Category Archives: Climate Change

Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth

Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth by Larry Schweiger of the national Wildlife Federation (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2009).

“This is an unabashed call to each and every American to moral duty for the future of life on earth,” begins National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Larry J. Schweiger in this stirring exposé and call to action. Speaking to us not just as a conservation leader but also as an outdoor lover and a parent, Schweiger describes the causes and effects of global warming on our wildlife, ecosystems, and human life as we know it.

Forecast: The Consequences of Global Climate Change, from the Amazon to the Arctic, From Darfur to Napa Valley

Forecast: The Consequences of Global Climate Change, from the Amazon to the Arctic, From Darfur to Napa Valley by Stephen Faris (New York: Henry Holt, 2009).

A vivid and illuminating portrayal of the surprising ways that climate change will affect the world in the near future—politically, economically, and culturally

While reporting just outside of Darfur, Stephan Faris discovered that climate change was at the root of that conflict, and began to wonder what current and impending—and largely unanticipated—crises such changes have in store for the world.

Forecast provides the answers.

An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergence of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It

An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergence of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It by Al Gore Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2008).

An Inconvenient Truth—Gore’s groundbreaking, battle cry of a follow-up to the bestselling Earth in the Balance—is being published to tie in with a documentary film of the same name. Both the book and film were inspired by a series of multimedia presentations on global warming that Gore created and delivers to groups around the world. With this book, Gore, who is one of our environmental heroes—and a leading expert—brings together leading-edge research from top scientists around the world; photographs, charts, and other illustrations; and personal anecdotes and observations to document the fast pace and wide scope of global warming

Climate Change Begins at Home: Life on the Two-Way Street of Global Warming

Climate Change Begins at Home: Life on the Two-Way Street of Global Warming by David Reay (New York: MacMillan, 2005).

Packed with provocative case studies, calculations and lifestyle comparisons, this entertaining and authoritative book makes the complexities of climatology understandable and challenges readers to rethink their notions of ‘doing their bit’. The paperback edition features a new preface from Mark Lynas, author of High Tide: News From a Warming World

Green Living: The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the Earth

Green Living: The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the Earth (New York: Penguin, 2005)

Knowledge of environmental issues and sustainability is increasingly important as industrialization and climate change continue to wreak havoc on our ecosystems and our psyche. As temperatures rise—and icecaps shrink and storms lash our coastal areas into oblivion—being smart about carbon footprints, waste streams and consumer choices becomes increasingly important for all of us.

Green Living, from the award-winning editors of E: The Environmental Magazine, offers a thorough, step-by-step plan for every making aspect of your life earth-friendly, from the laundry room to the kitchen.

10-Minute Energy Saving Secrets: 250 Easy Ways to Save Big Bucks Year Round

10-Minute Energy Saving Secrets: 250 Easy Ways to Save Big Bucks Year Round, by Jerri Farris (Gloucester: Fair Winds, 2005)

Energy bills are going to be sky-high this year –that is, unless you are prepared! 10-Minute Energy Saving Tips will arm you with hundreds of easy, innovative ways to cut your heating bills (and your cooling bills next summer!).

A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming

A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming by Sallie McFague (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008).

A New Climate for Theology not only traces the distorted notion of unlimited desire that fuels our market system; it also paints an alternative idea of what being human means and what a just and sustainable economy might mean. Convincing, specific, and wise, McFague argues for an alternative economic order and for our relational identity as part of an unfolding universe that expresses divine love and human freedom. It is a view that can inspire real change, an altered lifestyle, and a form of Christian discipleship and desire appropriate to who we really are.

A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming

A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming by Michael Northcott (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2005).

In this groundbreaking book Northcott examines theological attitudes to climate change, from the complacent to the apocalyptic, and the ethical implications for all Christians.

Climate Justice: Ethics, Energy, and Public Policy

Climate Justice: Ethics, Energy, and Public Policy by James Martin-Schramm (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010).

Energy issues and climate change have loomed up from issues at the horizon to confront humanity directly and vitally. They are now pressing public-policy challenges of monumental scale and import. James Martin-Schramm draws on decades of involvement with ethics, public policy, and environmental ethics to provide this lucid and astute analysis of the problems and options for addressing energy and climate change.

Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living

Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living by Nick Spencer, Robert White, and Virginia Vroblesky (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2009).

Amounts and patterns of consumption and production in the West have reached a level that cannot be maintained. Lifestyles based on our present way of creating and using energy are no longer environmentally sustainable – and are threatening the health and well-being of both planet and people. Our activities and the policies that shape them need to change. In light of those realities, Spencer, White, and Vroblesky offer serious Christian engagement with the emerging issue of Sustainable Consumption and Production. They analyze the scientific, sociological, economic, and theological thinking that makes a Christian response to these trends imperative and distinctive. And they offer a practical conclusions that explore and explain what can be done at the personal, community, national, and international levels to ensure that next generations will have the resources necessary for life. Firmly rooted in the good news of the Christian faith, this is, above all, a constructive and hopeful book that offers a realistic vision of what the future could and should look like.

The Second Sunday in Easter in Year C

A Sermon by Gil Waldkoenig, Professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.

Church of the Abiding Presence, April 10, 2013

The Second Sunday in Easter in Year C

John 20: 19-31
Rev 1: 4-8
Acts 5:27-32

Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about unbelief.  The kind of unbelief that makes the news quite often has to do with climate change, also called global warming.

Almost half of the American population does not believe that the recent spike in global warming results from human activity, according to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Some disbelieve very aggressively. They say global warming is a hoax. Some disbelieve more cautiously, saying we need to wait for more information or to see how things turn out. And then some people disbelieve in a way that is just plain lazy: they just hope it will all go away.

The disbelievers either don’t know, or don’t care to know, that the carbon that is clogging our atmosphere has gone up while oxygen has gone down in direct proportion. That indicates burning. And the carbon is a particular kind of carbon: carbon 12. Carbon 12 comes from plants long dead. It is not carbon 13 which could come from recently living plants (because carbon 13 becomes radioactive and dissipates).  Nor is it carbon 11 which comes from the molten geologic core of the earth when it releases through volcanoes. If the carbon is from burning, and it is not from volcanoes and not from recent plants, but is from plants long dead, then it can only be from fossil fuels. Last I checked no monkeys were burning fossil fuels. So I’m going to “believe” it has been some of the 7 billion humans on earth who have put over 380 parts per million of carbon into the atmosphere, which is drastically altering climate.[1]

Then there are some religious people who say, “Well, the planet is going to end anyway, when God blows it up or burns it up”—or whatever apocalyptic narrative you choose. The bad signs, the evidence of global warming and the troubles it will cause are warnings, and we must appease, they indicate, an obviously angry God before it is too late. If it gets to be too late for everyone else, at least a few who are on the right side of God could escape like Lot and Abram running away from Sodom.

So we have a set of disbelievers who don’t like the bad signs and deny them. And then we have another set of people who seem to relish the bad signs as a curse or judgment of doom that can inflame their religion of propitiation or appeasement.

In the closing chapters of the gospel of John, the disciples are being reassembled from here and there, drawn into good news, good signs, that Christ is risen, and that Christ abides with them, and they can respond to God’s world with love.

Thomas missed an earlier meeting where the disciples saw the wounded but resurrected Christ in person. The others are waiting for Thomas to join them, but Thomas is holding out for his own signs. Unless I see and touch to verify, I will not believe, Thomas says.

To me, it is interesting that even though Thomas gets to see and touch, and consequently expresses belief, he also in the same moment says “help my unbelief.” And then Jesus blesses all those who would not get the same signs that Thomas got, and yet would believe. I can’t help but imagine a kind smile on the face of Jesus when he says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

A couple of things are going on in John’s gospel here. It is a message of comfort to all those believers who would encounter Jesus through the written gospel, and the preached gospel and the acted gospel, rather than hearing and seeing Jesus in exactly the same manner as the first disciples did. And it is part of an ending to the gospel that is very consistent with the rest of the book–a book that had so much attention to signs, from water jars at Canaan to post-resurrection appearances. The blessing is for those who will NOT be eye-witnesses to the signs narrated in the gospel of John, but who WILL see and touch other signs in the days and years afterwards. Those signs would include bread and wine, words of good news spoken, baptismal waters splashed, and acts of compassion and justice.

The signs can change. The array of signs in John makes John a great piece of literature: from jars of water to bread and vines and sheep and gates and light and dark and descent and ascension and authority and subversion of authority and more.  The signs are many. But Christ is one, and grace is one.

It is hard to imagine the narrative in John 20 going any other way, but try this as an exercise. Thomas sees Jesus and touches his wounds. Then Thomas says, well, I need a bit more evidence. Please eat a fish right here in front of me.

Eating fish is a different sign, by a campfire, on the lakeshore, in chapter 21. Nobody falls on their knees saying “my Lord and my God” when they see Jesus eating fish—maybe because they were stuffing their faces with fish. But that sign is another physical sign, like touching and seeing for Thomas, that showed Jesus is bodily resurrected and abiding close by within creation.

If Thomas had asked for a fish [comp. Luke 24:41-42], it would have changed his experience but it would not have changed the cross. Not one bit. His belief and yours and mine do not make the cross of Christ more or less of what it is, the once and central triumph of God’s grace over all that would oppress it—and the resurrection is its twin sign of God’s good intent and faithfulness to Christ and to creation forevermore. Thomas and the disciples find that Christ is still one, even after the cross tore him and them apart, and grace is one in the resurrection forevermore. That’s why the blessing of all those who don’t see belongs in the narrative with the really fine Jesus-sighting that Thomas received.

In our time, when the climate is warming, many signs are not good. The bad signs ought to be evidence for us that we must care for our planet and our neighbors in new and better ways. Some of the denial and disbelief ring suspiciously similar to our old human unwillingness to change because it is going to cost something to care for neighbor and planet.

But all who gather around the signs of grace have an orientation and centeredness to face the bad signs in their stark reality, without denial and without avoidance. The church is already learning to change and respond in new ways, because from the source of grace we can respond beyond denial and fear, with love – love just like the gospel of John features from beginning to end! In other words, go ahead and ask for a fish or any other signs—the work of our time still lays before us. The cross and the resurrection are still what they are, and from that orientation, we’re going to be able to move and respond.

When the floods come, and hurricanes and winds and storms—or when the drought cracks the land and the people and animals and plants perish—we humankind will indeed lament our deeds which have brought these conditions upon us and upon our home, planet earth. The disbelief and denial is but the first whimpering before the real wailing (Rev 1:7). But the church of Jesus Christ, abiding in his presence and the cross accomplished, stands with the sign of resurrection at the center of all other signs. The cross flowers into the renewed tree of life on the last page of the Bible (Rev 22::2; cf. Acts 5:30),[2] after apocalyptic waves pass, and wailing gives way to hymns of grace and courage, hope and joy. In the meantime, the church can and will be a community of resilience[3] with open doors to which the flooded and parched alike may come, to hear not a word of curse but a word of redemption and grace. Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

[1] Information in this paragraph is from Earth: The Operator’s Manual DVD by Richard Alley (PBS, 2011)

[2] Thanks to Dr. Matthew Sleeth for attention to the tree on the past page of the Bible, as an object of focus by God. Sermon, Sunday, March 10, 2013, Washington National Cathedral (http://tinyurl.com/cz2w762)

[3] Thanks to Mary Minette, ELCA Director of Environmental Education and Advocacy, for the term “communities of resilience” that she suggested to me in conversation about the widening attention to sustainability/greening in congregations, synods and church wide that is fostered by Lutherans Restoring Creation (lutheransrestoringcreation.org) & GreenFaith (greenfaith.org).

 

Reflections on Swedish Bishops’ Letter on Climate Change

On May 19, 2015, LSTC Professors Kadi Billman, Barbara Rossing, and Vítor Westhelle, reflected on A Bishops’ Letter about Climate Change published by the Church of Sweden in 2014. The Rev. Dr. Antje Jackelén, archbishop of the Church of Sweden, concluded the session presented for the LSTC Board of Directors and faculty. Click here to watch the four videos.

Click here to read “A Bishops’ Letter about the Climate” from the Church of Sweden.

 

 

 

Giving Voice to My Community and Bringing ELCA Advocacy Home

Giving Voice to My Community and Bringing ELCA Advocacy Home

By: Fumi Liang, Huntington Beach, CA

I am Fumi Liang from Huntington Beach California and I want to tell you a story about a group of senior citizens who are trying to make a difference in caring for the environment.

My friend Dick started a program called “Paper Rollers” many years ago. About 20 seniors came to church every Thursday to make 20 lbs of newspaper rolls and sell them to a floral company. When Dick passed away, nobody wanted to take over his job to organize this program. As a leader of a senior ministry at my church, I could have moved away from this project, but I didn’t want Dick’s legacy to die. So I took over and I’m glad I did, because I found out how much these seniors care about the land our God created.

The seniors in my church worry about how we’re not taking care of the land we live. They want to continue to do as much as they can to keep our land healthy for their next generation. They taught me, through their action, to be deeply concerned about our environment and the effect climate change will have on my grandchildren’s lives. I sincerely hope that through the Green Climate Fund, government can help combat climate change so we can keep the earth green and clean.

This is the message I gave when I met with the offices of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Scott Peters on Capitol Hill as part of the ELCA’s Advocacy Convening in Washington, D.C. last year.

This convening occurred in the midst of Pope Francis’ visit to Washington. It was the time for the ELCA to get together with the Episcopal Church to share prayers, formation, and practice of our baptismal mandate to strive for justice and peace. This was the first time that ELCA Advocacy invited community leaders from across the United States to attend the event alongside ELCA bishops. I was one of 17 community leaders invited to attend and learn how to become an effective Advocate. Having said that, I was very nervous about participating because I didn’t have any idea about what I would be expected to do.

I knew nothing about ELCA Advocacy; who they are and what they do for what purpose. Everything was new to me. I just had to trust and asked God to give me His extra mercy to guide me through this new challenge.

I was impressed by one of the speakers who emphasized how important it is for us to be truthful when we talk about the issue that matters to us. I always thought that religion and politics should never mix together. However, I discovered during my time in Washington that it could work beautifully if the contact between religion and politics was not for the disputes of powers, money and fame but for the purpose of serving people. After all, people come to church for help and comfort. They want to find the answer of their needs and heal for their pains. If church cannot do that for them, who else can?

Through my participation in the 2015 Advocacy Convening, I realized that the ELCA’s Advocacy ministry can help provide opportunities to make a difference. While in Washington, we urged Congress to provide appropriate funding for global health and refugee services, emergency food assistance, and other development programs through the international Affairs Account; to promote robust structures that help developing countries adopt clean energy technologies and adapt to climate change impacts through the Green Climate Fund; and to protect children and families in Central America by investing in poverty reduction, human rights, and citizen security.

Prior to meeting with Congress, I received training on how to address your opinion effectively. I practiced and prepared my own story and its relation to climate change and environmental issues. It was a great challenge for me to deliver what I wanted to say within 2 to3 minutes. I was grateful that Bishop Finck, Bishop Erwin, Mark Carlson of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy California helped me shape my story and present it during our meetings. Not in my wildest dreams did I think that one day I would voice my concerns on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

After I returned from my trip, I shared my experience with my senior group on Thursday during their “Paper Rollers” time. They were so pleased to know that the ELCA is concerned about our environment and that I was able to give voice to my community’s experience. When I saw their delighted faces, I felt really blessed because I didn’t just attend a fun event in Washington, I was also able to bring ELCA Advocacy home to them by sharing my experience.