Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Synchronicity: Creation Care, Legislation, World Meetings, and the Gospel

Sometimes several things come together at once in a way that help us to see something we had overlooked or not seen clearly enough. For years, climate scientists have been warning us about global warming. For months, reports have appeared saying that the earlier predictions had been too conservative, and that climate change is happening more rapidly and dramatically than these scientists had expected.

Several things have happened in recent weeks that are helping more people become aware of the problem we face and the changes we could make that would lessen the severity of the problem. U.S. News has an article about the role of American religious groups in pushing for climate change legislation. Awareness of creation care as a fundamental piece of overall stewardship is growing. Out of that awareness has come action to urge the Senate to pass a major piece of climate change legislation this fall.

The timing of such a bill is important, as December brings the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen. You might recall from an earlier post that this conference is considered extremely important because of the point we have reached with climate change; this may be the last chance to begin to reverse climate change before its effects are devastating for life as we know it on our planet. There are more voices saying this now. In a piece called “Copenhagen or Bust” that appeared in the September 28, 2009 issue of Newsweek, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “If we miss this opportunity, there will be no second chance sometime in the future, no later way to undo the catastrophic damage to the environment we will cause.”

Leading up to the Copenhagen conference, there was a UN Summit on Climate Change held in New York on September 22. This was the biggest gathering ever of political leaders to discuss climate change, indicating the growing urgency and awareness of the issue. One hundred heads of state and governments gathered for this summit. President Nasheed of the Republic of the Maldives was one of the people who addressed the gathering. His island country is facing the possibility of disappearing as the oceans rise. His words are sobering:

The Gospel lesson for September 20 (Mark 9: 30-37) ended up being especially appropriate for a week in which such things were discussed at such a high level meeting. Preparing a sermon for St. Mark’s on the Campus for that Sunday, I thought about the people living on low-lying islands, in far northern villages built on melting permafrost, in the lowest-lying coastal areas around the world where so many of the poorest people in the world live. “Today’s lesson suggests that good discipleship calls for us to ask the hard questions, to set aside our own desires for status and power, and to welcome – to notice and build relationship with – the people who are most easily pushed aside and overlooked in our world. A big piece of discipleship today involves good stewardship of the environment, because the first and worst effects of pollution and climate change usually fall on the most vulnerable people in the world.”

These weeks that lead up to Copenhagen have more Good News from Mark that can help guide our decisions and thinking about climate change: the rich man’s difficulty in letting go of his treasure so he can live into the greater treasure of the kingdom of God, the importance of serving others instead of lording it over them, and the commandment to love God and one’s neighbor. These passages help us to find our way in a world in which we Americans are the people with wealth and power, and others in the world stand to lose all they have if we misuse our wealth and power.

The importance of the growing role of religious groups in the conversation about the environment may end up being not so much the addition of more voices urging our Senators – and our representatives at Copenhagen – to take action, important though that is, but the reminder of why we should care, and the voice of hope that God will give us the will and the means to do the right thing once we make the decision to be better stewards of God’s creation.

Meanwhile, more talks leading up to Copenhagen are occurring in Bangkok this week. The Philippines and Viet Nam are dealing with big floods from Typhoon Ketsana, and more storms are forming that could hit the Philippines again. There has been speculation that these huge rains could be related to climate change. That’s probably no more than speculation, but the sort of damage and loss of life we are seeing do give us a glimpse of what the future holds if we do nothing to avert major climate change.

Given everything that is happening this fall – all of the above along with things like the good opportunities to connect with God's creation in Nebraska in the fall, and our approaching Annual Council in North Platte – the plan here at Green Sprouts is to increase the frequency of posts on the blog for the next several weeks. Please send along anything that you think should be included in our conversation.