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The poor suffer first.

The deep injustice of global warming grows clearer every day.  Today, the New York Times reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will next Friday confirm what many of us have long suspected: the poor and the voiceless will suffer first, most, and longest from global warming.  In “Poor Nations to Bear the Brunt of Global Warming”, Andrew Revkin reports that while the “[t]he world’s richest countries, which have contributed by far the most” to global warming, and are spending billions to adapt to its threats, they are spending “just tens of millions” to help the developing world adapt.  Of course, it is the poor nations of the tropics that will also suffer most: it is the equatorial regions that will lose so much of their water and are most greatly threatened by drought.  The report highlights a grim truth: the SUV-driving, power-consuming citizens of the north will visit the bulk of the harm they have caused upon the south–and have not yet even bothered to begin to help their fellow citizens of the world adapt to the harm that they have caused. 

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Religion and climate change in the news

That people from many different religious traditions are interested in addressing the problem of global warming is a fact finally being picked up, though perhaps slowly, by the media.  We linked earlier to the online discussion at a Washington Post blog about religious perspectives on caring for the environment.  Though a week or two old now, we thought it might be worth pointing out this story at the New York Times about Jim Ball, the executive director of the nonprofit Evangelical Environmental Network.   (Note: the article is available through Times Select, which you can now register to use for free if you have a university-provided email address.)

If you see an interesting story on religion and climate change in the news, feel free to link to it in the comments below!

Global Warming Sermons

We have started a collection of sermons related to global warming, available under the “Sermons” tab in the links at the top of the page.  We hope this will prove useful to those of you who are planning religious services as part of your Day of Prayer and Reflection event.  If you have copies of sermons you or others in your community have given related to global warming, and you would be willing to share them with others, we would love to be able to post them here.  You can send them to globalwarmingprayer@gmail.com.

Build Momentum on Your Campus

Hosting a Day of Prayer and Reflection event?  Wondering how to keep folks involved in the fight against global warming after your event is over?  You might consider getting plugged into one of the many other campus global warming initiatives currently taking shape.   You can now easily peruse many of them via the Leapfrog Into Action calendar, sponsored by the Climate Crisis Coalition’s ClimateUSA campaign.

As always, we’re eager to hear about what is happening at your campus, so if your university, student organization, or faith group is planning something for the Day of Prayer and Reflection, please let us know!  Email us at globalwarmingprayer@gmail.com.

Why a day of prayer and reflection?

Some time ago, I was asked to contribute some thoughts on how the Day of Prayer and Reflection began.  Here are some reflections:

How do we measure loss and our responsibility for loss?  How, when what is being lost is the world we grew up in, and the world every generation of humans has known, do we begin to account for the depth of our loss?  And how, when so much of our daily lives drives further losses—when every flick of a light switch brings on more destruction—do we begin to live righteously?

 

The climate collapse—global warming—the climate crisis—the meltdown: the time we live in, made by us and inherited by generations of our children, is shot through with losses.  There are the obvious vanishings: the thousands of species (estimated, not long ago, at as many as half of those living) that are at risk, the glaciers gone, the rivers now drying, the forests (including, perhaps, the Amazon) going brown and dead.  There are the small diminishings: the end of maple syrup in Vermont, the way summer in the deep south grows ever more unbearable, the whisper of rising waves eating away the beaches of
California.  And there are the avulsive losses, the ones that leave us hollow: the drowning of New Orleans, the smashing waves that splintered the Gulf Coast, the lid of hot air that killed tens of thousands in Europe.

 

These are small reflections of the losses to come.  We think of the tens of millions of refugees from the new storms and the rising waters, the spreading deserts, the shifting seasons, the ever-growing burden on the poorest people in the world.  Not for ten years, or even a century of disruption, but for thousands of years: the signature of these decades of gross overconsumption will be written across the lives of our children and their children’s children.  Their inheritance is loss.

 

We have, so far, proven able to only haltingly see this.  With oil company dollars pouring into the government and onto the airwaves, Americans, in particular, have been misled, deceived into not seeing even the scientific grounding of this present crisis until a great deal of damage had already been done.  But the problem is not just one of scientific vision: it is one of moral vision.  We have lacked the moral vision to see our responsibility for what we have done and the need to change our lives.

 

Social change does not begin with policy solutions and white papers.  It begins and is driven by a recognition of the demands of justice and of conscience.  For us to address global warming, we must first understand our place in the destruction and disruption of the creation and of the billions of human lives that depend upon the order of things.  That moment of moral vision is what allows us to go on, oblivious to the suffering we cause.

 

We find our epiphanies where we look for them.  The Day of Prayer and Reflection is an effort to create the space needed for vision.  The generation now on college campuses is the first that will become adults in the world we are making.  The Day offers them a chance to begin or continue the long conversation of conscience that we must have about this world and how we can still create something better, as stewards and as people of conscience.  It adds another voice of witness to the growing chorus for change and, we hope, will be the impetus for ongoing efforts among the campus clergy to address this deeply important issue for the communities they serve. It also, perhaps, can offer us some solace in the face of unbearable loss.

Midwest Climate Action Conference

The second annual Midwest Climate Action Conference will take place March 2-4, 2007, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The aim of the conference is to train and empower students and young people to tackle global warming issues on their campus and in their communities.  If you’re in the Midwest and would like to attend, you can register on-line until February 16.  If you’re looking to incorporate action into your plans for the Day of Prayer, this could be a great way to learn about work students are already doing to combat climate change.  Visit the conference website for more info.

If you’re not in the Midwest, don’t feel left out – the conference sponsor, the Sierra Student Coalition, runs state and regional events across the country to provide student activists with the resources to tackle environmental issues.  Check their calendar for a list of upcoming events near you.

On Faith: The Environment as a Religious Priority

The Washington Post is currently sponsoring a section called “On Faith,” designed to be a conversation between people of all sorts of different faiths each week around a different question.  The current question seems quite appropriate to our concerns here:

“International scientists have raised a new alarm about the dangers of global warming. Should care for the environment be a major priority for people of faith? Why or why not?”

You can check in and see the different responses, which vary from “Concern For Environment is Believers’ Religious Obligation” to “I Am A Conservationist, Not An Environmentalist” to “Environmental Care: An Opportunity For Muslim-Evangelical Cooperation.”

(The reference to “international scientists” is of course to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who recently confirmed that there is scientific consensus that climate change is being caused by human activity.  A PDF containing their report summary for policy makers on the physical science basis of climate change is available here.)