This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Powell: More than caretakers

Some people think global warming is a hoax. Scientific evidence shows it is real. A November report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concluded we are headed toward disastrous climate change that we may not be able to undo.

John Powell

The report noted a significant increase in warmth over several dec­ades. It predicted the world’s average temperature will rise another 3 degrees by 2100. The discharge of greenhouse gases is the principal reason.

Even among those who accept that humans contribute to climate change, there’s a gap between goals and actions. Globally, the release of poisonous gases into the atmosphere continues to increase. The crisis grows worse as people deny the problem or doubt it can be solved. Speaking to the 2018 United Nations Conference on Climate Change, Secretary General António Guterres said, “We are in deep trouble with climate change.”

A warming climate feeds severe weather patterns. Brutal storms and extreme temperatures become the norm. Destructive wildfires, even during what was once the rainy season, have grown worse. Lakes, rivers and drinking water are polluted by individuals and factories. Our consumer and industrial activities create an ecological imbalance that threatens our well-being.

Ironically, by producing things to make our lives more comfortable, we are destroying our comfortable environment. Now we are confronted with the effects of our destructive habits. Many view our impact on the environment as acceptable, or even as positive, since it’s done in the name of progress.

But do we have the right to harm the Earth for a selfish idea of prog­ress? Progress for whom? What about future generations? Isn’t it shortsighted to devastate the planet without considering the long-term consequences?

People who understand our ecological worldview must change have begun to take action. Students staged a “die-in” at the United Nations to protest human actions that contribute to climate change.

Responding to critics, Alexandria Villaseñor, a youth ecological advocate, said, “I think if more people really understood the climate science, the extinction rate and just all the terrible statistics about what we’re doing to our planet, they would be motivated, too.” I believe this.

We cannot depend on the government to mitigate climate change. The United States withdrew from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change in 2017, claiming it undermined the U.S economy. Signers agreed to set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In spite of federal abandonment of responsibility, some communities are exploring ways to implement the Paris agreement’s recommendations.

Faith communities need to take a leading role in caring for the Earth. We understand our Creator’s intent: to live at peace with all of creation. That commitment must undergird all environmental action. Our voice is needed in the public square.

The fate of the created world is a justice issue and spiritual issue. We have a God-given duty to care for the Earth (Gen. 1:26). It’s the only one we have.

Our Native American brothers and sisters perceive a bond between everything that exists. In this worldview, we are not only the Earth’s caretakers but a part of the Earth itself. We are spiritual people with a spiritual mandate for creation care.

John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., has worked as a pastor, preacher and teacher in Mennonite churches and institutions.

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