Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Praying the News

News about Superstorm Sandy and its after effects, new information about the dynamics and effects of climate change, and the convening of a United Nations climate conference in Doha, Qatar, give us much information to process.  One way people of faith process news is by sitting with it prayerfully, holding up our concerns and intercessions to God even as we listen to catch what the Spirit nudges us to do in response.

Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect For the Conservation of Natural Resources (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 827)

Please pray for:

People coping with the effects of Superstorm Sandy.  Superstorm Sandy caused more damage in New York State alone than Katrina did in the entire Gulf Coast region. (See Cuomo: Sandy cost N.Y. $32B in damage and loss.) Episcopal Relief and Development reports on some of the relief efforts. 

Seasonable weather. The U.S. Drought Monitor for the past week  shows most of Nebraska in the “exceptional” category – the most severe drought category. Unseasonably warmer or dryer weather in the winter makes daily life easier, but we pray for seasonable weather because our ability to grow food depends on it.

Climate conference Another UN climate change conference – COP 18  --  has convened, this one in Doha, Qatar. There are low (“modest”) expectations for this conference, and even if it accomplishes all it sets out to do, it may be too little too late. A Washington Post story on the beginning of the conference  quotes Christina Figueres, the UNFCC executive secretary, saying: “The door is closing fast on us because the pace and the scale of action is simply not yet where it must be.”

The will to look at what is happening to our biosphere, hearts to have compassion for all living things, and the wisdom and courage to do what we must to sustain life. A dedicated issue of New Scientist discusses seven areas in which climate change “is even worse than we thought”: Arctic warming, extreme weather, food production, sea level, planetary feedbacks, human emissions, and heat stress. The World Bank just issued a report called  Turn down the heat: Why a 4° C warmer world must be avoided. The report says that even if the emissions pledges made at the climate conferences in Copenhagen and Cancun are fully met, there is still about a 20% chance of warming more than 4° C by 2100; if the pledges are not met, then we could reach this level of warming by 2070.

Avoiding disastrous levels of warming is not an easy task, and the powers opposed to limiting greenhouse gas emissions in the name of short-term profit and convenience are many and have a wide reach. The Do the Math tour from Bill McKibben and 350.org will be in Omaha this Saturday to talk about ways we can work for sustainability despite the powers working against it.

Compassion is something we cultivate through prayer and through gratitude. The more we connect with the natural world around us and with one another, the more we appreciate all living things, the deeper will be our compassion and our commitment to preservation of our biosphere.

As we pray for others, we might also pray for our own hearts to be open so we can see the needs in the world around us and gladly respond to those needs:

O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty; Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Joy in God’s Creation (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 814)