As a person of faith, I believe that humans are an integral part of Creation, inseparable from all God has made. I am troubled by the actions we take every day that are diminishing the ability of God’s world to survive in the manner in which it was created.
Recently, I found myself in the bayous of Louisiana with Chief Shirell Dardar of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe. Rising waters and temperatures caused by climate change have challenged the ability of coastal tribes like the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw to thrive on the lands that have sustained them for hundreds of years.
The bayous and wetlands that once sustained this thriving tribe have been decimated as climate change has altered the life, livelihoods, and cultures of Native Americans as well as others who call these wetlands their home.
Our response to these and other effects of climate change should be based on more than just science, politics, and economics. There is a moral, ethical, and scriptural component that is too often ignored in our Tweeted and Facebooked lives.
Each day brings new confirmation that our world is out of balance and that human action is the primary cause. Heat waves, droughts, monster storms, and the melting ice sheets in the Antarctic are all signs that God’s creation is changing and struggling.
Today, we have more than just signs. We have science and firsthand experience. The recently released 2014 National Climate Assessment report confirms that industrial activity is largely responsible for much of what we are observing, including the severe drought in California, more intense storms and tornadoes throughout the country, and rising sea levels in Louisiana and Florida.
Scientists and communities now know that the situation will continue to steadily worsen without immediate and meaningful action. Political bickering has stalled much of that action, but we should not respond to this crisis as Democrats or Republicans. We should instead respond as integral parts of both God’s creation and the communities that we have seen struggle in these changing times.
Scripture calls us to action as children of God, to serve as stewards of creation, and “to till and to keep” the garden (Genesis 2:15). As part of this call, we have an obligation to care for our neighbors and all those put at risk by the impacts of climate change. We all know John 3:16. It does not say, “For God so loved humankind” or “For God so loved the birds, the bees, and the trees,” but rather, “For God so loved the world.” Our ability to respond to climate change will reflect our love for the world — God’s world — and our willingness to serve as caretakers.
Man-made climate change is already harming countless individuals and communities, creating injustice and imbalance in creation. Low-income families, the sick, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the changes that are already happening. Those who have the fewest resources and those who have contributed the least to this problem are the ones who are already feeling the most painful effects.
My faith tells me that this is morally unacceptable. We must do all that we can and demand action throughout our communities to respond to this global crisis.
Currently, one very meaningful action is being considered: President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced proposed safeguards designed to lower carbon pollution from the nation’s existing power plants. When put in place, this proposal will be one of the most significant steps the United States has ever taken towards addressing its carbon dioxide output and other greenhouse gas emissions.
Polluting industries are already beginning to push back against this proposal. Spokesmen say the cost will be too high and the impact on climate change will be negligible.
But our communities and families across the country are already suffering. Heat waves are more severe and they’re affecting the most vulnerable among us. Our coastlines are already flooding too often, drowning our churches and community centers and our homes and businesses under stormy waters. Elsewhere, droughts are lasting longer, decimating crops, and increasing the frequency of forest fires that spread into our residential areas.
When you crunch the numbers, you see that we cannot afford all the repairs that climate change disasters will make necessary. The distress of these damages is already taking a tremendous toll and science tells us that it will only get worse if we don’t take significant steps immediately towards reducing carbon emissions.
But more importantly, our faith tells us that we are to exercise stewardship over God’s Creation and care for our neighbors as we would care for ourselves. We cannot ignore the clear evidence of the damage we are causing and its impact on the Creator’s works, the Earth, and our brothers and sisters throughout the nation and around the world. We must act now.
The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.