Saturday, May 11, 2013

400 ppm Response

As predicted for the month of May, carbon dioxide levels as measured at the Mauna Loa observatory have reached 400 parts per million for a daily average. An article from the New York Times yesterday reported the discouraged and discouraging reaction of scientists to the news; they note our failure to reverse the upward trend in these readings, the catastrophic results we face from this dramatic change in our atmosphere, and the fact that the last time carbon dioxide levels were this high on the earth, human beings were not yet here.

We know the reaction of the news media: there are some reports about crossing the threshold, including statements from the scientists, but reporters are not giving this the attention we usually give to national catastrophes or calamities. And the reaction so far from the majority of our political leaders is silence.

The Episcopal Church just finished participating in a short conference on “sustaining hope in the face of climate change”.  Our leadership acknowledges the problem. I wonder how many parishes, though, will include special prayers this Sunday after we have reached this mark, how many preachers will feel a need to address this the way we have addressed 9/11 or mass murders or large scale natural disasters, how many people visiting at coffee hour will talk about their feelings about this being the week we reached a reading of 400 ppm.

The church has an opportunity to break the great silence of the media and political leaders; the church has an opportunity to do what our faith equips us to do best, to help people look at the reality of what is happening and process its meaning and go out prepared to deal with this new world with its new needs. The church can recognize this and name this for what it is: a tragedy, a worldwide emergency, a shared grief.

When The Book of Common Prayer was written in 1979, a small number of scientists were beginning to get an idea of where we were headed with greenhouse gases and climate change. Most of us knew nothing about any of this, though, and our prayer book has no prayers or collects for reaching unthinkable thresholds of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. We do, however, have many prayers for people in need of healing and food and water, for the welfare of our nation and the world, for our leaders, and for our own strength and courage and wisdom. We can pray these in light of where we are now, mindful of new needs in the world and old needs of human souls that got us where we are now and can also repent and get us headed in a better direction.  And we have prayers such as these:

For the Conservation of Natural Resources
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. (p. 827)

For the Future of the Human Race
O God, our heavenly Father, you have blessed us and given us dominion over all the earth: Increase our reverence before the mystery of life; and give us new insight into your purposes for the human race, and new wisdom and determination in making provision for its future in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (p. 828)

And so that we might preach the truth and be mindful of our priorities, remembering that nothing less than our own future and the future of our children and grandchildren are at stake and that Christ gives us the strength we need to do the work before us, we might pray for the church:

Gracious Father, we pray thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen. (For the Church, p. 816)

There is so much beauty in the living things around this; aware of what we may lose yet in our lifetimes, sharing our love for the beauty of the earth and thanking God for these gifts is also part of our prayer:

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