Tuesday, December 1, 2009

More about climate change in Nebraska

Reports from this evening's panel discussion about climate change in Nebraska tell about a lively discussion. Joe Duggan's article posted on JournalStar.com gives some examples of the sorts of changes scientists expect to see here in Nebraska.

Nebraska Public Radio interviewed some of the panelists earlier. You can hear that story here; this report talks about some of the changes such as the northward drift of habitats that are already being observed.

It's heartening to see more information about the effects of climate change in our own state being made accessible to the general public. Let's pray that this information can be truly heard and understood, and that we might have the wisdom and will to use it to make good decisions.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent 1: Interpreting the Signs

The Gospel lesson yesterday for the First Sunday of Advent was Luke 21: 25-36. In this passage, Jesus is talking about the signs of the coming of the Son of Man. He tells a parable, pointing out that when the fig trees and other trees begin to get new young leaves in the spring, people know that summer is near; in the same way, if people pay attention to the signs around them and know how to interpret them, they will know when Christ is there among them. Being aware of the signs – really seeing them – will help us know what is happening. In describing this time, Jesus talks about the fear and distress that people will experience, but he also tells his followers to stand up and raise their heads high, because all of these things mean that their redemption is near. There’s nothing to fear for the people who recognize Christ and have chosen to follow him, nothing to fear for people who yearn to live into the reign of God.
As a Deacon, I’m prepared to proclaim the Gospel on Sunday mornings. As part of that preparation, I read the Gospel lesson at least a day ahead, both to catch any names I might want to check for pronunciation ahead of time and also to get a sense of the lesson so that I proclaim it in a way that makes its meaning as plain as possible. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, I hadn't spent as much time thinking about yesterday’s lesson as I usually do, but I had looked it over a couple of days before. It must have been completely out of my thoughts, though, early yesterday morning when I got up and went downstairs to breakfast. I was checking the New York Times headlines online and saw a link to a set of four articles by writers from four different places -- Denmark, South Africa, Brazil, and Japan -- describing the climate changes they have experienced where they live. I had time to read the report from Japan and skim the others before leaving for church.

When I got to church and again looked over the Gospel lesson, I was struck by the concurrence of what I had read about the signs of climate change and the message of our Gospel passage for the day. We have signs of a coming time that will, if our failure to act allows it to come, produce fear and distress throughout the world, with floods, famines, droughts, and outbreaks of diseases. The signs are there; these four writers talk about climate phenomena that anyone living in these places can observe. Because they often happen gradually and over the course of a lifetime, it is easy to ignore the signs right around us. For my part, I have childhood memories of wanting to be excused from the dinner table on Thanksgiving as quickly as possible so that I could get bundled up and go out and play Fox and Geese in the snow with my brother and cousins. When I was home in Ohio this Thanksgiving, there was a wet snowfall that lasted half a day. There also was a lily outside the entrance to my mother’s apartment building that looked like it was ready to bloom; other people told me about pussy willows coming into bud and roses still blooming. When I went into the woods, there were many green plants still growing through this year’s leaf layer on the forest floor.

Besides these anecdotal signs, of course, we have statistical analysis from climate scientists. (A recent Associate Press article found on the Forecast Earth section of The Weather Channel’s website summarizes some of the scientific findings nicely.) The Copenhagen conference is approaching with some encouraging signs that some progress might be made, but also with the knowledge that even the best of what look like the politically possible scenarios won’t bring about enough of a reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to prevent further warming.
We Christians can bring a different perspective to this situation, one of hope. There is the hope that if we pay attention to the signs, if we open our eyes to the reality unfolding right now and have compassion for those who stand to suffer the most from the effects of climate change, if we do all we can to live more responsibly and advocate for more responsible decisions from those in power, that we can live through this time with courage and hope, standing up with our heads raised high. Recognizing the profound severity of the problem is not the same as living without hope; our faith in the healing power of God’s love can empower us to find a way through this. When we learn to live in a way that makes life sustainable for all people and for all the living things that share this planet, we will find ourselves “further up and further in” as we journey into the reign of God.

What are the expected effects of climate change on Nebraska and its wildlife? The Nebraska Wildlife Federation is holding a public forum tomorrow evening, December 1, at 6:30 on UNL’s East Campus to talk about the effect of climate change on wildlife and agriculture. More information is available from this article from the Lincoln Journal Star.