On global warming, the American public is slowly rising to attention. Congress and the White House cannot be far behind.
The occasion for optimism is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between evangelical and scientific leaders who met in December to find common ground in the greatest threat to humanity: global warming and climate change.
These are no longer unlikely allies. On Wednesday, the nation’s leading scientists and evangelicals joined in Washington, D.C., to urge action to reverse rapidly escalating environmental problems, including global warming and species extinction.
“We are glad to be partnering with our friends in the scientific community. They have the facts we need to present to our congregations; we have the numbers of activists that will work through churches, government, and the business community to make a significant impact,” said the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Longwood.
And what are the facts that the evangelical leaders agree upon?
Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, Eric Chivian, said, “We reviewed the science, about which there was no disagreement, that the natural world is imperiled by human behaviors and policies, especially by our unsustainable burning of fossil fuels and our degradation of living systems. Human health and life are also highly endangered by these activities, with the disadvantaged placed at the greatest risk.”
The meeting between evangelical leaders and scientists in Thomaston, Ga., was as important as the 1910 meeting of America’s financiers in Jekyll Island, Ga., to establish a stable financial system in response to a financial panic three years earlier.
There has to be good news for the financiers, too.
Although Florida continues to lag, states like California are taking up the slack left by a Congress and White House that still hasn’t absorbed the degree of change in public attitudes toward global warming.
Up to now, we have applied the massive inventions of technology in the service of a fossil-fuel-driven economy, but in the new landscape taking shape before our eyes, the transformation of energy supplies and conservation measures, guided by government policies, will provide enormous opportunities.
The urgent call to action is a groundswell to change behavior, that is to say, fundamental patterns of energy consumption that ripple through the entire economy. With communities of faith leading the way, it can be done.
Since the OPEC oil embargo and the first energy crisis in the 1970s, America has been sitting on its hands as other nations and their supplies of fossil fuels have steered our destiny.
From the front line, it seemed like nothing would alter our course, fulfilling the worst implications of a mass market, consumer-driven economy in its blissful and unending appetite for low, low, low product prices.
For communities of faith, the rumblings of discontent date from nearly the same time as evangelicals reacted against the worst effects of a secular society spilling recklessly across the land.
It has taken a strange, difficult course to connect these two seemingly disparate phenomena: finding a central place for faith while allowing ourselves to be addicted to fossil fuels.
No longer. Here is the plain language for all Americans:
“We agree that our home, the Earth, which comes to us as that inexpressibly beautiful and mysterious gift that sustains our very lives, is seriously imperiled by human behavior. The harm is seen throughout the natural world, including a cascading set of problems such as climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, and species extinctions, as well as the spread of human infectious diseases, and other accelerating threats to the health of people and the well-being of societies.
Each particular problem could be enumerated, but here it is enough to say that we are gradually destroying the sustaining community of life on which all living things on Earth depend. The costs of this destruction are already manifesting themselves around the world in profound and painful ways. The cost to humanity is already significant and may soon become incalculable. Being irreversible, many of these changes would affect all generations to come.”
The United States is a sleeping giant. We have grown fat, dumb and happy in our status as the world superpower. But from different directions, the threats are too severe to escape the attention of the American people.
No one can take us for granted, when we put our mind to metal. We are only a few steps away from the most dramatic transformation of the U.S. economy since the dawn of the Industrial Age.
The Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for government affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals said, “Great scientists are people of imagination. So are people of great faith. We dare to imagine a world in which science and religion cooperate, minimizing our differences about how Creation got started, to work together to reverse its degradation. We will not allow it to be progressively destroyed by human folly.”
So now it is time to get to work, on eliminating the folly part of the equation, and earn back the trust and respect of the world, which is exactly what we owe our children.
It is a mission we will accomplish. We must.