Faith and the Environment Collide – Synchroblog for April 16, 2008

“The most important thing about global warming is this: Whether humans are responsible for the bulk of climate change is going to be left to the scientists, but it’s all of our responsibility to leave this planet in better shape for the future generations than we found it. It’s the old Boy Scout rule of the campsite: You leave the campsite in better shape than you found it. I believe that even our responsibility to God means that we have to be good stewards of this Earth, be good caretakers of the natural resources that don’t belong to us, we just get to use them. We have no right to abuse them.” (Mike Huckabee)
Source: 2007 GOP primary debate, at Reagan library, hosted by MSNBC May 3, 2007

I was reading something for school yesterday on the IPCC website, and the report I was reading used the term “the butterfly effect,” the theory that a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere in the world could cause a hurricane in another part of the world.

I don’t know how true this is for climate, but I think the underlying message is this: we are connected to the Earth and to every single person in it. What I do here in Illinois affects you in California, or in England, or in South Africa. But even more likely is that what I do here in Illinois will affect the poor person living in Sudan, Peru, or any other poor country in the world.

Scientists are telling us that, due to our lifestyles and what we consume, we are making climate change happen. They’re also saying that climate change is going to hurt poor people and nations of this world the most.

Here’s the short version: consumption of fossil fuels throws CO2 into the air. Much of the CO2 stays in the atmosphere a century or more. There is so much CO2 in the atmosphere now, it is affecting the global climate. With more CO2 in the atmosphere, more heat is trapped in the atmosphere. Air and land temperatures warm up, then polar ice starts to melt. In the Arctic, the ice is replaced by sea water, which absorbs more heat than ice. As the water absorbs the heat, Arctic water temperatures rise, causing additional ice melt.

All of this contributes to climate change. There are places in the world that got snow this winter for the first time in years, and the rest of us had pretty brutal winters compared to what we’re used to having, but despite short-term variation, the long-term trend is clearly toward increasing average global temperatures.

Climate change is about more than just air temperatures going up and down: it’s about changes in precipitation, air, land, and sea temperatures, and in living things.

When all of these changes happen, it’s more difficult for plants and animals to survive in their native ecosystems. It’s also more difficult for farmers to grow crops and raise livestock. The speed and type of change varies from place to place.
Some people have the resources to adapt better than others. Impacts are already visible in the coastal areas of the US, but we’re able to irrigate, fertilize, and help along our crops and animals. We have the money and the resources to do that.

Poor people don’t have either.

We’re already seeing food prices rise and food become even more scarce in the third world. There were riots in Haiti this past week over rising food costs. Most poor people simply go without.

Jesus taught us to ask God for our daily bread. He said not to lay up treasures on Earth. He also taught His followers to sell their possessions and give to the poor.

I don’t think His intention was for us to have big houses and drive big cars. I don’t think it was His intention for us to consume more than our share of resources and let the poor people of the world not only go without, but be harmed by the effects of our overconsumption.

In the US, we house about 5% of the world’s population (based on estimates of world and US populations by the US census Bureau) and we use 25% of the energy used annually by the world.
(Energy Consumption Projections – Architecture 2030)

We need to be better stewards of the Earth for two reasons: first, because God created it and it’s the right thing to do. Second, because what we do today on the Earth will change someone’s life tomorrow.

Being a better steward of the environment isn’t easy. Some days, I forget that something can be recycled and throw it away. I drive my car to work when I could very easily walk. I spend too long in the shower every morning. I use disposable diapers for our son.

But making positive changes is as easy as taking public transportation or riding your bike, cutting meat out of one meal each day, or turning the heat down and wearing a sweater. If it isn’t practical to actually feed and clothe a poor person in your community (or on the other side of the world), then at least do something to be a better environmental steward and help the poor – and everyone else on the planet.

For more information on being an environmental steward, please see
The Evangelical Climate Initiative.

Thanks to Dr. Pamela Doughman at UIS for making sure my science was right.

The following bloggers are also in this month’s synchroblog, and they’re great!
Phil Wyman at Square No More – Salem: No Place for Hating Witches
Mike Bursell at Mike’s Musings
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom
Steve Hayes writes about Khanya: Christianity and social justice
Reba Baskett at In Reba’s World
Prof Carlos Z. with Ramblings from a Sociologist
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations: David Bosch, Public Theology, Social Justice
Cindy Harvey at Tracking the Edge
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church
Matthew Stone at Matt Stone Journeys in Between
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
KW Leslie: Shine: not let it shine
Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping
Steve Hollinghurst at On Earth as in Heaven
Sam Norton at Elizaphanian: Tesco is a Big Red Herring
Kieran Conroy at Wrestling with Angels

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About faithenvironmentcollide

Child of God. Follower of Christ. Wife to Jeff. Mom to Liam. Environmental steward. Writer. Reader. Researcher. View all posts by faithenvironmentcollide

4 responses to “Faith and the Environment Collide – Synchroblog for April 16, 2008

  • Bryan Riley

    Great post. It is a message most want to ignore, but we must continue to deliver it and we must begin to live it more and more.

  • Kieran Conroy

    Hello- I’m a newcomer to Phil’s Synch-blog, a Harvard Div student and attendee of the Gathering for the past few months. I’m gladdened to see your ecological aspect to justice/mission, a topic I just spoke on in my reconciliation and global conflict class over at BU’s seminary. This is one of the closest areas of justice to my heart, and its wonderful to see more and wider Christian voices talking about it together. One of the Methodist professors at BU, former Bishop John Trent gave a great powerpoint presentation called “Melting Mountains and Burning Bushes.” I think he should take it on the road to give a theological accompaniment to Al Gore! A beautiful image I’ve been reflecting on is the Iroquois principal of 7 Generations, it echoes some of your thoughts I feel. The idea is an ancient tradition that leaders are expected to make every decision in light of the next 7 generations, fully aware they can and will affect at least that many of our children down the line. I think this is especially true for the environment, which as you, and science show is so connected to so many other issues of justice and survival.

  • Kieran Conroy

    By the way, if you want to add me my blog is http://www.emergentwrestlings.blogspot.com Had a bit of a burp getting me on the original list, but Phil’s got an exact link on his site to my posting.

  • Kieran Conroy

    Hey- just thought you might be interested in this, its an organization linked to Gore’s film, and which seems to be bringing VERY divergent political figures together to get the message out. Like Nancy Pelosi sharing a couch with Newt Gingrich- and Al Sharpten and Pat Robertson talking about stewardship together! Wild. 🙂 http://www.wecansolveit.org/

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