Monthly Archives: August 2015

Portland Haze

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I live in downtown Portland, Oregon. This week I walked outside and it was as if the city was on fire. There was a strong smell of burning pine trees, and I could only see clearly about a block ahead of me. Naturally, I freaked out, if Portland is on fire, I should probably evacuate…? No one else seemed to have noticed so I whipped out my phone and looked up the news.

Portland wasn’t on fire…but seemingly everywhere else was. Currently there are 74 documented forest fires in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California and Washington. And there might be more, the website had a warning “we are experiencing significant web traffic due to the ongoing wildfire activity. Access to website content may be limited…”

 

So what was happening in my downtown neighborhood was the smoke from these forest fires (closest one is a hundred miles away) was funneling in and settling on our city. And Portland isn’t the only one, you can watch ‘air quality’ live  and see most of the Oregon Coast, Eastern California and Northern Idaho are covered with medium to heavy smoke, resulting in poor air quality.

 

This should have put me at ease knowing my livelihood wasn’t about to be entrenched in flames. But it just gave me a somber feeling knowing Climate Change is beginning to take a toll, even here.

In a recent article, The Guardian interviewed firefighters taking on these forest fires. It was noted that even those who have been around 30-40 years have never seen fires like these. Not only did they remark on the sheer quantities we have seen, but also as well as their…freakishness. Recent fires have been spreading at a rate that many have never seen. They also follow their own path, none of the normal tactics seem to be working on these freak fires.

 

How does this relate to Climate Change? The global temperature has been raised 1.4 degrees due to rising greenhouse gases trapped in our atmosphere, from our use of fossil fuels and other toxic emissions. This has caused droughts all over, most notable is California who has been in an extreme drought over 4 years.

Droughts are breeding grounds for forest fires for obvious reasons. When an area goes over a season with little to no rain, mega fires are created. The US Forest Services cannot even fund to take preventative action, because there have been so many fires this season. This should be startling to anyone…

But as I walked around town in the haze, I had a little hope in my heart because I know that we are making changes, and that our God has given us the tools to reverse the impact of climate change. We need to take these signs of our earth groaning, very seriously, and trust that God can help us make a difference!

Want to help now? Sign our commitment to become a Climate Caretaker and get updates on our resources and latest news relating to Climate Change.

 

-Ashley Walker

A Film to Change the World

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Chloe & Theo

I recently had the opportunity to pre-screen a wonderful, new movie coming out in select theaters on September 4. “Chloe and Theo” is a beautiful film with an inspiringly simple message that couldn’t be more relevant for our consumer-driven culture.

Theo, a thoroughly unassuming Inuk man from a remote Arctic village, is sent by his people to the “elders of the south” in order to share about the devastating impact that his people face from a changing climate. While aimlessly wandering the streets of New York, Theo gets taken in by a fiery homeless woman named Chloe (played by Dakota Johnson) who becomes captivated by the innocence and purpose of his quest. Together with a small, eclectic group of friends they set out to find an audience for his message.

“Chloe and Theo” paints a beautiful picture of friendship and redemption, but the power of the film lies in its rebuke of a modern throwaway culture that champions convenience and comfort over justice and relationship. This film goes directly to the root of the climate crisis by highlighting how consumerism, greed, and shortsightedness have destroyed our ability to understand our connection to the natural world.

“Your leaders don’t have the power to change anything,” Theo tells one of his friends. “What can your leaders do about your nature, when it is so corrupted that you live each day based on consuming, devouring, and wasting?”

This critique cuts to the heart of nearly all modern environmental and humanitarian problems. Sin. In this respect Theo seems to echo Jesus’ excoriation of the elders in Matthew 23, “but you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” Could it be that our pursuit of more has blinded us to our own spiritual apathy and discontentment? Has our selfishness made it impossible to achieve justice for our neighbors? Does our ambition overwhelm us with problems so distracting that we have forgotten who we are, and whose we are?

In the meantime, we continue to be oblivious to the real world impacts of our decisions. Our actions do have consequences, and those results are not always fair and just for all, including for the real-life Theo Ikummaqs, whose story inspired the film.

Theo reminds us; “we have a responsibility to look after what we’ve been given. But far too often we have been taking and not giving back.”

Ultimately, Theo’s message gets out in an unexpected manner with a bittersweet picture of redemption at the end. The viewer, however, is left to grapple with uncertainty. How will we respond? Will Theo’s people be saved? What will we do with the world we’ve been given?

Let us pray that our culture learns to embrace justice, mercy, and faithfulness so that we may care not only for Theo’s people but also for all who are suffering the consequences of our excess.

-Brian Webb

Brian serves as the Director of Climate Caretakers, a global campaign dedicated to mobilizing Christians to pray and act on climate change.  He also works as the Sustainability Coordinator at Houghton College in western NY where he lives with his wife and three kids.

 

Being GR$$N

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This blog post comes from Alex WaardenburgAlex is a mechanical engineer with an education in engineering cost-benefit analyses and a passion for investing.  His wife Tiffany is a dietician with a passion for food. Both have a passion for social justice and for orphan care. After they welcome their firstborn this November they will start the process of adopting.

 

“The truth was unavoidable. Our actions were negatively impacting the lives of our brothers and sisters across the world. Whenever we would see the latest victims of the most recent flood or drought in the news we had to wonder ‘did we contribute to their suffering?’

My wife and I couldn’t continue living like we didn’t know that our lifestyle was dangerous to those around us and around the world. We could never heal the pain of those who lost loved ones to climate change, but there had to be something we could do. The very least we could do was to use our knowledge in cost benefit analysis to determine if any upgrades to our home, which would reduce our carbon footprint, would be financially beneficial to us.  We expected to be faced with the decision of how much money we were willing to lose to reduce our carbon footprint.

That was three years ago.

My wife and I are now completely free of fossil fuels, and we only made one financial decision that could be considered charity.  Everything else has saved us thousands of dollars a year. Let me tell you how.

  1. We bought solar panels. With our unshaded, south-facing rear roof and our region’s climate history the cost-benefit analysis revealed that a system of photovoltaic solar panels would provide an APY of more than 10% over the life of our investment. That is the best investment opportunity we have ever come across. We installed as many panels as our roof could fit. We have been monitoring our system for over a year, and it has provided 50% of the electricity our home uses in a year while outperforming initial expectations. We have been so impressed that we built a pergola on the south of our home for another system which, together with the first, will make 100% of the energy our home uses throughout the year.
  2. We bought electric cars. The cost benefit analysis for us was simple: The car was cheaper than the gas alternative and used cheaper fuel. We also quickly fell in love with the smooth ride. The real analysis was figuring out if it fit into our lifestyle. We were confident that being a two-car family would allow us to have one affordable electric car with limited range and one gas car without making any changes to our lifestyle. We took a small leap of faith and discovered owning an electric car was even easier than owning a gas car. We were so impressed that we bought a second electric car and have not purchased gas since! We did learn a few lessons the hard way, but we are now fully electric and have never looked back!
  3. We switched our electricity supplier to one that sources 100% wind.  Thanks to deregulation, Pennsylvania and several other states now allow customers to determine who to buy electricity from. This enabled us to select a company called ‘Ethical Energy’ that gets 100% of their electricity from wind. This electricity costs slightly more than the default, but based on the number of deaths caused by fossil fuel pollution, it is cheaper for society if I chose wind power. In other words, a societal cost benefit analysis reveals that it is well worth the extra pennies to promote effective social justice through wind energy. On top of this, we’re nearing the point where our only grid purchased energy will be used to charge our cars, which costs roughly one third the price of using gas.

These steps have provided excellent investment opportunities, reduced our bills, reduced our dependence on foreign oil, made us less exposed to volatile energy prices, decreased our pollution, and eliminated our carbon footprint from energy. Moreover, they could be taken by almost anyone. Some suggestions for getting started include getting a free solar quote from just about any solar installer, finding out what electric car incentives are offered in your state, and determining if your state has deregulated their electric grid.”

– Alex Waardenburg

For All Creation-A Guided Prayer

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Often when an issue as huge as extreme poverty or climate change comes to mind, we wonder how on earth we can pray for this? There are so many facets, issues, and worries that go along with each of these issues.

The funny thing is, when we feel like that, that is exactly when we must pray! We know that our God is so much bigger than these problems and He has given us the tools to help make a difference.

We have created a guided prayer called For All Creation, that leads each of us through thanksgiving, repentance, and petition as we seek to end extreme poverty and reduce the changing climate.

We ask that you join thousands of Christians around the world as we meditate on the scriptures and prayers in this guide.
May our lives and our prayers bring His kingdom closer! Amen.

Click on the image below to download the prayer guide.

For All Creation Square Image

-Ashley Walker

Evangelicals, Catholics and Climate Pollution: The Sleeping Giant is Stirring

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This just might be the year.

After a string of losses and frustration spanning more than a decade, this looks like the year that efforts by the Christian faith community to protect the world’s climate systems are starting to pay off. When historians look back to pinpoint the turning point in the battle against climate catastrophe, I’m beginning to believe they will focus on this time – 2015.

Why this year? Well, consider:

  • The world’s two largest economies – the US and China – have finally agreed this year to serious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and have called on the rest of the world to do the same.
  • With the global climate meetings planned for early December in Paris, the rest of the world is getting on board as well. So far, fifty-three countries representing the vast majority of the global economy have already submitted plans for cutting climate-warming pollution. Among them, Russia, Japan, and the entire European Union have joined the US and China, committing to significant reductions in carbon emissions.
  • The leader of the world’s largest religion, Pope Francis, has issued an urgent call to action by all Christians to protect the creation in the face of manmade climate impacts that fall most heavily on the poor.
  • And with the pivotal climate summit in Paris only four months away, American evangelical Christians have launched a new community – Climate Caretakers – committing themselves to prayer and action in response to the climate crisis.

Climate Caretakers isn’t remotely the first evangelical foray into the struggle to protect the creation from climate-warming pollution. During the past decade, American Christians issued the Evangelical Climate Initiative, concluding that “Christians must care about climate change….” The 190-nation evangelical Lausanne Movement issued a call to action, finding that “the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change.” The Evangelical Environmental Network gathered many thousands of signatures in support of limits on carbon and mercury pollution from power plants. The National Association of Evangelicals clarified the link between Jesus’ command to love “the least of these” with the duty to protect the environment. The Christian Reformed Church adopted an exhaustive endorsement of the findings of climate science and called on all Christians to take action. And the Orthodox “green patriarch” Bartholomew has issued unrelenting calls for compassionate climate action, as have Anglican and other Protestant denominations.

But in launching Climate Caretakers, Christians are offering a simple way that the faithful can commit to pray and act in ways that demonstrate love for their Father by protecting his world, and to love others by protecting the natural systems vital to their survival. They are inviting Christians to do the following:

  • Affirm God’s purpose for his creation to flourish.
  • Confess the harm that we have each done to God’s world and his people.
  • Recognize the cloud of witnesses who testify to the impact of climate disruption upon the poor of the world.
  • Commit to faithful prayer and bold action in pursuit of lasting solutions to the climate crisis.

They envision a world in which delegates from every nation will be prayed for regularly as climate negotiations proceed; a world with thousands of Christians considering daily what it means to be a steward of their Father’s creation; one in which children know that their elders care deeply about the world they will inherit; and where policymakers know that they must answer to a growing movement of compassion for the innocent victims of unrestrained, unlimited and unpriced pollution.

The Climate Caretakers Commitment has been made by pastors, scientists, denominational leaders, educators and lay people. And it’s easy to join them, by signing the commitment here.

This could well be the year that the dam of denial and apathy finally bursts under pressure from praying believers. All of us can be among those changing history by our faithful prayers and compassionate action. You are invited to join them.

And yet, the painful reality is that many otherwise compassionate Christians will remain disengaged. Some will be confused by the gaggle of “think-tanks” dedicated to manufactured doubt about climate science. Others will be lulled into inaction by airwaves choked with cheery ads about “clean coal” and “safe” fracking. Others will mistakenly conflate care for God’s creation with liberal politics. Still others will be tempted to give up, because of entrenched politicians smearing science as a “massive hoax” and vowing to scuttle even skeletal efforts at global climate cooperation.

But I believe that this tide too has begun to turn. We’re seeing today that the truth can only be suppressed for just so long. Today, a solid majority of voters in the key swing states support climate action. Politicians who once denied climate science have revised their script to simply assert that they are not scientists, hoping to satisfy their polluting donors while not appearing laughable to voters. Young people, Catholics, and people of color have become especially concerned about the climate crisis.

This may be the year that the tide finally turns. We all have a choice whether or not to engage for the sake of God’s world and his people. Or perhaps we’ll try to just get along. Won’t you join me in one small step? Log on to Climate Caretakers. Make the commitment to pray and act. It might not seem like much at first, but maybe you’ll end up being a hero to your grandkids.

It may take time, but let’s start praying – and acting – now.

-John Elwood