Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Four Sentences for Climate Justice
distributed 4/28/17 - ©2017

Tomorrow, tens of thousands -- quite likely hundreds of thousands -- of concerned and committed folk will take to the streets for the People's Climate March. The main event will be in Washington, DC, and there will be satellite marches in many other cities.

I'll be marching in Denver. Unfortunately, we're under a winter weather advisory through Saturday night, with a forecast of 3-6 inches of snow, and a "high temperature" of 36. The new hashtag for our march: #SnowWontStopUs

There's a passion and an urgency to our marching "for jobs, justice and climate" this season. The threats -- both physical and political -- are more intense than ever.

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported that both March and the year to date (January through March) were the "second warmest on record" for the world since global temperature records began in 1880. They were second only to 2016 which was a year marked by the warming effect of a major El Niņo. When we see record high global temperatures in the absence of an El Niņo, that is a sign the underlying global warming trend is stronger than ever.
  • Politically, the new US administration -- just finishing up its first 100 days -- is pushing a brutal assault on climate science and climate policy. They're planning to slash funding for the EPA (which had been at the forefront of climate action during the Obama years) and NOAA (so no more disconcerting reports about record temperatures), and they're pushing for big increases in fossil fuel extraction.

We're witnessing a dramatic clash of worldviews and values, with profound consequences. Tomorrow's march is just one of the ways that we can witness, resist, mobilize, organize and act.

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There are many reasons to take part in the work for climate justice. Over the years I've spelled them out at considerable length. Preparing for the march, though, has me thinking in terms of signs and sound-bites, short and pithy statements that get to the core of the message.

Today I lift up the text on four of the bookmarks that I pass out when I'm visiting churches, or that we share as a tiny little thank you gift to our donors (hint, hint). These four sentences convey foundational truths for the church in our time.

"For the first time, our power to destroy outstrips earth's power to restore."
-- Daniel Maguire

We really are in an unprecedented situation. For most of humanity's time on this planet, we have been subject to natural forces that we could not understand or control. If we were able to impact our environment, it was on a fairly local level. But that is not true anymore.

The advent of nuclear weapons at the end of WWII was a qualitative jump into the realm of global destruction. The power of huge arsenals of atomic warheads unleashed the possibility of widespread radiation and nuclear winter. No longer could we pretend to be innocent. But that is just one place where we have created and claimed astonishing new power.

We now know that our profligate use of fossil fuels is warping Earth's climate, and changing the chemistry of the oceans. These changes are underway, and cannot be reversed within centuries -- we can only slow the impacts. New technologies have allowed fleets to deplete ocean fisheries to the point of collapse. Human-made chemicals which do not break down, and which have toxic effects, are spread all around the planet.

We are living with a reality that none of our ancestors ever experienced, or could ever have imagined. Recognizing our power to destroy is an essential first step in shaping new ethics, technologies and policies.

"Shalom: the biblical word for all of creation existing in peace, justice and harmony."

Caring for creation is a commitment woven deeply into the Judeo-Christian tradition. Whether expressed as shalom in Hebrew, or as the Realm of God in Christian writings, our faith has always recognized "the integrity of creation" and the value inherent in all things. We have always known that justice and righteousness require right relations among all parts of a community, reaching out to include the entire Earth community.

Environmental protection is not just a nice amenity, something to think about once we've accomplished other goals. The well-being of all creation is God's primary intention for the world. It is a moral imperative of the highest order.

Our ability to destroy God's creation stands is stark opposition to the faithful hope and promise of shalom.

"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."
-- Dante (1265-1321)

Dante wrote over 800 years ago, so he also gives voice to a timeless perspective for our current "great moral crisis." Silence and neutrality are the same as complicity with forces of destruction.

The new US administration is waging an active, intentional assault on God's creation, on the Earth community. Their rejection of scientific evidence, and their support of Earth-ravaging industries brings to a head tensions that had been simmering in US politics.

There is no middle ground, especially when the stakes are this high. Each of us must choose which side we will support, where we will place our loyalty, which god we will serve.

"It is no longer acceptable to claim to be 'church' while continuing to perpetuate, or even permit, the abuse of Earth as God's creation."
-- God's Earth is Sacred, 2005

A dozen years ago, a group of leading environmental theologians released the short document, God's Earth is Sacred, a clear and compelling statement of moral principles. They spoke not only to individuals, but to the Christian church as a whole.

They asserted that care for the Earth "is not a competing 'program alternative,' one 'issue' among many. In this most critical moment in Earth's history, we are convinced that the central moral imperative of our time is the care for Earth as God's creation." As the quote on our bookmark says, a commitment to God's creation is now a litmus test for the church's faithfulness.

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Tomorrow, we march -- all of us with passion, many of us with prayer.

We march, not because of a squabble in partisan politics, but because we have a moral mandate to speak and act in this unprecedented time of global threat. Neutrality and silence are not options, either personally or for the Christian church.

Join the march tomorrow, either in person, or in your prayers. Continue the commitment of the march in the years to come, as you speak and act for climate justice.

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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