God so loved the world... Yes, this world, the one we're busy trying to destroy!
God so loved the world that he gave his only son ...” is not a pious platitude or a simple religious refrain. It is a declaration of God’s purpose and mission in the world from the beginning to this very day. “God so loved the world.” That’s not just about us who are human. It’s about the whole of God’s grand and glorious Creation.
Presiding Bishop Curry: https://www.sustainislandhome.org/
I’ve got to admit… before I was appointed Diocesan missioner for Jubilee Farm Church the environment was not a major focus of my ministry. I mean, I cared about creation – I understand it is a gift from God, who entrusted us with responsibility for its care and conservation, and I always feel connected to God when I am in the midst of nature – the beach, the mountains, the forests. And I was as aware of climate change and concerned about its impact as anyone. But on a sliding scale of all the injustice and social concerns I care about it fell somewhere between health care and education, and after the big ones of racism, income equality, gun control, hunger, and homelessness.
But having responsibility for establishing a new ministry whose fundamental mission is care of creation has changed all that, and I now find words and phrases such as climate resilience, sustainable agriculture, carbon sequestration, ecocide, food deserts, food sovereignty, edible forests, environmental racism, transformative adaptation, slipping from my lips with increasing frequency and familiarity. I have come to understand that climate change disproportionally affects the poor and already-disadvantaged, and is at the root of all the other injustices which faithful people are called to condemn and expose. And I have come to realize that unless we address the issue of climate change any solution to the other problems which plague our world are pointless if there isn’t a livable planet to inhabit.
This opinion was further reinforced by the recently published report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which details the most up to date assessment and understanding of climate change. The IPCC is a scientific body convened by the United Nations, that uses data from thousands of people from all over the world in their work. Their report is based on more than 14,000 studies, and has been approved by 195 governments as the most comprehensive study to date on the science of climate change. It was compiled by 91 editors from 40 countries, with 133 contributing authorities, contains more than 6000 scientific references, and includes contributions from thousands of experts around the world.
I realize I am coming late to this party, but TBH it has taken me this much time to get my head around the implications and gravity of the report. The report’s main conclusion is that humankind is indeed responsible for global warming, due to its dependence on fossil fuels and such practices as deforestation. As a result, our atmosphere is overloaded with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that trap heat, resulting in a consistent rise in global average temperatures since the 19th century. Our planet is the hottest it has been in 125,ooo years; the world’s glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, and atmospheric levels of CO2 have not been this high in at least two million years. Two million years! And yet half of all greenhouse gases were released in the last thirty years. This means that in just half my lifetime, humankind has ravaged our planet as much as have they have since the beginning of time.
The report paints a dire picture for the earth over the next few decades. The two best scenarios predict a rise of between 1-2.6 C. A 1.5-degree Celsius threshold is the target goal established by the Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 nations in December 2015 to address the threat of climate change. It is a best-case scenario and depends on reducing global emissions beginning next year. Which let’s face it, given the current attitude toward climate change, is unlikely to happen. At the rate we are going, global warming is likely to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels sometime between 2030 and 2052, with a best estimate of around 2040. isn’t expected to dissipate for hundreds to thousands of years.
The impacts of climate change haven’t been spread evenly around our planet and they won’t be in the future, either. Temperatures increase at different speeds everywhere, with warming generally higher over land areas than oceans. The strongest warming is happening in the Arctic during its cool seasons, and in Earth’s mid-latitude regions during the warm season. All of this means the deadly heatwaves, droughts, heavy rainfall, flooding, and wildfires which plague our world will occur more frequently and with greater intensity.
Changing weather patterns lead to reduction of rainforest biomass, acidification of the oceans, and loss of the habitats that many of our species depend, leading to mass extinctions. Not only that, but each degree-Celsius increase in global mean temperature would, on average, reduce global yields of wheat by 6.0%, rice by 3.2%, maize by 7.4%, and soybean by 3.1%. Smaller and less nutritious yields for grain crops means less food available, which will devastate regions already struggling to produce enough food to feed their citizens and impact all of us.
The report paints a dire picture for the earth over the next few decades. Even if we could reduce our carbon emissions drastically tomorrow, we have gone too far down this road to reverse the effects of global warming. All we can do at this point is mitigate their severity.
The 2018 General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed a resolution promising to care for the world God so loved. In response to this resolution, The Episcopal Church published a Pledge to Care for Creation and encouraged congregations and individuals to take the pledge for Lent 2019, and Sustain Island Home was developed by the Diocese of California as a resource. It offers a Carbon Tracker as a web-based application that helps individuals, households, congregations and even dioceses to measure their carbon footprint and take steps to shrink it to fit a sustainable life. If you have ever considered how you can care better for the earth God created. If you are concerned about climate change and global warming and wonder what you can do about it. If you worry about your impact on the environment and want to know how you can mitigate it, then I invite you to check out https://www.sustainislandhome.org/ and join me and many others to measure your carbon footprint and take steps to shrink it to fit a sustainable life. And while you’re at it, check out the other resources available at https://www.episcopalchurch.org/ministries/creation-care/
In the meantime what do we do with information such as this. It would be easy to lose hope and despair that we can ever make this right, and TBH a little despair is not a bad thing given humankind’s propensity for rationalizing and ignoring this kind of news. But we cannot give up. We trust in the God who created our world to help us find and implement a solution. As people of faith who believe that all of creation is a gift from our creator, we have a moral and theological reason to do something.
This is the mission of Jubilee Farm Church - care for creation, environmental sustainability, and an increased awareness and appreciation for the land that hopefully encourages its protection.