Lately I have been feeling as though we are on a weather roller coaster! We have a couple of days when the temps get in the 50’s and the next day we are socked with an ice storm and winds bringing a wind chill below zero! It’s no wonder that many of the students here at the college are getting sick; it’s hard to know what to put on the morning unless one is following the forecasts – and that doesn’t seem to be the main interest of the guys with whom I share a dorm!! I hear comments in the media and in town disparaging the idea of “global warming” like: “If the globe is getting warmer, why are we having record lows in Michigan?” The problem is, of course, that the term “global warming” was a poor choice to describe what’s happening. Yes, as a planet we are seeing warming trends but the term gives the impression that we should be experiencing more mild winters with fewer storms. If left unchecked, that is likely where we’re headed but that certainly doesn’t describe this winter and doesn’t explain the increased instability that comes as part of these changes. The term “climate change” is far more scientifically and politically relevant because it includes the wide variations we’re seeing all around the planet.
I started this blog last weekend before I saw the statement by The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations that I addressed in the last blog. Once I read that, I knew it was a bit more timely and I could get back to this topic later. Now is the time! And the weather is still crazy; we are under a warning for high winds until Monday at 1:00 pm. The temperature now is going up and should be in the 50’s overnight but then dropping 30 degrees tomorrow. It’s getting hard to keep track! So, we’re appropriately back to looking at the Church’s thoughts on climate change this week.
The resolution from General convention that addresses this topic is C008: Advocacy for Creation Care:
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention in keeping with the House of Bishops’ 2011 commitment to combat climate change urge that the members of The Episcopal Church strive to transform our individual and communal lives towards sustainability; and be it further
Resolved, That Episcopalians be encouraged to use a web-based tool to support healthy, sustainable choices; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention request that the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance allocate $30,000 to be devoted over the triennium 2019-2021 to make a web-based carbon tracking tool such as “Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home” available to all Episcopalians.
This is one of those resolutions that comes with its very own explanation making my job so much easier:
We acknowledge the important economic contribution many people have made by working in the fossil fuel industry, while we also recognize that there is an important shift toward renewable energy which will protect God’s good creation. Supporting this shift is part of the Church’s call to being part of the Jesus Movement in the world and;
Climate change is recognized as a human made threat to all God’s creation, including people, creatures and the entire created order, while particularly placing unjust and inequitable burdens and stresses on Native Peoples, poor communities and people of color.
“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Receive the new mind appropriate to this moment, for the Beloved Community is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 with
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” Romans 12:2
Ethicist Larry Rasmussen has said that the most difficult transformation that humanity has ever faced is the shift from an industrial culture, based on extractive practices and objectification, to a sustainable, integrated life. Christians, since the earliest days of our faith have recognized the value, even the necessity of spiritual practice in order to receive the new life God desires for us.
The Episcopal Diocese of California has been at work in developing a web-based carbon tracking tool that has been designed to allow individual Episcopalians to make healthy life choices that support a sustainable life. The stakes for successfully accomplishing this work are particularly high for Native Peoples, members of subsistence cultures, and communities of the poor. Like popular applications that help people track what they eat and their exercise, this web-based carbon tracking tool will help Episcopalians live into their commitments to sustainability.
Called “Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home,” the new web-based carbon tracking tool can be previewed at http://www.diocal.org/climate One feature of this web-based tool it allows Episcopalians to support each other’s commitments. With this tool one can track not only how he or she is living into sustainable life commitments, but also to see how the congregation, Episcopal institution, diocese, and the whole Episcopal Church is moving forward towards transformation. Another feature of “Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home” is that it will be available across the Church – both the United States and in the countries and territories of the Episcopal Church outside the United States.
“Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home” will be fully functional in the Spring of 2019. Data about local energy costs, for instance, is being loaded for the diverse geographic and political areas of the Episcopal Church. Such background data will make “Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home” more user-friendly, as compared with needing to look this up oneself. The initial cost of development and adaptation, up to the Spring 2019 launch is being borne by the Diocese of California, several parishes of the diocese, and by individual Episcopalians within and outside the diocese. The requested $30,000 for the triennium 2019-2021 will ensure that the background data will be kept fresh and up-to-date, and will provide “Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home” without cost to users.
As I expected, the Diocese of California has prepared a webpage for this initiative with all kinds of great information explaining how we can get involved. As some of you may know, I worked as the physics lab director here at the college for nine years. One of my colleagues recently presented a three-week symposium addressing this topic of climate change. His talks were entitled: The Physics, The Impacts, and The Solutions. I can only hope that the students in his audience felt the same urgency most of the adults from the community experienced listening to the compelling arguments from science. In the mind of 97% of scientists around the world, we are facing a crisis that we must address now. As members of the Beloved Community, we have a responsibility to care for our “island home”. Good and responsible stewardship of God’s gracious gifts is definitely part of living faithfully as Jesus’ followers.
With Ash Wednesday right around the corner, we all might be looking for Lenten disciplines. I became aware of one resource that fits right in with this topic. Living Lent is asking us to commit to changing our lifestyle in one of six ways during Lent that will positively affect our climate: single-use plastics, meat, alternative transportation, energy use, local living, and buying nothing new. If you’re still searching for the right discipline for you this Lent, let me suggest you take on one of these actions Becoming more conscious of our behavior and making better choices are good ways to begin a lifestyle change that will benefit all of us.
Let us pray –
Creator God, you formed us from the dust of the earth,
and reveal your fingerprints in all flesh.
Teach us your deep wisdom in the order and beauty of all that you have made.
When our care for your creation is found wanting, reprove and reform us,
so that our footprints may be more gentle on the earth,
tending and keeping it as your own handiwork, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council