Category Archives: Climate Caretakers

Stewardship of Creation Means Building Healthy Cities

By | Climate Caretakers, Climate Change | No Comments

nighttraffic

By: Jenna Funkhouser

I just returned from a trip to Asia visiting some good friends who live and work only a few miles outside the city of Jakarta, Indonesia. One day, my husband and I spent over seven hot, frustrating hours trying to simply take a taxi in and out of the city to see a few sights. Although we loved experiencing the culture, eating the delicious food, and meeting such friendly locals, we left saddened by how difficult the transportation system is for those who live there, much less those who visit.

The city of Jakarta is a prime example of a city built around the sovereignty of the automobile. While most other large cities such as Paris, New York, and Hong Kong have a reliable metro system that makes getting around quick and easy, Jakarta went the route of simply building freeways and relying on people’s access to their own cars, motorcycles, or taxis. The result? Literally the worst traffic in the entire world, a sky so full of smog you barely ever see the beautiful mountains only a few kilometers away, and a nearly 10 year decrease in life expectancy.

So why, when our own cities began to form traffic jams on overcrowded roads, do we assume the solution is simply to keep building freeways? This is a dead-end solution that shows how ultimately destructive our reliance on cars for transportation will become. When we assume that driving should be our default mode of transportation, when we don’t stop to consider the needs and options of the less fortunate in our own communities, and when we complain about not enough parking or roads that need to be widened (again), do we realize how short-sighted we have become?

A well-built, walkable, and vibrant city is a beautiful piece of what it means to steward God’s creation.

So let’s not be Jakarta. Or Atlanta.  Or Los Angeles.  Or any city lacking adequate public transportation.  Instead, let’s consider the needs of those in our community who have fewer transportation options–the elderly, the disabled, the minimum wage workers. Let’s consider walking riding the bus, riding our bikes, sharing rides, or taking the train as viable options instead of assuming a car is always necessary. Let’s ask our local government to build roads that are safe and accessible for pedestrians and bikers, create better public transportation systems instead of just building more freeways, and think long-term when it comes to air quality, pollution, and resource management.

This is an extremely practical and urgently needed way to be a good neighbor in our communities, practice wise stewardship of our cities, and demonstrate the love of a God whose desire is for true human flourishing. We can create healthy, beautiful livable cities together that will give future generations something to thank us for, but we have to start now.

Stewardship of Creation Means Protecting the Vulnerable

By | Climate Caretakers, Climate Change | No Comments

design

By Jenna Funkhauser

In the law of our broken world, it’s the strongest that survive. But as Christians, we understand that “the meek will inherit the earth.” We stand with the vulnerable, the voiceless, the helpless, because that is the way of Christ.

The Bible makes it clear that God is on the side of the underdog, and so should we:

Psalm 82:3-4
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Proverbs 31:8-9
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Isaiah 1:17
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Matthew 18:14
So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Zechariah 7:10
Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.

Many of us are familiar with these verses. We share them when we speak out against abortion, human trafficking, and many other injustices that exist in our society. But have you ever considered what these verses have to do with the stewardship of Creation?

Several recent reports by the World Bank and United Nations have confirmed that “those who did the least to cause climate change would be the first in the line of fire: the poor and the weak, and communities that were subjected to discrimination”. As average temperatures rise and extreme weather patterns increase, areas already vulnerable will be more quickly devastated by rising food costs, natural disasters, and less access to water.

“But what does this have to do with me?” You may be asking. I know I have asked the same question, as I feel small and powerless in the face of threats such as famine and natural disaster. So how can we be better stewards of the earth, and “give justice to the weak and fatherless”?

Here at a few examples of where poor stewardship causes the vulnerable to suffer, and what we can do about it:

  1. Fashion: The fashion industry creates more pollution and waste than any other industry in the world today, other than oil. Our demand for lots of cheap clothing is devastating communities around the world. Many men and women are also exploited through factory work, too desperate to provide for their families to leave abusive and dangerous situations. When we support companies who treat their workers fairly and take responsibility for industrial waste, we are protecting some of the most vulnerable populations in the world.
  2. Technology: Slave labor is commonly used to mine the metals and minerals needed to create our cell phones, laptops, tablets, and much more. Because the mining is done illegally, the slavemasters are under no regulations to treat the earth or their workers with respect. Illegal mines have even been found in the heart of protected rainforests and world heritage sites.
  3. Transportation: The amount of CO2 produced by our car-centered cities is wreaking havoc on the Earth’s weather patterns. As mentioned earlier, many of the world’s poorest countries are already being hit hardest with the effects of our Western lifestyles. When we commit to intentionally taking action in reducing the amount of carbon we create, we are committing to stand up for those who have no means of standing up for themselves, or changing the system that is destroying their communities.

As Christians, if we donate money towards organizations working to end poverty and exploitation, but then use the rest of our time and resources contributing to the very factors which feed this vulnerability, are we really loving our neighbors well? Are we being considerate of our global sisters and brothers in Christ, and bearing one another’s burdens as the Scripture commands?

In my own life, recognizing how my choices impact my global neighbors has been revolutionary. Although I’m learning to remain full of grace for less than perfect solutions, it’s profoundly meaningful to know that my seemingly insignificant choices have a much larger and cumulative impact.

Robert Perkowitz notes that climate change is “moving from an environmental issue to a public issue that is affecting everyone — all our communities, businesses, churches and hospitals. So, Americans are not just urging the government to take action, they are taking action themselves.” The time has come when climate change is no longer a “political” issue. Let’s take the commands of the Bible to protect the vulnerable and “correct oppression” seriously. We’re all in this together.

When Loving Others Means Riding My Bike

By | Climate Caretakers, Climate Change | No Comments

bikeportland

By Jenna Funkhouser

Confession: Until the last few years, I was entirely ignorant of the realities of climate change. I can’t remember ever learning about it in school, or talking about it at home or church. I had no idea that my seemingly insignificant decisions were exploiting the earth’s resources, contributing to global warming, and playing a part in the same natural disasters I saw on the news.

More recently, however, my husband and I have begun learning about the extensive scientific research that supports global warming–and the huge role the Western world (especially North America) plays in causing harm to the rest of the world. As a result, we’ve sold one of our two cars and made it our goal to ride our bikes and take public transportation as much as possible.

Fast forward to this morning. I admit that I woke up feeling lazy. I was just not motivated to walk/ride my bike on all the errands I had to run today. I sat on the couch for several moments with an internal battle in my mind. I could just drive my car, after all, no big deal. But there, in the back of my mind, was the realization that this was no longer about me. Choosing to drive wasn’t just the “lazy” decision, and choosing to bike wasn’t just the “healthy,” active option. Every time I wake up and make this choice, I am also affecting millions of people around the world, many of them much more vulnerable than I.

I can honestly say that this was the only reason I got on my bike this morning, and many other cold, rainy Pacific NW mornings unlike this one. It feels like I’m doing so little, but I know it’s the daily, seemingly insignificant decisions of millions of people which are all piling up and adding to this problem. Today, I realized how important it is to have the courage to keep telling stories–stories of people affected by changing weather, stories of how we can engage in climate justice, and stories of what could happen if we get this right. I’m thankful for organizations and people who are telling these stories, and reminding us that living justly often looks like those daily, small acts of going against the norm and choosing to stand for others.

 

New Energy & New Jobs

By | Climate Caretakers, Climate Change | No Comments

Prayer Update: Shifting Jobs from Coal to Solar

We all know that we need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but what about all those people with jobs in the fossil fuel industry?  How will such a shift impact regions heavily dependent on the fossil fuel industry, for example coal country in the Appalachian region of the U.S.?

A new study published in Energy Economics demonstrates that coal industry workers are actually very well suited to jobs in the solar industry, with many individuals standing to benefit from higher paying positions even given their current experience and education.  Vocational retraining and geography form an important challenge in making this work, but this is good news for workers heavily invested in coal.  Change can be hard for individuals, but this study provides hope that this change might actually bring some benefits to folks on the front lines of the energy industry.

Luke410

Creator God,

Thank you for giving us minds that can solve difficult problems.  We pray today for those who are currently working in the fossil fuel industry.  As our world attempts to shift to new technologies that will protect your creation and bless our global neighbors, we ask that you also bless and protect those working in industries that will see dramatic change.

Please provide new, well-paying jobs for those in the fossil fuel industry.  We pray that such a transition will be smooth and that funding and geography will not be a barrier to a healthy transition toward renewable energy.  Please bless these people with a positive spirit, enthusiasm for a new challenge, and support for a shift that is good for all Your creation.  And help the rest of us know how we can support such a change.

Amen.

Prayer for partisan politics on climate

By | Climate Caretakers, Climate Change | No Comments

Galatians 3,28

Prayer Update: Partisan Politics Blocks Non-Partisan Action On Non-Partisan Reality of Climate Change

The symptoms of a disrupted climate continue to stack up. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared June the hottest on record for the contiguous US, Arctic sea ice melts to lowest extent ever recorded, and a recent study documents that 90% of Australia’s West coast kelp forests died-off.

On the one hand, the Democratic presidential nominee and Party platform formally acknowledge the need for climate change action to address this unfolding reality. On the other, the Republican Party denies climate change’s human causes, finds ways to block government action such as defunding the Pentagon’s climate directive and fields a presumptive presidential nominee who waffles at best and dismisses climate change as a hoax at worst.

Creator God,

We need a miracle.  Creation and the climate suffer greatly and together cry out for care.

Open all of our eyes to both the reality of the problem and the need to pursue healing action regardless of partisan affiliation.

Remove whatever filters, whether red, blue or some other shade that keep us from seeing your gift of creation and the climate crisis clearly.  Unblock all of our ears that we may hear your call to tend and keep the garden.  Unite us in care, concern and compassion for our neighbors, our climate and our common home.  Amen.

Ditch the Disposables!

By | Climate Caretakers | No Comments

Summer day picnic basket with plastic cutlery and paper plates in outdoor setting

Did you know that 1 trillion plastic bags are produced globally each year?  That’s almost 2 million bags per minute and requires 120 million barrels of oil to produce.  That doesn’t even include all the paper plates, plastic forks, and styrofoam cups.

While such items are certainly convenient, that’s a lot of trash and a lot of carbon pollution considering that it only takes a few extra seconds to grab a resuable plate, wash a fork, or bring the cloth shopping bags.

First Steps
Commit to zero disposables this summer by bringing your own reusable items with you.  It’s easy enough to bring your own dishes and wash them later.

  • Having a picnic?  Bring your own and wash when you get home.
  • Going shopping?  Remember your cloth bags (if you forget, ask them to just place the items back in the cart and you’ll unload them manually–you won’t forget very often if you get in that habit!)
  • Going to a potluck? Bring a bag to carry your dirty dishes home.
  • Traveling?  Bring a reusable bottle instead of buying bottled water.
  • Hosting a party?  Ask friends to bring their own dishes or to help you wash up.
  • Coffee-time at church?  Bring your own mug.

Dig Deeper
Make zero disposables a lifestyle by buying or making reusable alternatives.  Cloth napkins are readily available at home stores, but can also be made cheaply using any absorbent material.  Cloth shopping bags can be purchased for as little as $1 each.  If your tap water is safe, use it; otherwise, buy drinking water from large services that reuse the jugs.

One simple way to remember your zero disposable commitment is to stock things where you’ll remember them.  Keep a stash of cloth bags in your car or by the front door.  Store a set of reusable dishes in the car or where you used to keep the paper plates.  With basic sewing skills you can also make your own gift bags instead of disposable wrapping paper.  There are plenty of DIY reusable ideas online if you need some inspiration.

All In
You can help make it easy for others to go reusable by encouraging your church or office to use ceramic coffee mugs instead of disposable cups.  You can cheaply buy lots of mugs from a thrift store or ask people to donate unused mugs (most of us have more than we need).

It’s a small step, but it sends a signal to others that this is important.  Better yet, why not use the opportunity to make an announcement in church about why you’re switching to reusable mugs?  This could be a great opportunity to start a Climate Caretakers team at your church.

What will YOU do this month?

Brexit and Climate Change

By | Climate Caretakers, Climate Change | No Comments

Psalm 33,20

Unless you’ve been living in a hole somewhere, you’ve heard the news that Great Britain officially voted to leave the European Union (Brexit = British Exit). Leaders in the U.K. and United Nations are quick to say this is not a vote against climate change, though.

There is a worry among few that a Brexit-led majority leadership could influence climate change initiatives negatively, but leaders seem optimistic this won’t happen.

While there will be some obvious complications, as there will be with many international rights and economic issues, UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres has gone as far as saying, “Climate change action is by now unstoppable. It is global.” Let us hope and pray this is true and that Brexit will not derail the Paris Agreement in any way.

 

Creator God,

We ask that you be with our leaders today. In the midst of change and uncertainty, guide them to do what is right.

Help them to see how issues such as climate change and immigration affect people, not businesses and not the bottom line. Let them see people first.

Please do not let the decision of the people of Great Britain derail all the great work currently being done on the issue of climate change. Let the voices of those who have so steadfastly pursued justice ring out above the din of the naysayers. Please help what was decided and signed in Paris remain a top priority for Great Britain, the European Union, and the rest of the world.

Amen.

Why I’m Choosing to Spend Father’s Day Away From my Kids

By | Climate Caretakers, Climate Change | No Comments

My kids

My three best reasons to be in Washington D.C. on Father’s Day

I never really grasped how amazing Father’s Day is until I became a Dad.  Other than my birthday, Father’s Day is the one day a year I can do whatever I want.  Not only does this translate to no cooking and no washing dishes, but it usually involves some combination of going to church, lounging in the hammock, watching a baseball game with the kids, burgers for dinner, our local homemade ice cream joint for dessert, and an action movie.  It also means lot of love from the kids, cute cards, and loads of hugs and snuggling.  Did I mention no dishes?

I love my kids, and I love being a Dad.  But this year I’m skipping Father’s Day.

That’s because I’ll be in Washington D.C. sharing with members of Congress why this Dad wants to see urgent action on climate change so his kids don’t have to deal with our failure to fix a solvable problem.  While I hate missing Father’s Day, I can think of no better thing to do as a father than to advocate on behalf of my children and the billions of other children in the world who will grow up in a dramatically altered world because of our inaction today.

One famous quote often attributed to Wendell Berry claims; “We do not inherit the world from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

There’s a lot of wisdom in this statement, and it connects to my primary role as a father—to create an atmosphere in which my children can learn, grow, and thrive.  This means providing for them financially, teaching them to read and write, and installing in them the values that lead to godly living.  But it also involves making sure that my generation faithfully stewards the world that Cadie, Lilee, and Ian have loaned to me.

To be honest, we’ve done a pretty crappy job at this last one.  Climate change isn’t the only major world problem by a long shot, but it does cause significant, negative, and long-term impacts on the world my kids will grow up in.  More importantly, we actually know how to solve it!  We simply lack the political will to do so.

That’s why I’m in DC advocating for change with a group called Citizen’s Climate Lobby.  CCL is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization that lobbies members of congress to implement a Carbon Fee and Dividend.  This legislation would both solve the problem of global climate change while simultaneously stimulating the economy, saving lives, and helping the average American household.  Check out this video to learn more about Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation.

This Dad wants to give the world back to my kids in better shape than it is now.  Will you join me by signing the Climate Caretaker Commitment or by getting involved with Citizen’s Climate Lobby?

By: Brian Webb, Director of Climate Caretakers

Climate Change is a Civil Rights Issue

By | Climate Caretakers, Climate Change | No Comments

Amos 5,24

Prayer Update: Civil Rights Veteran Turns Attention to Climate Change; Loud Amens Resound.

Rev. Gerald Durley once marched shoulder-to-shoulder with Dr. King. Last week, he appeared in New York alongside Mr. Gore. Since 2006, Pastor Durley has been preaching this message:

Climate change is a civil rights issue. . . . When your children suffer from asthma and cannot go outside to play, as is the case for many in Atlanta, it is a civil rights issue. When unprecedented weather disasters devastate the poorest neighborhoods in places like New Orleans, New Jersey, and New York, it is a civil rights issue. When farmers in faraway lands cannot feed their families because the rains will no longer come, it is a civil rights issue.

O Just and Merciful God,

Thank you for Rev. Durley and our great cloud of witnesses.

Bless our African-American brothers and sisters who engage in climate action. As Rev. Durley points out, there are so many demands on their activism, such as Trayvon Martin, Black Lives Matters.

Help us all to rest and hope in you. And help us to renew our commitment to civil rights and to move, in Rev. Durley’s admonition, “from just a climate campaign to a true climate movement.”

Amen.

Travel with the Climate in Mind

By | Climate Caretakers, Climate Change | No Comments

Mother Hiking with Baby in a Forest - Retro Filtered

For many of us the summer months are a time of travel and family vacations.  Whether visits with family, beach trips, road trips, camping trips, or extended holidays, this time away from home builds memories and adds to our life experiences.

Unfortunately, they also add to global warming.  It’s important to acknowledge that the only truly “climate-friendlytravel would be done by foot, bike, or perhaps an electric vehicle charged from solar panels.  Traveling less and staying closer to home are critical for reducing our contribution to climate change.

At the same time there are a number of travel strategies we can adopt that will significantly decrease our impact on the climate without foregoing our travel plans altogether.  This month’s newsletter focuses on incorporating such strategies into our travel, both for this year and in planning future trips.

FIRST STEPS
How can we get from point “A” to point “B” using fewer emissions in our travel?  The answer might be easier than you think.  Try one of these carbon reduction tips to make your travel plans more climate-friendly:

  • Driving a high efficiency vehicle (such as a Prius or other hybrid) can cut your travel emissions in half compared to a minivan or SUV.
  • If your travel involves a rental car, ask for the car with the highest gas mileage in the fleet.
  • Transporting a family of four is most efficient in cars with good gas mileage and least efficient by air (which is about 5 times worse).  Train travel falls in the middle and is slightly better than a minivan or SUV.
  • Transporting just one person is most efficient by bus or train and least efficient with the average personal vehicle.  Surprisingly emissions from air travel is only slightly worse than driving a hybrid and quite a bit better than the typical vehicle.
  • If driving, make sure your tires are fully inflated in order to extend your gas mileage.
  • If flying, travel with the least baggage necessary–there’s a reason airlines are charging for bags now (because they require extra fuel).

DIG DEEPER

If you’re looking to dig deeper, an often overlooked but high impact carbon reduction option involves offsetting your travel emissions.  The premise behind offsetting is that a contribution toward carbon reduction projects elsewhere can offset the emissions associated with your travel.  Common offset measures include investing in reforestation work, installation of renewable energy projects, or financing for energy efficiency products such as clean cookstoves.  Each of these projects helps protect the climate by either reducing overall emissions or by expanding carbon sequestration.

We recommend offsetting with Climate Stewards–a highly reputable Christian carbonoffset organization that is associated with the conservation group A Rocha.  Climate Stewards supports reforestation projects in Ghana and Mexico and a clean cookstove project in Kenya.  Their work is frequently linked to on-the-ground Christian development work, and they employ rigorous standards to ensure the offsets result in real carbon benefits.  Offsetting is quite affordable, with a round-trip flight between New York and Chicago costing just $7 and a cross-country trip from New York to Los Angeles just $24.

Click here to offset with Climate Stewards.

ALL IN
Offsetting your personal travel is important, but why stop there?  Many companies are increasingly concerned about their environmental impact and may be willing to offset your business travel.  Who knows, maybe they’ll even adopt it as a company-wide policy.  Try asking your employer to see–though you might want to first look up a couple sample trips so they know what you’re asking in terms of financial commitment.

Don’t travel for business or not employed?  Try asking your church staff if your church could adopt a carbon offset policy for staff travel.

What will YOU do this month?