On 2 February 2020, I presented the following forum at my church. It is part of an ongoing parish spiritual formation series.
The Kinship Project: Protecting, Enriching, and Serving our Immediate Environment
We are at a crossroads. The science is clear. We must reduce our carbon emissions (and carbon equivalent emissions). We have a decade, at best, to make significant changes or we will face a future that looks radically different than our past, our future, or the hope filled world of Star Trek. It is a world where untold millions will suffer from extreme temperatures (hot and cold), fires, blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes, crop failure, drought, floods, famine, disease . . . but, it doesn’t have to be like that. We, as individuals, can do a lot. We can speak truth to our churches, our neighborhood communities, our cities, our mayor, our Governor, our Members of Congress, our President, etc. We can practice truth by reducing our own CO ee emissions.
These facts are causing stress and anxiety among our younger generations. They see and know that they are the ones who will live and die with these changes. As I watch the young climate activists, I notice they all have the same exasperation. We tell you the facts, and you do nothing. We tell you that we are less likely to die of old age than you are, and you do nothing. We tell you that the world is in crisis, and you recite “fairy tales of eternal economic growth” and do nothing.
We have failed our younger generation. We have failed them and we wonder why they don’t show up at our church doors.
<Note: As of January 2019, according to the IPCC, we had a carbon budget of 360 gigatons before we reached the tipping point. That is total gigatons, not per annum, left to emit.>
With all this swirling in my head, as I stopped to think about this forum, as I double-checked my research, one thing became crystal clear to me. No amount of knowledge, no amount of scientific fact, no list I give you can really make a difference.
The only thing I have to offer is a “why” :: a value statement. Values aren’t understood simply by our intellect. They are understandings derived from inner experience.
As our Presiding Bishop often reminds us, This is the Way of Love. Where does this idea of love being the center come from? . . . <Read Matt 22: 36-40>
And so I’d like to share the Creation Story of our Kin the Hebrews . . . <Read Gen 2, creation of man>
- man formed of soil :: stresses our kinship and dependence, we are made of earth not just upon earth
- till :: ‘avad
- to cultivate
- a right to make a living from the soil, we must work the soil to eat from the soil
- keep :: shamar
- to preserve, to defend
- a duty to care for the soil, we need the soil and it needs us.
I would like to suggest that these biblical ideals (Love God, Love Neighbor, Protect the Garden) serve as our reason for practicing Creation Care.
The IPCC suggests that each person living with a carbon budget of 2-3 tonnes per year is the target we should be aiming for. <Of course, businesses must also follow the guidelines, but as they say, “vote with your dollar” and the companies will listen.>
- Worldwide average = 4 tonnes
- American average = 21 tonnes
- That is roughly an 85% decrease in individual emissions.
The factors that have the largest impact on your carbon footprint are:
- the number of children you choose to have
- food choices = agricultural methods, meat consumption, plastic wrap, shipping distance, biodiversity
- Housing = electricity (coal, natural gas), heating and cooling, refrigerator, hot water, washing machine, lighting, landscape maintenance,
- Personal transport = car, fuel, planes (vs buses and trains)
- Consumer goods = use of plastic, fast fashion, banking, electronics, healthcare, entertainment, education, lawn
Let’s have a family meeting and see what we can think of . . . remembering that we are focusing on our immediate environment.
When Martin Luther was asked what he would do if the world was ending tomorrow, he replied, “Plant a Tree.”