Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Faith Based Case for Climate Action (SEC Environmental Report)


SEC Environmental Report
July 2019 – December 2019

A Faith Based Case for Climate Action

 
Prepared for Bishop Mary
Anglican Diocese of Montreal
Prepared by Richard Matthews
Chairperson of the SEC
January 1, 2020
No. 7

C O N T E N T S

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
REVIEW OF THE SEC’S ACTIVITIES OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS

PART 1: THE WHY AND WHAT OF CLIMATE ACTION

-          Why the Church needs to standup for the planet and its Inhabitants
-          Faith communities are well positioned to lead
-          The complicity of silence
-          Facing the facts
-          Young people and the prophetic voice of Greta Thunberg
-          Protecting the vulnerable and opposing Hunger
-          Acting before it’s too late
-          Inadequacy of incrementalism and the ruse of individual action
-          Debunking the theology of climate denial

PART 2: WHAT IS BEING DONE

-          Christians heeding the call for climate action
-          Civil disobedience
-          Anglican Church of Australia calls for government action
-          Anglican Church’s climate leadership from Canada’s North
-          Climate emergency
-          Banning plastic

PART 3: EVENTS AND OCCASSIONS

-          The General Synod of 2019
-          Season of creation
-          Climate March (September 27, Montreal) 
-          Canadian federal election
-          Amazon Synod
-          Advent
-          COP25 and the UN

PART 4: WHAT WE MUST DO TO PROTECT CREATION

-          Building support for climate action
-          Pope Francis on the sin against ecology, ecocide and market idolatry
-          Protecting creation by transitioning to a green economy
-          Energy revolution
-          Reigning-in fossil fuels
-          Protest and mobilization
-          Resources  

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Guided by the Anglican Communion's fifth Mark of Mission, "To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew life of the earth" the SEC has engaged in a wide range of environmental advocacy including reporting on faith based news, releasing statements, supporting events, and disseminating resources. We have written reports, held vigils and hosted events. We have also engaged in direct action, organized speaking conferences, and created a survey. One of the outstanding highlights of the SEC's efforts was the successful fossil fuel divestment motion that was passed in the Anglican Diocese of Montreal on October 16th, 2015. We are currently working on the production of a short environmentally themed film called Aya's Mirror that is scheduled to be released in September.

In this report I reiterate the reasons why the church should standup for the planet and its inhabitants. Faith communities are well positioned to lead efforts to address climate change and counter eco-degradation. As the Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam says this is not just a reaction to anxiety, but it is based in our love for creation. We need to face the scale of the destruction we are causing, and we need to act. According to some the failure of the church to lead on these issues is contributing to the exodus.

At the very least our silence makes us complicit.  No matter how uncomfortable it may make us, we cannot look the other way. The church has been at the forefront of many important human rights issues and this should include climate advocacy. We are called to act by the gospels and by the prophetic voice of young people like Greta Thunberg. We are called to protect the vulnerable, those who have done the least to cause the climate crisis are those who will suffer the most from its effects.

We must act and we must act before it’s too late. As explained in a statement by the World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee “The time for debate and disputation of established scientific facts is long over.” Time for action is swiftly passing, the statement continues. “We will all be held to account for our inaction and our disastrous stewardship of this precious and unique planet.” Nor do we have the time to incrementally address the crisis or focus on individual action. As Archbishop Nicholls said we must do more than advocate for lifestyle changes.  We also need to share the message that science is compatible with faith and the science tells us we must act, and we must act now.

Thankfully many Christians are heeding the call. From the Church of England to local parishes, Anglicans and other faith communities are waking up to the urgent need for climate action. Some Anglicans see the situation as so serious that it warrants civil disobedience.  The issue of climate change is especially significant in the Canadian North where traditional ways are being destroyed by rising temperatures. That is why Anglican churches in the north are taking up the cause and working in support of climate action. One approach that is gaining momentum is the declaration of a climate emergency. Canadian Anglicans recently passed a resolution that called the church to address earth’s climate emergency. Anglicans are also directly appealing to government and calling for government action.

The Season of Creation is an opportunity to highlight ecological concerns. Christians all around the world pray and act in defense of creation including Anglicans in the Diocese of Montreal. This city is arguably among the most climate concerned city on the planet. We are home to the largest climate march in human history which took place on September 27, 2019. Nationally we saw how the environment was a serious issue in the most recent election. Globally we are seeing how Anglicans are coming together with people of faith to resist environmental degradation in places like the Brazilian Amazon and at the UN's annual climate talks.

So much needs to be done and Anglicans are joining people of faith and secular society in this global effort. We need to help build support for climate action and this starts with learning how to speak to people who are misinformed. Perhaps we need to acknowledge the sin of ecological destruction and market idolatry. As Primate Nicholls said, “we failed to notice when that stewardship had been subverted by economic forces, human greed and an attitude of complacency. We answered God’s very first call to us with neglect, disregard and denial”.

Solutions abound and at the top of the list is transitioning to a green economy which includes an energy revolution that will move us away from fossil fuels towards renewable sources of power. Such a revolution is impossible if fossil fuels are allowed to dominate our political landscapes. We need to acknowledge the central role of the fossil fuel industry as both the cause of the problem and as a leading source of disinformation preventing people from apprehending the facts they need to act responsibly.

The church should support protests that defend creation. Such protests can augur change and the involvement of the church amplifies the moral dimension and makes protest more effective.

SEC’S ACTIVITIES OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS  

As we embark on a new decade, we have taken a moment to reflect on the Stewardship of the Environment Committee's (SEC) accomplishments. Through our social media channels, we report on faith based environmental news and provide resources to Christians and others in and beyond our community.  We create quarterly reports, support events, disseminate information, engage in direct actions, organize speakers conferences and hold vigils. Most recently we are working on the production of a short environmentally themed film. 

One of the outstanding highlights of the SEC's efforts was the successful fossil fuel divestment motion that was passed in the Anglican Diocese of Montreal on October 16th, 2015. Here is the presentation delivered in support of the motion by SEC Chair Richard Matthews. In support of this motion we consulted widely within the dioceses and we published a wide range of support materials including a FAQ and a statement of support from Dr. Brooke Struck.

At the end of 2014, we launched our website and social media platforms on Facebook and Twitter with the intent of posting environmentally themed educational resources and communications related to climate action. These efforts were informed by the Anglican Communion's fifth Mark of Mission: "To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew life of the earth."  

We organized a speakers conference titled Creation Groans: Climate Justice Event (Christ Church Cathedral), we held a candlelight vigil in support of COP21. We have participated in direct actions and supported events including the Season of Creation, Earth Day/Earth Hour, Blue Dot Movement, Interfaith Eco-Action Day, Global Divestment Day, Justice Tour: Faith Climate Change and Poverty Anglican Eco-Ministry, A Good Friday Call for Climate Justice, and the Global Environmental Day of Prayer. We have also published numerous statements including those encouraging ecological witness, supporting climate change as a moral and justice issue, and drawing attention to the environmental crisis in the Arctic.   

Over the years we have published hundreds of articles and shared a wide range of faith-based resources. This includes articles on the Season of Creation, faith activities in support of the UN's annual Conference of the Parties (COP) and Canadian politics. We closely follow the work of ecologically minded organizations within the Canadian Anglican tradition including Creation Matters, ACEN, Greening Sacred Spaces and Greeningspirit.ca. To access links to these and other SEC activities click here.

In 2016 we rewrote our constitution and redefined our mandate and in 2017 we reflected on our strategic priorities as part of a longer-term vision. On Earth Day in 2017, the SEC hosted a Youth Litter Clean-Up Event on Mount Royal where we handed out environmentally themed loot bags that included children's books, seeds, environmentally safe cleaning products and  easy to follow information on composting and recycling.
In 2018 the SEC relaunched with new leadership, a new vision and a new mission.  We started the year by creating a survey to help us gauge Anglican attitudes on nature. The results of our poll reveal that Anglicans are meaningfully engaged in nature and they believe that we must act to protect it. Further, they are actively involved in efforts that support nature in their personal lives. The results also suggest that most Anglican respondents would benefit from knowing what they can do to be better environmental stewards.  In response to this poll we began writing and publishing a series of posts called the Eightfold Path of Environmental Action. They are designed as resources that respond to the needs expressed by those who took the survey.  

1. Right Understanding: Knowing the facts about climate change
2. Right Thought: How we think about the natural world
3. Right Speech: Effective environmental communications
4. Right Action: Making smaller footprints
5. Right Livelihood: Work that benefits the planet
6. Right Effort: Choosing a cause
7. Right Concentration: Staying focused on nature
8. Right Mindfulness: Managing climate stress 


In 2018 we also began writing and submitting quarterly environmental reports to Bishop Mary. The inaugural was submitted on April 1, 2018.  These reports are consistent with the revised SEC mandate and they contain a brief review of our activities and plans as well as faith focused environmental news. We also amplified Bishop Mary's messages about plastic waste by relaying her messages and published 21 curated posts. In September, the SEC attended a plastic-free picnic hosted by Christ Church Cathedral's Environmental Social Justice Action Group (ESJAG) to celebrate the Season of Creation.   

In 2019 we focused our efforts on the creation of a short environmental film. We chose to make a film with the hope of delivering a broadly accessible message that reaches people in a way that both resonates and inspires action. On Easter Sunday we consulted with the film maker and environmental scientists who all members of the St. Jax community to get feedback on the film’s themes. We developed a storyline, engaged a scriptwriter and created a storyboard. We titled the film Aya's Mirror and formally announced it in June. It was recognized by the U.N. on World Environment Day (WED).  We began preparing to support the project with multi-channel marketing campaigns.  This includes an Initial pre-release marketing strategy and content (introductions to the film making team, behind the scenes stuff, teasers etc. 

As we begin an exciting new chapter in the history of the SEC we would like to thank the Diocese and Bishop Mary for their unrelenting support.  In 2020 we look forward to appearing on Live with Lee-Ann on Earth Day and stay tuned for more information on the release of Aya's Mirror, the SEC's long awaited short film that will be screened in September.

PART ONE: THE WHY AND WHAT OF CLIMATE ACTION

Why the Church needs to standup for the planet and its inhabitants

“As Christians and as a Church we hope to be good stewards of God’s creation and to care for the environment. We commit to respond to the serious circumstances we face...It will need the commitment of everyone in the Church to engage strongly with our communities and establish creative policy frameworks that get the best out of people, not just because of anxiety but for the love of this wonderful creation.” - The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam.

A July 14, 2019 sermon delivered by the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas at St. John’s Episcopal Church, calls us to stop pretending about climate change. She calls us to face the fact, "that the ecological foundations of society – the planetary life-systems upon which all forms of life, including human life, depend – are unstable and at risk of collapse". 

After the hottest summer on record and the hottest month ever recorded, extreme events are pushing even some of the most reluctant observers to acknowledge the veracity of anthropogenic climate change.  Australia is facing temperatures approaching 50-degrees Celsius, and devastating bush fires have killed dozens of people and 500 million animals. Climate impacts are not a new phenomenon, but they are getting worse and they will continue to worsen unless we do something about it.
We have seen 419 consecutive months of above average temperatures. We have not seen below average temperatures in 35 years. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850.  The five warmest decades on record have all occurred in the last 50 years. The most recent decade (2010s) was the warmest in recorded history. Nine of the ten warmest years have all occurred in the last decade, the five warmest years have all occurred in the past five years.  The Paris Agreement warns us to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius and we are currently at 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels.  

To add insult to injury we have wiped out over 40 percent of vertebrates in the last five decades. Birds, insects and marine life are also being decimated and there is no end in sight to species loss.  Entire ecosystems are dying.  

An article by John Pavlovitz shares his views on why people are leaving the church. In a letter to the church he says the reason people are leaving the church Is not the music or a shorter service. They will return if you rebrand, redo your logo, become technologically savvy or try to be cool. According to Pavlovitz the attrition is likely irreversible. “Church, people are leaving you because you are silent right now in ways that matter to them. You aren’t saying what they need you to say and what you should be saying—and it makes them sick. They spend their days with a front row seat to human right atrocities, to growing movements of cruelty, to unprecedented religious hypocrisy, and to political leaders who are antithetical to heart of Jesus. They live with the relational collateral damage of seeing people they love abandon compassion and decency; people who are growing more and more callous to the already vulnerable. They see in their daily lives and on the news and across their timelines and in their communities, exactly the kind of malevolence and toxicity they expect you to speak into with boldness and clarity as moral leaders—and instead they find you adjusting the stage lights and renovating the lobby and launching websites. In the middle of the songs and the sermons and the video clips, they can see your feet of clay and your moral laryngitis. That’s why they’re leaving. I know you’re worried about saying too much, about being branded too political, about offending people or somehow making it worse by speaking. Trust me, you are making it worse by saying nothing. Yes, you may be avoiding conflict or keeping a tenuous peace in the pews. You may be causing less obvious turbulence inside your walls. You may be appeasing a few fearful folks there who don’t want you to trouble the waters. But you’re doing something else: you’re confirming for millions of people, why they have no use for you any longer. You’re confirming the suspicions of those who believe the church has no relevance for them. You’re giving people who’ve offered you one more chance to earn their presence—reason to walk away. Your silence right now is the last straw for them. …They’ve been waiting for you….to denounce the degradation of the planet—to say with absolute clarity what you stand for and what you will not abide. And you have kept them waiting too long. Church, people can get most of what you offer them somewhere else. …The singular thing you can offer them is a clear and unflinching voice that emulates the voice of Jesus. Stand on your platforms and in your pulpits and specifically name the bigotry, precisely call out the politics, unequivocally condemn the people and the policies and the movements that sicken you. Jesus did. Stop couching your words and softening your delivery and start speaking with clarity about what matters to you. That’s what those who are leaving want most. It may be too late to stop the mass exodus at this point—but saying everything will at least help you keep your soul as you fade away. At least you’ll know you stood for something.”

Climate action is at the heart of our stewardship efforts because it exacerbates a wide range of environmental concerns. This includes air and water pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat fragmentation, and species extinction.    Eduardo Sasso has made it clear that according to his theological understanding, Christians are called to act on climate change. He is the author of A Climate of Desire - a book recovering the earth-keeping roots of Christianity to more fully enable us to respond to the challenges of climate change. “[T]hose who profess a living faith in the God revealed in Jesus must stand at the forefront of the ecological struggle” Sasso wrote in an October article, “Everything else is false religion.”

Faith communities are well positioned to lead

Faith groups can play a leadership role in the communities they serve by contributing to climate change education, mobilization and action. They have played a key role in historic social justice movements including the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-Apartheid movement and immigration justice.  Climate change should be no different.  Taking care of and respecting the Earth and the spiritual connection we all feel to the planet is at the core of many of the world’s religions. As Anglicans, we are called by the fifth mark of mission and as Anglicans situated in Montreal, we must heed the climate leadership of our mayor and the fact that on September 27th we hosted the single largest climate mobilization the world has ever seen. 

A UN Environment article explored some of the reasons why faith communities have an important role to play in auguring change. “Faith-based leaders are well-respected individuals with close community affiliations,” said Iyad Abumoghli, Principal Coordinator of the Faith for Earth Initiative. “Their legitimacy is built on their important status and their impartiality to the process” Abumaghli wrote. “Engagement of faith-based organizations and faith leaders can be a tool for addressing water, peace and security challenges. This can be achieved through mediations, dialogue and working towards one global goal to protect the creation of God, our one and only planet. Today, more than 80 per cent of people in the world are associated with a religion or a spiritual community. However, many still lack access to even basic goods and services…. Mobilizing partnerships is an essential means for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Action can only be achieved by engaging and partnering with stakeholders from all walks of life, building on cultural diversity as a fourth dimension of sustainable development. The Faith for Earth Initiative is contributing to ensuring that the sound stewardship of natural resources is a fundamental human value and responsibility.”

The complicity of silence

“You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil.”  -Greta Thunberg

A Christian Climate Action protest banner sums up our dilemma: “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”  When we say nothing, we are complicit. Evil is a strong word,  and while we are understandably reluctant to use this word, a recent article suggests it may apply to those who oppose climate action or are complicit through their silence.  “Those who come out of a religious tradition, any religious tradition, have a responsibility to fight this latest iteration of radical evil, which is swiftly ensuring that our species and many other species will not have a future on this earth. It is our religious duty to place our bodies in front of the machine.... Let us affirm our faith by affirming our defiance…against the forces of radical evil. Let future generations say of us that we tried, that we were not complicit through our collaboration or our silence. There will be a cost. History shows us that. All moral battles have a cost, and if there is not a cost then the battle is not moral. Accept becoming an outcast. Jesus, after all, was an outcast. We are called by God to defy radical evil. This defiance is the highest form of spirituality.”

Eduardo Sasso explained the need to speak out as follows: "[W]e must also remember and take courage from the abolitionist campaigns in Britain, or the 250,000 daydreamers of the early civil rights movement mounting the steps of Lincoln’s memorial to expel the national demons of hatred and racial segregation. Is the time not ripe for all people of good will and for those who follow after Jesus to engage in redemptive acts of ecological liberation? Will we cry out and sing and work for freedom at the door of Egypt’s palaces, reminding today’s Pharaohs that only God is God and that they are not? Will we offer our whole selves and take part collectively in Spirit-led exorcisms of the glittering forces of death that are degrading the living world (cf. Rom 8; 12)".

Silence may be less contentious, but as Bishop Oscar A. Romero said:  “A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a word of God that does not get under anyone's skin or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed: what kind of gospel is that?” -  

Facing the facts 

It is hard to face the facts; it is also hard to escape ubiquitous calls for climate action. These calls are resounding from the offices of church leaders and from church pews.  Climate change is emerging as a central theme for faith communities all around the world.  Climate change is on the agenda of the 15th Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops which will convene more than 1,000 bishops from around the Anglican Communion in July.

According to Rev. Margaret, the profit Amos tells us something about the truth of where we are and what needs to be done to combat the climate crisis. "The whole Book of Amos blazes with the prophet’s outrage as he accuses the nation of abandoning the loving purposes of God" Rev. Margaret said adding, "Amos is everybody who grieves and protests injustice and lies". Amos is everyone who is "willing to face the facts even when the corporate and political powers want the facts to go away. Amos is everyone who calls out the fossil industry for pouring billions of dollars into the effort to confuse and mislead the American public and for funding climate deniers and think tanks that dismiss climate science...Amos is everyone who challenges government leaders who scrub climate science from government Websites, who refuse to take climate change into account when setting policies, and who dismiss and discredit climate science – all while taking unprecedented steps to open up public lands and waters to more drilling, to expand oil pipelines, and to roll back protections on clean air and clean water. Amos is a teenaged girl who walks out of school, sits down in front of the Swedish Parliament with a handmade sign, and demands climate action. You know, we live in an extraordinary time, when the decisions we make about tackling climate change will make all the difference as to whether or not we are able to preserve the world that God entrusted to our care. Like Amos who was just a simple herdsman, we may not have planned to become a prophet – we are busy, we’ve got other things to do – but God’s love is always being poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5), giving us a divine plumb line so that we can see honestly and accurately where we need to amend our lives and where we need to call society to account.”

Sasso explains that Christians sometimes downplay, dismiss, or outright ignore the urgency of this issue because they are misinformed by misunderstood Bible verses (Jn 18, Phil 3, Heb 11, 2 Pet 3). Sasso points out that the Bible calls us to be stewards of creation and confront injustice and greed (Rev 22; cf. Ps 148, Isa 58:6). “

Young people and the prophetic voice of Greta Thunberg

And a little child shall lead them.
-Isaiah 1 1:6

Unlike some of their parents, young people accept the facts about the climate crisis.  This even applies to conservative Christians who tend to offer some of the strongest opposition to climate action. As explained by  Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, young conservatives are “breaking ranks” with their parents over global warming. Meyaard-Schaap is one of a growing number of Christians that is concerned about the fate of young people. He is ordained in the Christian Reformed Church. He’s the national organizer and spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, a nonprofit with more than 20,000 young people. 

“A lot of younger folks are recognizing the existential threat that this poses to us and to the families that we’re starting or want to start,” Meyaard-Schaap said. “The stakes are higher than ever for a generation that’s finding its voice and starting to claim power in the church, in politics, and in society….I can’t love my neighbor if I’m not protecting the earth that sustains them and defending their rights to clean water, clean air, and a stable climate.” That is why Meyaard-Schaap and others have suggested that young people are excellent ambassadors for climate reality. They can talk with their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts.  That is why his organization coaches young people on how to talk to older folks about climate change. No young person has more influence than the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.  In September, the Rev. Dr. Jesse Zink, principal of Montreal Diocesan Theological College penned an article titled, “Thus saith Greta” in which he references being struck by her public witness. He referred to her as as both a prophet of the Old Testament and a prophet of the present time. Zink quotes Greta saying, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” Rev. Zink pointed out that it is not that different from “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan…who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, ‘Bring me something to drink!'” (Amos 4:1) 

Here is a more complete excerpt from Greta’s September 23 speech at the UN Climate Action Summit: “This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!...For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight….How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just 'business as usual' and some technical solutions? With today's emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years…There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not. 

In both her UN address and her Montreal speech, Greta levelled a straightforward generational challenge. Zink explains that the covenant God makes with Israel is inter-generational. He goes on to say that one of the many evils of climate change is that it “upends a Biblical pattern of generational relations.” “You are failing us Greta said. “But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.” 

Protecting the vulnerable and opposing hunger

In the short-term, the climate crisis will have the most impact on those who have done the least to cause it. We are talking here about children, particularly those in the developing world. However, everyone will be affected by this crisis.  As Christians we are called to care for the world’s most vulnerable people. 

Katharine Hayhoe is a Canadian climate scientist and a Christian who says “Global warming will strike hardest against the very people we’re told to love: the poor and vulnerable”.  She teaches at Texas Tech and a pastor in Mississippi. She co-directs the Climate Center and is the lead author for the Second, Third, and Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessments, she also hosts the PBS digital series “Global Weirding” and is writing a book on how to talk about climate change with people who don’t agree. Hayhoe also expressed concern that climate change will “exacerbate political instability, and even create or worsen refugee crises.” 

Climate refugees are a huge and growing problem and for the first time in a decade global hunger is increasing which the WMO attributes to climate change (drought and floods). The growing problem of refugees displaced by climate threats was addressed by the United Nations Security Council.  Around 80 countries jointly agreed that the greatest impending threats to humanity could be triggered by climate change, not terrorism, nuclear war or the conflicts around the world.  A WMO report claims that up to 22 million people worldwide could be displaced by weather extremes in 2019 alone.  Climate change migration/climate refugees could become an even more challenging issue than they are today.   

Acting before it’s too late

The world is warming at an ever-accelerating rate and we are running out of time to stop it.  Rather than reducing global emissions these emissions are increasing. We are falling behind and if we are to have a chance of keeping temperatures below the upper threshold temperature lime (1.5C above preindustrial norms) we must act and we must act quickly. As a moral authority the church can play a pivotal role in helping to build the critical mass needed to accelerate climate action. According to the IPCC we have less than a decade to act before we surpass tipping points from which we cannot recover.   This year has featured increasingly clear signs of global warming impacts worldwide. From accelerating ice melt and sea level rise to heat waves and wildfires.  The human toll is already serious but it will get far worse if we fail to act.  

In November The World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee issued a statement on climate change which said the climate crisis is not a distant prospect, but is impacting us today. It decried government inaction and called for an immediate response.  “Children, young people and ordinary citizens have made public demonstration of their outrage at the lack of any adequate response by governments to the gravity of this global crisis, and against the backsliding by some governments,” the statement reads. “The time for debate and disputation of established scientific facts is long over.” Time for action is swiftly passing, the statement continues. “We will all be held to account for our inaction and our disastrous stewardship of this precious and unique planet.”

The inadequacy of incrementalism the ruse of individual action 

Linda Nicholls the new Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada outlined our failure as stewards of the Earth. She also explained why we need urgent action while exposing the inadequacy of incrementalism.  She made it clear that to tackle climate change we must do more than advocate for lifestyle changes. 

"We only began to pay attention when ecological devastation started to affect our daily lives. Today our failure of stewardship affects us through climate change. Shifting weather patterns warm the planet and oceans, breaking delicate links in our food chain and melting polar ice. This melt, which further confounds Earth’s weather patterns, is already devastating the livelihoods of Indigenous people in the North...Over the past 50 years, we have been challenged to realize our share in the devastation of our planet. Given stewardship over creation (Genesis 1),...In my lifetime we have incrementally addressed environmental concerns: recycling, pollution regulations and low-energy appliances have all been presented as meaningful ways for us to address the warming of our planet. While helpful, I fear incrementalism has allowed us to hide—to pretend the damage is not as bad as it is and deny the radical changes we need to make in our personal and corporate lives. The time to hide is now over; there are no rocks left for us to crawl under, no shelter large enough to conceal us from this crisis in creation. The changes needed are urgent! The only time we have to change is now. What will we do to see and respond? I pray we will listen to the call for action and begin today—in our own lives and in our parishes—lifting our voices in our communities. May God grant us courage to see and to act!"

George Monibot explains the perils of incrementalism this way: “it begins with the premise that gradualist campaigns making small demands cannot prevent the gathering catastrophes of climate and ecological breakdown.”

There are many in the church, who suggest that we should focus on individual action.  The emphasis on individual action is a clever ruse that will not produce significant results. While individual action is important, it is meaningless without government and corporate action.  In an October article, George Monbiot wrote: “The big polluters’ masterstroke was to blame the climate crisis on you and me”.

The fossil fuel industry succeeded in delaying climate action by planting a false narrative doubting the veracity of climate change even though they knew better. Now they are using their tremendous wealth and power to push the idea of individual responsibility, while saying that the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement are unattainable.  Individual lifestyle choices and consumerism cannot save us and pointing out the hypocrisy of environmental activists is yet another diversion. This begs the question: should the church be complicit in what Manibot called a “brilliant con”?  Can we be a moral authority if we fail to call out the lies of an industry that threaten life on Earth?

Debunking the theology of climate denial

Denial thrives when faith is disconnected from science. As expressed in an Anglican Journal article faith is compatible with science.  In "Laudato Si', Pope Francis states that science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter an intense dialogue that is fruitful to both.  If we embrace science we must also embrace the scientific warnings.  

Evangelical Christians commonly oppose science and climate action.  However, several prominent evangelicals have spoken out about “creation care,” arguing that they should take care of the world God created. Three evangelicals leading this effort are Richard Cizik, former vice president for government affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals, Katharine Hayhoe and Kyle Meyaard-Schaap. 

“if we truly believe we’ve been given responsibility for every living thing on this planet (including each other) as it says in Genesis 1, then it isn’t only a matter of caring about climate change: We should be at the front of the line demanding action.” Hayhoe said.  She added, “science is the study of God’s creation. If we truly believe that God created this amazing universe, bringing matter and energy to life out of a formless empty void of nothing, then how could studying his creation ever be in conflict with his written word?”  Meyaard-Schaap shares the view that science does not need to be seen in opposition to faith.  He says that young evangelicals have been open to his message that caring for God’s creation “is part of what it looks like to follow Jesus in the 21st century with integrity.”

Hayhoe points out that she encounters resistance from two groups, political conservatives and evangelical Christians.  Hayhoe distinguishes herself from the later whom she refers to as political evangelicals and she identifies as a theological evangelical Christian.  She explains the resistance of evangelicals is due to the fact that they have been coopted by politics.  She explains they, “prioritize their political ideology over theology”.  She is of the opinion that “evangelicals who take the Bible seriously already care about climate change (although they might not realize it). “She suggests those who advocate this position should be rejected as false prophets.  She explains that climate change is not a belief system, it is a fact revealed by data that allows us to see it with our God given eyes and test it with our God given minds. 

Meyaard-Schaap and  Robin Veldman are assistant professors of Religious Studies at Texas A&M University, they share the view that resistance to accepting climate change is political, not theological.  This view is also shared by Hayhoe.  Resistance to climate action “comes from fear: fear of loss of our way of life, fear of being told that our habits are bad for society, fear of changes that will leave us worse off, fear of siding with those who have no respect for our values and beliefs,”  Hayhoe says, she goes on to explain that as a Christian, she believes “the solution to this fear lies in the same faith that many non-Christians wrongly assume drives our rejection of the science. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy, he reminds us that we have not been given a spirit of fear. Fear is not from God. Instead, we’ve been given a spirit of power, to act rather than to remain paralyzed in anxiety, fear, or guilt; a spirit of love, to have compassion for others, particularly those less fortunate than us (the very people most affected by a changing climate); and a sound mind, to use the information we have to make good decisions.”

PART 2: WHAT IS BEING DONE

Christians heeding the call for climate action

Christian communities that oppose climate action are outnumbered by Christians that believe we should protect the natural world.  This point of view was affirmed in an SEC poll. Many in the Anglican and Episcopal churches are heeding the call all around the world. In October Green Apostles were appointed in the Solomon Islands and Youth from Iglesia Episcopal Anglicana de El Salvador attended an Environmental justice workshop. Bino Makhalanyane, the youth Coordinator of the Green Anglicans movement in Southern Africa called advocacy "unstoppable".

At the beginning of November, the Church of England’s Environment Group called for greater action on Climate Change across the Church. The Advisory Group urged all parts of the Church to recognize the Climate Crisis and step up their action to safeguard God’s creation. In guidance sent to bishops, dioceses and church leadership teams, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) said an ambitious program of action is required. This includes everything from the Church’s buildings to its investments. The paper also highlights future mission challenges. EWG plans to bring a motion to General Synod in 2020 proposing net zero emissions by 2050. The work of local Diocesan Environment Officers was also identified as key, with the paper called on bishops and dioceses to prioritize environmental action.  

In the summer of 2019 The Anglican Journal launched an online magazine called "Epiphanies" and the first issue is devoted to environmental concerns.  A UN Environment article reviewed faith based action and the Faith for Earth Initiative is working to establish a high-level global Interfaith Coalition to facilitate dialogue and collaboration on natural resources management, encouraging innovative approaches to finding long-lasting resolutions.

Civil disobedience

The seriousness of our perilous course has caused some passionate faith leaders to engage in acts of civil disobedience. Church leaders who are rebelling about climate change was the subject of a September talk given at St Mary Aldermary church by Christian Climate Action (the Christian arm of the Extinction Rebellion movement).  

In October, Christians and members of the clergy of all denominations, marched under the banner of Christian Climate Action. Some faith leaders engaged in acts of civil disobedience in London and other cities across the UK. Christians of all ages camped out in the rain and risked arrest to make their point. They explained that it’s their God-given responsibility to take care of the earth, and that we need immediate and radical measures to accelerate the push for zero carbon emissions.  One of the protestors is the Rev Jo Rand, a Methodist minister from Cumbria who was arrested and physically carried off Lambeth Bridge by four policemen.  A number of Vicars were also part of the protest alongside Christians who professed a deep faith. 

One of those present was Holly-Anna Peterson, she chose to be rebaptized at the Trafalgar Square protest.  “I needed to draw strength from a God who knows what I am going through — who became human and spent his days standing up to the oppressive powers of the time. Whose passion for protest led not only to his arrest but his death.” Peterson explained, “I wanted to be close to a Christ who knows what it means to be scared of police lines but stand for justice anyway…After I was baptized, I burst into tears. And I wasn’t the only one. I felt so many emotions all at once. I felt like a little child crying with God asking why I have to be here. I felt rage and sorrow for all creation, which is being undone, and an utter love for my brothers and sisters standing alongside me,” Peterson added.  “The truth is, we are not at Extinction Rebellion because we want to be. We are here because we are desperate. We are here because if we were not, then we would be passing on this burden to children and the poorest communities around the world. This climate emergency is the core justice issue of our generation. So, the question is, are you present?”

Christians are not the only faith group present at these actions. Rabbi Emeritus of Finchley Reform Synagogue Jeffrey Newman was among more than a thousand people arrested during the October Extinction Rebellion protests. He sees protest as a moral duty. “I see it as my religious and moral duty to stand up for what I believe in” The 77-year-old, who was wearing a white kippah branded with the black Extinction Rebellion logo, said: “I see it as my religious and moral duty to stand up for what I believe in, and what I care about, for my grandchildren.” Rabbi Newman was accompanied by around 30 Jewish activists.

Anglican Church’s climate leadership from the Canadian North 

We are also seeing Anglican church leadership from the north.  In places like the Arctic and Yukon, the growing impact of climate change is already a reality and many church leaders are standing up to face this existential threat.  One of the things that Anglicans in the Arctic have witnessed in recent years is the melting permafrost, which is described by scientists as a potential tipping point from a warming world.  “Being the canary in the North, we’ve seen the change in the environment,” Anglican Bishop David Parsons says. “It’s not a theory to us.” Caribou populations are on the decline due to climate change as our local fisheries. This threatens the way of life for indigenous people who depend on the land.

“There’s a large vacuum here, and I believe that climate change offers all of us an opportunity of reflection, cohesion and moving forward. But I also see a large opportunity here for the church to be a leader in all of this,” Parsons said. “But my part is to try to encourage people that there’s hope….The Anglican Church of Canada can encourage young people to study, study really hard to learn and seek solutions and to invent things that do not exist yet.”

For Lorraine Netro, a member of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and St. Luke’s Anglican congregation in Old Crow the call to action is based on concern for those who will come after her. “People need to wake up and make it a priority, because what kind of land are we going to leave for our future generations?” she asks. “It’s my responsibility as a grandmother to do whatever I can today.”

Declaring a climate emergency

On May 19, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the-primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, blessed the opening of St. Luke’s, a new Anglican church, in the community of Old Crow, Yukon. That same day, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation of Old Crow declared a climate change emergency.  The Vuntut Gwitchin have raised the alarm with their declaration of a climate emergency because climate change is impacting the lives of those living in the North. Tizya-Tramm hopes that the climate emergency declaration will serve as a steppingstone towards a pan-northern or pan-Arctic climate accord. He sees the church as a key ally in supporting the call to action outlined in the document.

In 2019 the Climate Mobilization’s coalition partner, GreenFaith, called on people of faith to declare Climate Emergency. As people of faith, they are part of a diverse coalition calling for the official declaration of a Climate Emergency.  Declaring a climate emergency has the power to awaken hearts and minds and help mobilize the types of resources and public programs needed as an urgent response to climate change. 

Many faith organizations have declared a climate emergency including those in the Anglican Church. In 2019, the Diocese of Bristol, followed by the Diocese of Salisbury, both declared Climate Emergencies. In July the Methodist Church declared a climate emergency. In September the Anglican church of Southern Africa declared a climate emergency and in the same month 10 Quebec Universities came together to declare a climate emergency.

Anglican Church of Australia calls for government action

The New Zealand Government has passed the Zero Carbon Act – aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The Anglican Church in Australia is working on a framework for reducing carbon emission. The Public Affairs Commission of the Anglican Church of Australia released a statement endorsing the call for a National Day of Climate Action on September 20th 2019.  They characterized the day as an opportunity for all Australians to call on our political leaders to act. The Marks of Mission of the Anglican Church commit the Church to striving to safeguard the integrity of creation, and to sustaining and renewing the life of the earth. They acknowledge climate change as a significant threat to our planet and its inhabitants. The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia and various Diocesan Synods have called on State and Federal Government to act in decisive ways to deal with climate change.

“Awareness carries a responsibility to do our best for the future.  Unless we take account of the needs of our own descendants, and of other life, we will not be behaving kindly, fairly, ethically or morally.  Anglicans respect the clear statement on the public record from the 1998 conference of world-wide Anglican Bishops, that ‘human beings have responsibility to make personal and corporate sacrifices for the common good of all creation,” said Dr Carolyn Tan, Chair of the Public Affairs Commission. “Political leadership of the highest quality is needed.  Individuals can only do things on a small scale and many of us are, but effective national and international action is desperately needed. The call for government action by the Anglican Church in Australia has only increased in the wake of the devastating fires that are plaguing the county. 

Banning Plastic

In September the Anglican church of Southern Africa called for a ban on plastics. The Provincial Synod of Quebec called on parishes to recycle and to ban the use of plastic in their congregational activities, including items such as plastic straws, cutlery and water bottles as well as plastic and Styrofoam cups. 

PART THREE: EVENTS AND OCCASIONS

The General Synod of 2019

In a previous Bishop’s report, the SEC reviewed the hundreds of climate emergency declarations including those from faith communities. We urged the Bishop Mary to declare a climate emergency in the Anglican Diocese of Montreal. The UK declared a Climate Emergency in May, 2019. Followed by Ireland. Most recently Tibet has declared a climate emergency. The Pope has declared a Climate Emergency and more than 7,000 universities and colleges around the world have united to declare a Climate Emergency. 

In a September article titled Before the clock runs out of time Canadian Anglican youth delegate Brynne Blaikie reviewed the support she has received for Resolution C003 that passed by General Synod. The resolution calls the church to address earth’s climate emergency. "For the future of this planet, everyone needs to commit to helping prevent climate change from advancing," Brynne said. By passing Resolution C003, Anglicans have affirmed their duty to safeguard creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. 

They ran out of time to pass a second resolution (Resolution C004) that calls upon the church to support environmentally responsible political leaderships and be part of a Canada wide, indeed a global movement. It specifically states:

 -Encourage individual Anglicans to make the climate emergency known to all candidates in the upcoming provincial and federal elections as a priority.
-Encourage dioceses and parishes to support and participate in the global climate justice rallies occurring for young Canadians on September 20, 2019 and for the wider Canadian community on September 27, 2019.

Season of Creation

During the Season of Creation (September 1 - October 4) Christians from all around the world unite to pray and act in defense of creation. Support for the Season of Creation is growing and this year we experienced a bolder sense of sense of momentum and unity across the Christian family. In 2019 the theme was “Protecting the Web of Life.” this is prescient given the rate at which we are destroying the natural world.

To open the Season of Creation CPJ offered the following prayer: "On this day, we lay our grief and our fears before God. For it is in God that we have hope and we have faith. We pray for grace and guidance as we continue to work for love, justice, and the flourishing of all creation. Amen". 

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, a member of the Season of Creation Steering panel who also chairs the Church of England's Environmental Working Group, said: "We love the beauty of the earth. The fires in the Amazon show how interconnected we are in this beautiful, wonderful, fragile planet. We know there are serious issues to address if we are going to care for God's earth. Season of Creation is a chance once again to give thanks for the gifts of creation, to pray and act in ways that care for God's creation and address the issues of climate change and the depletion of species. It is the joyful, hopeful responsibility of people throughout the world and particularly of the Church which is both local and global."

A Season of Creation statement from the World Council of Churches read as follows: “In a time of climate emergency, the celebration of Season of Creation can work as a spiritual grounding of our action to change the world to a more sustainable home for all forms of life that share the gift of life. It is also a way of showing ecumenical unity in our efforts to lessen the ecological footprint of humanity by praying and acting together.” On the Feast of St. Francis, the last day in the Season of Creation. Pope Francis’ first ever event for the season was celebrated side-by-side with indigenous leaders. 

At the General Synod in 2019 a resolution was passed adopting the Season of Creation in the Anglican Church of Canada as a time of prayer, education, and action and encouraging dioceses and parishes to participate. Anglicans participated in the Season of Creation in many ways. This includes ecumenical or interfaith prayer services; worship outdoors; parish hikes; reducing plastic waste and minimizing energy consumption. Many chose to advocate for stronger environmental policies. The Diocese of Toronto and Bishop Andrew Asbil released a video for the Season of Creation and Faith for the Climate launched a new website that includes lots of faith-based resources.  

The SEC also posted news about its forthcoming film set to be released on September 1, 2020 and published Faith based ocean resources for the Season of Creation as well as a summary of other Anglican resources. The SEC asked parishes in the Diocese of Montreal to let us know how they are celebrating the Season of Creation. Here is a summary of the replies:  

The Cathedral celebrated the Season of Creation by 1) organizing a group to participate on the Sept 27th Climate March, and 2) offering a specially designed service of Evening Prayer to the care of creation. Rev. Jennifer Borque indicated that they observed the Season of Creation at their Wednesday community Eucharists throughout the month. They used a modified version of a Creationtide lectionary developed by the Rev. Jesse Abell. They reflected on the Gospel call to hope and change in the face of climate emergency and other environmental challenges.
St George's Place du Canada was among the churches that supported climate action by ringing their bells for 5 minutes. This was intended as a message, not just urging world leaders to act, but as a strong sign of pastoral solidarity and support to the youth involved in the student strikes for climate. In addition to supporting student strikers it highlighted the leadership of faith communities in the fight against climate change. Finally, it is a way of sounding the alarm on the climatic emergency that many churches have already declared.

St. George's, Chateauguay highlighted their garden with the hope that it will inspire others. At their spaghetti dinner they offered thanks for the gift of creation and the ability to share these gifts with those in need. The success of St. George’s ‘Spaghetti Garden’ was made possible by a grant from the Montreal Diocesan Mission Standing Committee that allowed them to build three raised garden beds and fill them with plants. After a summer of beautiful weather and TLC from our volunteers, a plethora of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and herbs were harvested and frozen and used in the spaghetti dinner. The money raised from ticket sales went to the Chateauguay Food Bank to help feed those in need in our community and bring awareness to the issue of food security.

Climate March (September 27, Montreal)  

As evidenced by the world’s largest ever climate march that took place in Montreal on September 27th 2019, this city is the global epicenter of climate action. Climate icon Greta Thunberg joined a half million people who took part and Montreal Mayor Plante announced some of the most ambitious climate targets of any city anywhere in the world.  The march included many Anglicans including students and staff from the Theological College and the diocese, as well as parishioners from Christ Church and other parishes.  Christ Church Cathedral invited people to join them in a common witness that care of creation. This march followed a September 20th event in which 4 million people participated in almost 4,500 climate strikes in 132 countries. There were 800 events in the U.S. including a massive march in New York City ahead of the U.N.'s Climate Action Summit. These climate strikes are part of a game-changing global movement. 

Canadian federal election

Canadian federal election held on October 21 and some Canadian Anglicans made their choices based on the fifth mark of mission.  The Anglican Diocese of Quebec asked voters to consider the following question:  Does the party you support advance an agenda that strives to “safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth?”

Denis Drainville, the retired Bishop of Quebec ran as a Green Party candidate in the riding of Gaspésie-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine. He offered some powerful remarks ahead of this election. “Governments today are becoming dangerous” says Drainville. “They have their own political and economic agenda and they pursue it, at times even ruthlessly.”  Drainville described "the twin threats of climate change and unethical government" Green leader Elizabeth May is an Anglican who encouraged Drainville to run. In addition to climate change Drainville is concerned about the prioritization of the interests of elites (the one percent). He suggests “We should be electing leaders who care about the common good. They say they do, of course. The rhetoric is all there, but in fact when you see what they do and how they do it, they are not supporting the needs and aspirations of all Canadians. They have their own political and economic agenda and they pursue it, at times even ruthlessly.”

Amazon Synod

Catholic bishops joined indigenous leaders, European climate strikers, Extinction Rebellion youth activists, climate scientists, anthropologists and archaeologists for a climate conference deep in the heart of the Amazon. The Anglican Church of Brazil took part in preparing liturgies and services in support of the Amazon Synod.    

The Synod of Bishops took place between October 6 and October 27, 2019. Bishops and representatives from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela, and Suriname gathered with Pope Francis in Rome.  These bishops condemned the “sins against the environment”. Pope Francis cited the Brazilian bishops and explained that they have said that "the Spirit of life dwells in every living creature and calls us to enter into relationship with him. Discovering this presence leads us to cultivate the 'ecological virtues.' "

Advent

In an advent article Arthur Jones starts with the question “What is God asking of me?’ As the pope notes in his encyclical "Laudato Si' St. Francis of Assisi’s "Canticle of Creation" Mother Earth, "is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us."  Comparing Mary’s journey to Bethlehem to the tragic and traumatic elements of uprootedness Pope Francis is referencing in part to the despoliation of the Earth. But there is more to Advent than this sorrow. There is the breath-drawing, anticipated arrival of the joy to the world.  However, Francis warns us, in Laudato Si' is that because of human activities,  “joy to the world is hard to find for the billions on the Earth — and in time may be impossible for any of us to find on an Earth threatened to the borderline of extinction unless the people of the Earth, particularly the powerful people, change their ways, change them drastically and change them soon. Francis is forcefully saying that those imperiling the planet — those who command governments, corporations, and vast networks of commerce and extensive nonprofit systems with a self-centered mission — will just continue to push the planet ever closer to disaster unless they dramatically change their ways..”

The pope calls each of us to repent for the ways we have harmed the planet, "for 'inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage,' we are called to acknowledge 'our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation.' " The pope elucidates our role in contributing to joy by trying to avert disaster. As Jones explains, the pope, “metaphorically takes us by the hand and leads us to the plight of the Earth, its people and all its living things — and sometimes into places we would rather not go.”

COP25

Faith groups were present at COP25 and they prayed and demonstrated for climate action.  They brought a giant clock to the venue to “sound the alarm” on the climate crisis. Pope Francis’ called on leaders to show the political will to act on the climate crisis. The Pontiff said political leaders have not done enough to avert a climate catastrophe. “We must not place the burden on the next generations to take on the problems caused by the previous ones” he said.  

UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlined the “increased ambition and commitment” that the world needs at COP25.  Guterres called for “accountability, responsibility and leadership” to tackle the global climate crisis. Sadly, the COP25 conference achieved very little prompting Greta Thunberg to say that world leaders are doing nothing except "clever accounting and creative PR". 

PART 4: WHAT WE MUST DO TO PROTECT CREATION

Building support for climate action

Meyaard-Schaap says, climate advocates must get better at speaking to people who are different from them. Hayhoe explained that she tries to connect with people by building on commonalities, she says that caring for this planet is something that all Christians share.  Being concerned about climate change is a, “genuine expression of our faith, bringing our attitudes and actions more closely into line with who we already are and what we most want to be.” In an interview with Charity Nebbe, Hayhoe said building support for climate action is about finding, “something we both agree on and value.” Hayhoe said. “Just have a conversation with somebody about who they are, what they enjoy doing, and what are they really passionate about.” Connecting our identity to action is key, Hayhoe said and that is why she does not typically begin with science when starting conversations about climate change with those who disagree.  When talking to skeptics she focuses on what we share, this can be the well-being of our community or our children, when talking to Christians it is often about our shared faith.

Pope Francis on the sin against ecology, ecocide and market idolatry

We need action and at its heart this means legislation. In November reports circulated suggesting Pope Francis is considering adding ‘sin against ecology’ to Church’s catechism. “We are thinking about it, in the catechism of the Catholic Church, the sin against ecology, the sin against our common home, because it’s a duty,” he said. Francis also denounced corporate “ecocide” referring to “massive contamination of the air, of the land and water resources, large-scale destruction of flora and fauna, and any action capable of producing an ecological disaster or destroying an ecosystem.”
Francis also criticized “market idolatry” that makes individual people defenseless before the interests of the “divinized market” which has become the absolute ruler, with some economic sectors exercising more power than the state itself. “The principle of profit maximization, isolated from any other consideration, leads to a model of exclusion which violently attacks those who now suffer its social and economic costs, while future generations are condemned to pay the environmental costs,” Francis said.

Protecting creation by transitioning to a green economy

Primate Nicholls said, “we failed to notice when that stewardship had been subverted by economic forces, human greed and an attitude of complacency. We answered God’s very first call to us with neglect, disregard and denial”. An August article by Mark MacDonald suggests we are spiritually sick. "The living God has become an adjunct to the comprehensive claims of the marketplace," MacDonald said adding, "The economic-cultural patterns that dominate our lives and our planet are fueled by a fever to find security in the possession of things that can never satisfy. There is a spiritual deception at the heart of this systemic evil. What the marketplace asks of us is in direct and dangerous competition with the claims that God makes upon our attention and loyalty." MacDonald wrote. "There is a growing consensus that we have 10 to 12 years left to act on climate change. After that, it seems almost certain that the planet will face catastrophic changes that will threaten global stability and life itself. These predictions are made against a growing backdrop of political inertia and, as well, more and more evidence that the consequences of our environmental violations and injustice are already upon us...With that, I may have lost the doubters and the distracted and those who would say that this is not an appropriate topic for Christian comment. But even if you ignore the scientific warnings, the moral issues surrounding humanity’s relationship with the environment are just as pressing. The forces that are destroying your planet are destroying your soul...The consequences of our spiritual sickness are carefully described in gospel teaching and Indigenous wisdom. The remedy is also clear: we must turn around and we must sustain hope. We must act in a way that is as dedicated and comprehensive as our entrancement to the culture of money. Rarely does the choice between life and death become so clearly present. Rarely does the promise of God to be with us in our struggles for humanity and life seem so urgent. Let us choose life.”
Science reveals that our economy is fueling climate change and what can only be described as a genocide against nature.  A green economy could both protect creation and offer trillions in savings.  According to Hayhoe, people are not rejecting science they are rejecting what they perceive to be the solutions. This includes the misperception that climate action will ruin the economy, or let China take over the world. “But in fact, as we see, clean energy is part of the solution that grows jobs,” Hayhoe said. 

“The “social dimension” of climate change must also be paramount, so that national commitments include “a just transition for people whose jobs and livelihoods are affected as we move from the grey to the green economy,” UN Secretary Guterres said. “A green economy is not one to be feared but an opportunity to be embraced, one that can advance our efforts to achieve all the Sustainable Development Goals. But what frustrates me is the slow pace of change, especially given that most of the tools and technologies we need are already available. So, my call to you all today is to increase your ambition and urgency.”

Energy revolution

On Amanpour and Co Hayhoe explained that if we are serious about being good environmental stewards,  we need an energy revolution.  Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables is especially important in the Canadian North. In Old Crow, the Vuntut Gwitchin have taken on “the largest solar energy project in the circumpolar north,”. This 940-kilowatt solar array will be owned and operated by the community. Without this array diesel fuel would be flown into Old Crow and burned in generators, making it one of the highest carbon emitters per capita in the Yukon. The new solar array aims to satisfy 24 percent of the community’s energy needs, allowing the community to turn off their diesel generator from early March to late September.  Bishop David Parsons thinks the Anglican Church of Canada must pray and support investments into technology to facilitate the transition away from fossil fuels towards sustainable energy. He decries what he calls a lack of “vision” in the church. “When we stand with the church, it helps legitimize things,” the chief said.

Reigning-in fossil fuels 

Desmond Tutu has called for anti-apartheid style boycott of fossil fuel industry. “We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth” The archbishop writes: "We live in a world dominated by greed. We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth. It is clear [the companies] are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money." The research has shown that past divestment campaigns succeeded by stigmatising their targets – using "moral pressure" according to Tutu – and exerting financial pressure.

The Guardian reports that 20 fossil fuel companies have produced 35 percent of the carbon dioxide and methane released by human activities since 1965. The article also references a paper published in Nature that shows we have little chance of preventing more than 1.5C of global heating unless existing fossil fuel infrastructure is retired.   We simply cannot afford to keep burning fossil fuels if we are to prevent catastrophic levels of warming. The risks associated with the carbon bubble and stranded assets are clear and the wisdom of clean energy is unavoidable. 

The Church of England’s national investing bodies have already divested from companies deriving more than 10 per cent of their revenues from the mining of thermal coal or the production of oil from oil tar sands. The national investing bodies have made commitments to start to divest in 2020 from companies that are not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy. They have also committed to ensuring that, by 2023, the Church has divested from fossil fuel companies, drawing on Transition Path Initiative data.

Protest and mobilization

Protest is critical and people of faith have been shown to improve the efficacy of such actions.  As revealed above people of faith are taking their place in the front lines. By studying successful mobilizations, such as the Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 (which played a critical role in ending racial segregation in the US), the Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig in 1989 (which snowballed until they helped bring down the East German regime), and the Jana Andolan movement in Nepal in 2006 (which brought down the absolute power of the monarchy and helped end the armed insurgency), Hallam has developed a formula for effective “dilemma actions”. A dilemma action is one that puts the authorities in an awkward position. Either the police allow civil disobedience to continue, thereby encouraging more people to join, or they attack the protesters, creating a powerful “symbolism of fearless sacrifice”, thereby encouraging more people to join. If you get it right, the authorities can’t win.

Among the crucial common elements, he found, are assembling thousands of people in the center of the capital city, maintaining a strictly nonviolent discipline, focusing on the government and continuing for days or weeks at a time. Radical change, his research reveals, “is primarily a numbers game. Ten thousand people breaking the law has historically had more impact than small-scale, high-risk activism.” The key challenge is to organize actions that encourage as many people as possible to join. This means they should be openly planned, inclusive, entertaining, peaceful and actively respectful. Hallam’s research suggests that this approach can break the infrastructure of lies the fossil fuel companies have created, and developing a politics matched to the scale of the challenges we face. 

Resources

-          Webinar: What you and your church can do to care for God's Earth
-          Sustainable Preaching Sermon notes from the Revised Common Lectionary. Artwell Sipinyu,
-          Global Classroom on Creation Care: a series of 10 short videos
-          Ministering to those who despair - A blog by Canon Rachel Mash

SEC reports for Bishop Mary
No 7: SEC Environmental Report July - December 2019 – FAITH BASED CASE FOR CLIMATE ACTION


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