli (circa 1435–circa 1495)
July 25 is the Feast of Saint James the Apostle. The scallop is closely associated with St. James — see  Shell of St. James in the Wikipedia article Scallop for possible explanations of the connection —and are traditionally eaten on the feast day, often in the delicious classic dish Coquilles St. Jacques that bears the name of the saint. 

Two years ago I wrote a post St. James, Scallops, and Drought about the stress ocean acidification places on populations of scallops and other shellfish and how the acidification of the oceans connects to other stresses on on other ecosystems. What do we know about this in 2014? 

This has been a difficult year for scallops and the scallop industry in the northwestern United States and British Columbia. In February of this year, the death since 2009 of around 10 millions scallops before they could be harvested resulted in layoffs of workers. (See the CBC article Acidic ocean deadly for Vancouver Island scallop industry.

The Seattle Times has put together the Sea Change report, an excellent written and video report that describes what is happening in the Pacific Ocean, showing the connections between what is happening to seafood in the Pacific Northwest and what is happening to coral reefs off the coast of Papua New Guinea and the primary protein source for people in the region. The threat to the Pacific Northwest seafood industry and the people who depend on that for their livelihood is tied to a lessening food supply for rural people on South Pacific islands. 

The same carbon pollution that contributes so much to global warming is the cause of ocean acidification. A side bar to the report notes that we add “the equivalent of a hopper car of coal — about 100 U.S. tons — into the ocean every second.” Even if we set the huge challenge of global warming aside, what is happening to our oceans is reason enough to shift quickly away from the use of fossil fuels as our primary energy source. 

In an announcement last Friday from U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, we learned that the eastern coast of the United States will be opened to oil and gas exploration and to seismic surveys using “sonic cannons” to locate deposits under the ocean floor. (See Obama opens Eastern Seaboard to oil exploration from the Associated Press.) Environmentalists object to the sonic cannons because they harm marine life. Harming marine life in order to make more fossil fuels available, thus increasing the acidity of the ocean and the temperature of the planet, seems especially evil.

One of the most sobering pieces of this report is that the sorts of changes scientists are finding in the Pacific are happening much sooner, at a much faster rate, than predicted:
“I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct,” said James Barry of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. “But this change we’re seeing is happening so fast it’s almost instantaneous. I think it might be so important that we see large levels, high rates, of extinction.”
Globally, we can arrest much of the damage if we bring down CO2 soon. But if we do not, the bad news won’t stop. And the longer we wait, the more permanent the change gets.
“There’s a train wreck coming and we are in a position to slow that down and make it not so bad,” said Stephen Palumbi, a professor of evolutionary and marine biology at Stanford University. “But if we don’t start now the wreck will be enormous.”
You might think that would lend the problem urgency. So far, it has not.
St. James was a fisherman. He and his brother John were mending their nets when Jesus called them to follow him. The Eucharistic reading for the Feast of St. James is Matthew 20: 20-28. In this passage, the mother of James and John asks Jesus to give her sons places right next to him in his kingdom. Jesus replies, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”, and the brothers reply, “We are able.” 

Jesus asks whether they are able to stick with following him when discipleship becomes even more difficult. Can the Church stick with following Jesus when the right thing to do is to work for an end to our reliance on oil, gas, and coal? Can we stand up to the considerable power and clout of the fossil fuel industry in order to safeguard the welfare of the ocean on which the lives of humans and marine life depends? 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Extraordinary Hope in Ordinary Time: Tipping Points, Extinction, and Conversion

“Ordinary time” is what we call the part of the liturgical year between Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. This long, (liturgically) green season that stretches from late spring to late autumn is “ordinary” because most of the Sundays are named using ordinal numbers — e.g. this Sunday will be “The Second Sunday after Pentecost”. 

Outside of the church, ordinary time (or ordinary times) simply refers to a time when nothing particularly unusual or noteworthy is happening. Some stretches of summer days can feel very ordinary; for some, those long, ordinary days  when we have a bit more time to relax and simply live are the best thing about summer. 

But if we are paying attention, we know that despite appearances, we are living in anything but ordinary times. Recent climate reports tell us that we have passed the point where global warming can be prevented and are well into a series of feedback loops that point to catastrophic consequences beginning in this century unless we act very quickly in very significant ways. Biologists talk about a sixth great extinction, with a new study saying that species are now disappearing from the earth at a rate ten times faster than what they had though previously, which means that “plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene.” (See World On Brink Of Sixth Great Extinction, Species Disappearing Faster Than Ever Before

Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday in the ordinary time after Pentecost. Our first lesson last Sunday morning was Genesis 1:1-2:4, the familiar “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth..” creation story. It names God as Creator and emphasizes the goodness of creation, repeating the sentence “And God saw that it was good”, until the work of creation is done, when “God saw everything that [God] had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) I decided to put my copy of the text in our bulletin aside and simply listen as the lesson was read; it is one I know well and one I enjoy hearing as it describes an ordered unfolding of the richness and diversity of creation. 

As I sat and listened to the lesson, I pictured the oceans with “swarms of living creatures”, the plants, the land animals, and the birds. I intended to sit back and enjoy this poetic listing of so much of what makes the world beautiful and life-giving, so much of what I love, but instead, I found myself holding back tears. 

I’ve read the climate reports, and I’m reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. I know where we are now, where we are headed, and that the sea creatures, land animals, birds, plants, and humans are all in various degrees of danger of disappearing. It is heart-breaking, especially in light of God’s pronouncement that it was all “very good”, and especially in light of Genesis 1:28, when God put humankind — us — in charge of God’s good creation. 

We who are alive today are living in a time so un-ordinary as to be nearly inconceivable even as we live in the midst of this reality. These times require from all of us an extraordinarily profound repentance and a deep change of life and heart. We have passed some tipping points. It is too late to prevent or reverse a troubling increase in global temperature, and it is too late to save us from some destruction from sea level rise. However, it is not too late to do everything we can to mitigate the destruction and to live as people who are sincerely repentant for our failure to rule wisely over God’s creation. 

Recent weeks have brought signs that conscious recognition of our situation and a willingness to turn ourselves around and make some changes may be increasing. The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate is a new essay by Al Gore written for the July 2rd-17th issue of Rolling Stone. In it, Sen. Gore begins by laying out the reality of where we are today, noting that as a result of the recent climate reports coupled with the news of the irreversible collapse of a portion of the West Antarctic ice sheet, “many — including some who had long since accepted the truth about global warming — had difficulty coming to grips with the stark new reality that one of the long-feared ‘tipping points’ had been crossed. And that, as a result, no matter what we do, sea levels will rise by at least an additional three feet.”

However, he offers signs of real hope, signs that we may be at a “turning point”, what we might call a point of conversion. He points to a big growth in the use of solar power worldwide, to a greater willingness for governments to put limits on carbon emissions, and to signs that September’s UN Climate Summit and the 2015 climate negotiations in Paris will produce something significant. (He notes that many regard the Paris negotiations as “the last chance to avoid civilizational catastrophe while there is still time”.) And he compares all of this to other movements for social change, quoting poet Wallace Stevens: “After the final ‘no’ there comes a ‘yes’/And on the ‘yes’ the future world depends.”

Closer to home is the reality of the series of tornadoes, storms, and flooding rains in parts of Nebraska this week and earlier this month coupled with a sign of our willingness to begin turning around: a report from Friday’s Omaha World Herald on OPPD’s plans to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency. 

We do live in extraordinary times, but everything depends on something Christians know in our bones: the ‘yes’ that is the the beginning of a deep conversion, a willingness to transform our hearts and our lives so we are more closely aligned with God’s will. Sometimes our hearts have to be broken before we are able to let go of our old lives and allow that transformation to happen.

This Sunday’s Gospel lesson (Matthew 10:24-39) ends with this: “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” We will find our lives, intertwined as they are with the lives of all other creatures, when we let go of a way of life that is no longer life-giving and say ‘yes’ to something new.















Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rogation Days: Praying the Bounds of a Warming World

The traditional English celebration of Rogation Days, the three days preceding Ascension Day, included a procession around the boundaries of the parish (often coextensive with the boundaries of a village). At stops along the boundaries, the congregation prayed for the welfare of the village and especially for a good growing season, and the priest blessed the fields. The procession stopped several times for these prayers and blessings, often at important landmarks along the boundaries of the parish. Along with an occasion for prayer and blessings, walking the bounds or beating the bounds also ensured a public memory and a clear public proclamation of exactly where boundaries lay. Ensuring clarity of the boundaries eliminated disputes and gave everyone a common understanding of the bounds of the parish.

The Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church adapts the tradition to our time and place by focusing on traditional rural concerns for the growing season the first day, commerce and industry the second day, and stewardship of creation the third day. In this way, the custom of offering prayers and blessings on the Rogation Days has been preserved in a meaningful way for our context. But since we aren’t living in old English villages, the traditions of creating awareness of boundaries and blessing the bounds has been lost along the way. Some Episcopal parishes process around a neighborhood, community garden, or large church property or drive out into the country to bless a parishioner’s fields, allowing the tradition of praying these prayers outdoors with a festive procession to continue, but any “bounds” that are walked lack the importance of the boundaries that were both declared and blessed in earlier times.

In this era of accelerated global warming, however, we might begin a new Rogation custom of observing and praying the bounds or limits of our biosphere. Through our lack of awareness of the limits of the amounts of greenhouse gases that can be released into our atmosphere without jeopardizing life on Earth, we have made our bounds smaller. Each year the world fails to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions and acknowledge the laws of chemistry and physics that determine the limits of our biosphere for human life, we leave ourselves less room for solutions that allow us to continue to live and live well. Our inaction is pulling the bounds tighter, leaving us less and less wiggle room. 

During the Rogation Days, we might prayerfully study the current state of global warming and pray about the bounds or limits we discover. Here is a place to start, a post by Kiley Kroh on Climate Progress last week: Global Temperatures In April Tied For The Hottest On Record.

April may have brought mild temperatures to much of North America, but that wasn’t the case for the planet as a whole. Last month officially tied for the warmest April globally since recordkeeping began in 1880, according to data released by NOAA’s National Climactic Data Center on Tuesday.
This makes it the 38th consecutive April and 350th consecutive month with a global temperature at or above the 20th century average. The last time the planet experienced an April with below-average temperatures was 1976.
The post goes on to discuss the parallel rise in carbon emissions and expectations for future temperature rises. 

We need to put significant limits emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases around the world to mitigate global warming. We might acknowledge the need for those limits and pray about them. As temperatures rise we will experience all sorts of big changes that will place limits on human activity. Agriculture will be impacted, marine ecosystems will suffer, and people will need to leave places that become uninhabitable because of rising seas, extreme temperatures, or lack of water. These are our new bounds, the limits within which we will try to live and continue to love one another and love God. Prayer and mindful meditation about those limits is one of the great gifts people of faith can offer now.

If we pray about those bounds and find mindful acceptance of them, we may be able to find blessing there as well. A clear public proclamation of these limits coupled with a blessing of all living things inside these new bounds brings Rogation Days out of the realm of quaint Anglican history and into the heart of what Christ calls us to do today.

For stewardship of creation
O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit live and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 259, Collects for Rogation Days)