Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!
On Thursday, Chief Spokesperson for the Good Steward Campaign, Reverend Rich Cizik, visited University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill to talk climate and faith with Wesley Campus Ministry.
Last week, a piece written by a student ran in the Daily Tarheel. She did such a great job that I'm reposting it here. No need for my added commentary!!
TO THE EDITOR:
On Sept. 26, Rev. Rich Cizik will be visiting UNC to give a talk titled, “For God’s Sake, Let’s Focus On the Earth.” Cizik, a minister and climate activist, will be traveling here on behalf of the Good Steward Campaign, a faith-based environmental organization that works to inform and engage students in conversations about faith, climate, stewardship and fossil fuel divestment. Yes, you read that right. Faith and climate change.
Prior to his role as senior spokesman for the Good Steward Campaign and co-founder of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, Cizik was the vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals. There, he was one of the leading figures who championed this issue as something that Christians ought to think and care about more deeply.
Now, Cizik travels the country, giving speeches on creation care and fossil fuel divestment. But these are topics he didn’t always embrace. In the Washington Post, Cizik says, “I was converted to both the ‘challenge’ of climate change as a moral and spiritual dilemma, but also to the concrete science.”
Last year, there was an active fossil fuel divestment campaign operating at UNC, but it was unsuccessful. While the campaign was ongoing, however, we didn’t hear a lot of arguments from a faith perspective. Cizik and the Good Steward Campaign work hard to demonstrate that the way we think about climate change and investments need not be separate from the way we think about other moral decisions and our faith.
The good news is that the UNC chapter of the Sierra Student Coalition’s Beyond Coal campaign is still very much alive and well at UNC. And this time around, I hope we hear more conversation about the issue coming from a place of faith.
Environmental issues, including climate change, are social justice issues that all Christians, as well as those of other religious backgrounds, can agree on. Faith gives us powerful reasons to look at the world around us in a meaningful way, and it can guide us to actions that positively impact the earth. I look forward to hearing Cizik’s well-informed insights on these issues and using this event as an opportunity to start an important conversation.
And so, we invite the entire UNC community to join us at 7 p.m. on Sept. 26 at University United Methodist Church to explore topics of faith, climate change, stewardship and fossil fuel divestment.
Molly Patterson ’14
Wesley Campus Ministry
This piece initially debuted in The Davidsonian online
Special FCA guest speaker tonight
Twelve years ago, on September 11, 2001, Eric Sapp left his job at the Pentagon, where his office was located in the very wing that was destroyed by the terrorist attacks. He went to Duke in order to finish two Masters degrees in Divinity and Public Policy. This September 11, though, he will return to his alma mater, Davidson College, to speak to FCA about his personal faith journey and the issues of faith, politics, climate, and national security--topics that are far more interrelated than one may think.
Sapp is the founding partner of an influential consulting firm and works with both faith and politics. He was named one of a dozen 2007 culture changing “mavericks” by Details magazine for his role in reshaping the faith and political landscape of America.
Two years later, the Wall Street Journal credited the American Values Network (AVN), a non-profit organization he helped found that applies political lessons to issue advocacy, with playing a central role in passing the 2009 Climate Bill in the U.S. House. The White House and Senate Leadership citedAVN campaigns as turning points in the ratification of the New START Treaty and adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty.
Sapp has been a Senate Committee staffer, a House Appropriations staffer, and has served five years in the parish. In his most recent venture to explore how video games can shape attitudes and create real-world outcomes, he created the most popular Christian game in the iTunes Store.
As a student at Davidson, Sapp played football and was named MVP his senior season. He also served as the president of FCA for two years. He credits Davidson and FCA with molding the values and beliefs that shaped what he has done since Davidson.
“FCA helped me turn my primarily intellectual faith into a much more personal and relational one,” Sapp said. “It was at Davidson that I first felt a call to ministry, and it was through classroom experiences, football, and FCA that I was able to see the importance and opportunities for ministry outside the parish.”
Tonight, Sapp will speak to FCA on behalf of AVN’s Good Steward Campaign to share his faith journey, discuss how the issue of climate has become intertwined with so many Christian priorities in Washington, D.C., and share the lessons he has learned on living out one’s faith after college.
By Rev. Jim Ball -- This piece was originally published in The Huffington Post on July 16, 2013.
In an earlier blog I described President Obama's Climate Action Plan as a good beginning, something to build on in the years ahead. Now I would like to suggest a few ways the President's Plan could be improved.
First, a needed acknowledgement (one the president himself also makes). The president's plan is by political necessity a regulatory approach, one based on actions of the Executive Branch that do not require the approval of Congress. (That doesn't mean there won't be fights in Congress attempting to thwart the president's plan; you can count on that.)
The Plan rests on a narrow base of public and congressional support; it is top-heavy, so to speak, like a vase overflowing with beautiful flowers easily toppled by a skittery cat. The implementation of its pollution-reduction centerpiece, EPA regulation of new and existing power plants, is far from assured, as it will have to weather challenges in Congress and the courts. The outcome of the latter is especially unknown, as it will rely on an untested part of the Clean Air Act (the so-called "111(d)" provision, named after that subsection of the law). Even if it survives these challenges, there is no guarantee that the next Administration will not seek to slow-walk or even sabotage its implementation.
In my earlier blog I spoke of the need to broaden the base of public support for strong action. That will help create more congressional support and support from a wider range of political actors; however, to set in place this broader political base we will need a bi-partisan policy that can be approved by Congress.
Thus, a better approach than regulations, both substantively and politically, would be a bi-partisan one passed by Congress that puts a price on carbon via a market-based mechanism such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program, along with a robust plan to adapt to the consequences.
The president agrees. As he said at Georgetown when he unveiled his Climate Action Plan:
"I'm willing to work with anyone to make that happen. But this is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now."
Exactly right. We can no longer allow opponents of action to prevent our country from doing the right thing on climate change. Indeed, it is well past time for serious action at the federal level.
So while a bi-partisan, revenue-neutral carbon tax would be superior to the EPA's regulation of carbon dioxide, for example, moving forward with the latter is preferable to no action at all on the pollution-reduction front.
Furthermore, proceeding with EPA regulation of both new and existing power plants just may be what brings people to the table to create a market-based approach. My one suggestion to the president in this regard would be this: be willing to hold in abeyance the EPA's ability to regulate carbon from power plants in exchange for a bi-partisan revenue-neutral carbon tax that gets the job done. (This so-called "preemption" of EPA's regulatory authority is nothing new, as it was part of the Waxman-Markey climate bill that passed the House in 2009.)
And now a deeper dive into the President's Climate Action Plan.
First, I greatly appreciate the comprehensive nature of the Plan, organized to achieve these three major goals:
- "Cut Carbon Pollution in America"
- "Prepare the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change"
- "Lead International Efforts to Combat Global Climate Change and Prepare for its Impacts."
We cannot make our contribution as a country to overcoming climate change unless we achieve these three goals. The first one, cutting pollution, gets all the attention, but adapting to the impacts and leading internationally are vital as well.
Second, in a spirit of cooperative support, I suggest some ways the President's plan could be made even better; I'll focus on two topics that have received little to no attention by others.
1. Helping the Poor in Poor Countries
This involves the third goal of the President's Plan: providing leadership internationally.
Before getting into some specifics, it is important for us to understand why it is in our national interest to help the poor in poor countries overcome climate change, a case I'll quickly make with three points.
First, a stable world is in our national interest. Diminishing the ways climate impacts function as a "threat multiplier" helps to keep our military personnel out of harm's way and forestalls situations that can become breeding grounds for terrorists. A stable world also enhances our economic security by facilitating the free flow of commerce.
Second, remaining true to our character and our values of fairness, compassion, generosity, and freedom keeps us strong as a country. When our nation's character remains strong, the country is strong.
Finally, we all know that it is much better to avoid a big mess than have to clean one up. Much better to do things right the first time. Helping the poor prepare for the hard times to come makes good sense and saves money to boot. One study found that between 40-68 percent of projected damages could be avoided with proper adaptation whose benefits outweigh their costs.
In general, one of the most important ways we can help the poor build resilience against climate impacts is by helping them create sustainable economic progress empowered by energy prosperity where more share in the benefits afforded by electricity and efficient and cleaner ways of cooking.
In this respect the President's Plan has an important section on "Expanding Clean Energy Use" in the majority world, including the fact that the Obama Administration has reached more than 20 bi-lateral agreements on climate-friendly energy prosperity, or "low emission development strategies" (LEDS). This is important progress and to be commended.
But more needs to be done, especially to drive such efforts down to where they are most needed: Least Developed Countries. I would suggest to the president that partnering with religious and secular relief and development organizations already on the ground, (e.g. Food for the Hungry, World Relief) might be a promising way to help spread energy prosperity in the poorest countries. In many respects such countries are "the last mile." As such, let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul: "Let us not become weary in doing good ..." (Gal. 6:9a).
As for cleaner and more climate-friendly ways of cooking, an important program initiated by then-Secretary Clinton called the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is to be commended for its public-private, market-based approach, its progress to date, and its goals for the future. The President's Plan doesn't explicitly mention this program, but it is an important part of the administration's efforts that I hope will continue to grow.
We must also assist the poorest countries in creating resilience that will help them withstand specific climate impacts such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, particular health threats like malaria -- what I call "targeted adaptation."
Both Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that even the U.S. is not ready for the types of natural disasters that will be intensified by climate change in the future (which underscores the importance of the president's second goal). Now just imagine the poorest countries being impacted by natural disasters of even greater intensity.
The good news is that significant progress is possible from targeted adaptation, utilizing in part the thinking behind was is termed "disaster risk management" -- a fancy way of saying preparing for hard times to come, like the Patriarch Joseph did in the Bible.
An example comes from Mozambique, the sixth poorest country in the world and one that will be hit hard by climate change. Both coastal and inland flooding are constant threats. But after the country implemented a disaster risk reduction program, there was an 89 percent drop in mortality. Even though the citizens are poor, concerted efforts by the government, relief and development organizations, and their local communities made them less vulnerable.
So how does the President's Plan and the administration's achievements to date stack up in the funding of targeted adaptation (part of what is referred to as "climate finance")?
Something that gave me real confidence in assessing the President's Plan to be an important step forward was the fact that the emissions reduction target was derived from the pledge made at Copenhagen (or 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020).
In like manner, when it comes to assessing the President's Plan in the area of helping the poor countries overcome climate change, the pledge made by the U.S. at Copenhagen -- to lead the developed countries to provide $100 billion per year of public and private money to assist with both mitigation and adaptation -- is a fair measure. (At the same time, we must recognize that this amount is quite insufficient; one recent estimate suggests that by 2020 $300 billion annually will be required simply on the mitigation front, growing to $500 billion by 2030.)
The President's Plan has a subsection entitled "Mobilizing Climate Finance" where it discusses future efforts to achieve such funding in a rather vague way. While I appreciate what has been achieved thus far, the President must publicly renew his Administration's climate finance commitment made at Copenhagen, which serves as an appropriate measure of success for the President's Plan and will help lay the foundation to achieve higher levels of funding in keeping with justice.
2. Avoid the Natural Gas "Climate Bubble"
Bubbles in the economy -- e.g. housing; tech -- aren't good; because eventually they burst and you can be left in worse shape than before they began. I believe we have a similar situation when it comes to "irrational exuberance" over the benefits of natural gas for addressing climate change.
Someone who appears to be pretty exuberant (here and here) over natural gas is the new head of the Department of Energy, Dr. Ernie Moniz. I once believed, as he still does, that natural gas can be a "bridge" to a clean energy future. The President's Plan also touts natural gas as such a bridge (p. 19). But as I have written about elsewhere (here and here) this could be a bridge to a mirage, another bridge to nowhere, if you will.
Overcoming global warming requires exponential change in emissions reductions driven by major investments in renewables and efficiency, whereas natural gas offers a fractional solution. Right now cheap gas is hindering the creation of clean energy capacity via renewables by dominating new generation: between 2000-2010 natural gas accounted for 81% of new electricity capacity.
Displacing exponential solutions with a fractional one. That's the big problem with gas as a climate solution. As Stanford's Ken Caldeira has argued, relying on gas instead of investing in renewables and efficiency simply delays by a few decades the planet-altering consequences we must avoid, leaving us in the rubble of a burst bubble.
I strongly urge the president and his team to rethink their reliance on natural gas, potentially the "fool's gold" of climate action. Such reliance runs counter to so much that is good in the Plan, so much that lays the foundation for bolder action in the future. Natural gas could do the opposite. Ten years from now the country could be embroiled in a major fight over the natural gas power plants we build today.
Secretary Moniz believes that natural gas buys us more time for renewables to be developed. I believe what it buys us is the possibility of an unnecessary and costly fight in the future when this "climate bubble" bursts.
Let me conclude by reiterating that the President's Plan is a major step forward; let's work with him to make it even better.
The Rev. Jim Ball is author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
By Rev. Richard Cizik, Originally Published in the Washington Post
One day, our children, their children, will almost certainly ask, “What did you do to solve the climate challenge?” That’s how President Obama put the challenge ahead of us in his extraordinary call to action on climate change at Georgetown University.
Those of us in the audience were certainly warm to the challenge, and not because it was over 90 degrees in the afternoon swelter of humid Washington. Most of us had already accepted the call to do something about this moral and spiritual challenge. Alas, most Americans are only now waking up to the reality that this is about “us,” more than even government.
Ironic enough, most evangelical leaders have not. Standing in the shade before Obama’s speech, Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, admits the irony. The leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals, for example, will say there’s a climate impact on the poor but won’t adopt any specific legislative or legal solutions.
It was more than a dozen years ago when the challenge was first issued. Professor Calvin DeWitt and Sir John Houghton, in a personal letter to church leaders, as the convenors of “Forum 2002,” held at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University wrote: “When it comes to action from the Church on global climate change, especially from evangelical Christians like ourselves, little action has taken place.” They went on to issue a call “to recognize human induced climate change as a moral and religious issue and to take necessary action to maintain the climate system as a remarkable provision in creation for sustaining all of life on earth.”
For me, it was what seculars call a “responsibility moment,” and what I called a “conversion,” recognizing that spiritual maturity is not a single “Damascus Road” event but a continuous evolving spiritual journey. I was urged on to attend the event by my friend Rev. Jim Ball, but it was also true that my own colleagues at the time, some of the leaders of the NAE, urged me not to, saying I “could be unduly persuaded by the scientists.”
As it turned out, I was. It was a dramatic moment, profoundly spiritual, and life-changing. I was converted to both the “challenge” of climate change as a moral and spiritual dilemma, but also to the concrete science. This was no indoctrination. Scientists, after all, are skeptics alike, and not easily to fall into line. But there was enough evidence even then to dismiss what President Obama this week called the “Flat Earth Society” disputers. I had been a doubter, and had become a believer. In the words of John Newton, “I was blind, but now I see.”
Alas, over a decade later, the “evangelical establishment” is still complacent about the need to speak to our government leaders and to be bold. How else can one explain the Republican resistance? If every evangelical pastor in America were to take what is nowadays a minimal risk, and tell his or her congregation to speak to their elected member of Congress, do you really think the GOP would ignore them? Would Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell be so obstructionist on climate action, if the evangelical world was united around the goal? Not a chance. Nor would the president have to resort to Executive Orders and agency rule-making to get progress.
If you think this is overstating the problem, the Senate Republicans are holding up confirmation of Obama’s nominee to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, who has worked for five Republican officials in her exemplary career, and now serves at the EPA. If getting evangelicals to contact their elected leaders is difficult, it shouldn’t be that hard, you would think, to get them to speak to their own parishioners or congregants. That’s where the “courage,” the President referred to, comes into play. It will take guts to overcome the hurdles.
I believe there is a reason for the Republican obstruction. It’s the financial power behind the fossil fuel industries. Consider them the “goliaths” of our day. Republican campaign donations come from Big Oil and these politicians are worried they’ll lose that funding. Or that the Koch Brothers will fund a Tea Party challenge to them in their own party.
In reality, they have something else to worry about. It’s the slow moving earthquake within evangelicalism, called the “new evangelicals,” who have the courage to act before it’s too late.
We are the “Davids,” speaking collectively now for all those in the religious community who have joined this fight, facing down Goliath. The big oil companies will fight to the death to keep their big oil subsidies. Coal industry executives have lots of money and lobbyists to kill carbon standards on existing power plants. But we have spiritual resources at our disposal, and lots of potential troops. I would say to my co-religionists, “Do what is right and be not afraid.”
Republicans might also want to take a look over their shoulder at what President called the “invest and divest” movement, which is taking hold on college campuses and within religious denominations. This effort, backed by the movie “Do the Math,” released by 350.org, is going to make it difficult for the fossil fuel industry to, as Bill McKibben explains it, “profit from the destruction of the planet.”
Millions of people of faith, living in the red states, must get serious and take their investments out of the fossil fuel industries. College students and faculty need to press their administrators to do same with their huge retirement and endowment funds. If they so, Wall Street may pay heed. It’ll be like the old ad on television, “when E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” Only it will be “when the Religious speak, Republicans (and Wall Street) listen.” But even worse will be Big Oil’s “black eye,” on account of the public’s repudiation of those companies who resist renewable energy and regulation of carbon emissions.
We all will have to give an account. Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, such as Ben Lowe, ran for Congress against a climate-denying Republican (and lost) right out of Wheaton College. Anna Jane Joyner, who now works for an environmental organization in North Carolina, accepted the challenge. She grew up the daughter of Pastor Rick Joyner, who leads a thriving evangelical ministry in the same facility where Jim Bakker of the “PTL Club” once preached. Pastor Rick told me over dinner with his family last year, “Yes, I will vote for Mitt Romney, but I believe that climate change is real, and we need to do something about it.” He had changed his mind, just as I did. His daughter Anna Jane is a persuasive advocate. The same thing happened to Rep. Bob Inglis, when his son at Yale began to press him on climate. Bob may have lost his seat in Congress because of his support for a carbon tax, but he has no regrets. He continues the fight as Executive Director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, founded in 2012, to change the way Republicans think.
My personal aphorism has become the following: “If you’ve never changed your mind about something, pinch yourself, you may be dead.” It will be that way for the Grand Old Party if it doesn’t change its anti-science views. It’s going to be that way for anyone who refuses to change. It’s that serious. But if science, or the political consequences are not persuasive, consider God’s warning in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 11:18): “I will destroy those who destroy the earth.” Surely evangelical leaders, more than most, ought to pay attention.
Cizik is president, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good and spokesperson, The Good Steward Campaign.
Yesterday, from the steps of Old North Hall at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama gave what we believe will surely be remembered as a historic speech, one of the first of its kind, on climate change. When Obama took office for his second term, he made a promise to the American people that something would be done about climate change. In his first State of the Union Address from his second term, he said, “But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”
And yesterday, we finally got what we have been waiting for. Obama spoke confidently, “This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy — using less dirty energy, using more clean energy, wasting less energy throughout our economy.” (we were so excited we even live-tweeted it!)
But what does this mean? What is actually going to change? Here’s the breakdown of what President Obama proposed:
- First, Obama is directing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the amount of carbon dioxide that coal-fired power plants emit into the atmosphere. The EPA has already done this with pollutants like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic, but now they’ll do it for carbon dioxide, which has been shown to trap heat in our atmosphere.
- Second, we’re being called to use more clean energy and less dirty energy. Clean energy means anything that isn’t coal or oil or natural gas (though natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil). Obama is directing the Interior Department to move forward with the development of enough renewable energy to power more than 6 million homes by 2020.
- Lastly, Obama proposes a way to reduce the amount of energy that we waste. The U.S. government has already set standards to ensure that our cars get more miles per gallon and our appliances are more energy efficient. The next step is simply to push further and do more of the same. The good news, though, is that simple upgrades don’t just cut that pollution; they put people to work. And the savings in electricity bills and gas expenditures go right back into the pockets of hard working Americans. Furthermore, the government is going to lead by example! The federal government will consume 20% of its electricity from renewable sources within the next seven years. We think that's pretty remarkable.
The best thing about this action on climate is that everyone benefits. These directives will help to slow greenhouse gas emissions, which is imperative to slowing down global climate change. Otherwise, the already occurring effects of climate change and all of its negative consequences - extreme weather events, famine, drought, and resulting political instability - will only get increasingly worse.
Another truly powerful truth is that Obama doesn't just see the environment; he sees God's Great Creation. From the President's mouth, “We’ll need all of us, as citizens, to do our part to preserve God’s creation for future generations." It's a heartening thing to know that our President stands with the Good Stewards and believes deeply in the importance of Creation Care.
A lot has been happening lately on the subject of faith and climate change and we want to keep you up to date!
This Huffington Post article, written by Sister Mary Pendergast of the Sisters of Mercy Northeast Community, discusses how voters considered candidates' positions on the Keystone Pipeline XL in the Massachusetts Senate Primary election. She writes, "The Good Steward Campaign -- a grassroots advocacy organization of primarily young Christians -- educated more than 600,000 Christian voters in Massachusetts about the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline. Responding to a massive online campaign led by pastors and nuns, an astounding 70,000 online actions were generated by these voters -- either by signing a petition urging political leaders to oppose Keystone, encouraging friends to oppose Keystone over social media, or going to an online resource center so they could be more informed on election day."
Then, Reverend Rich Cizik, President of the New Evangelical Partnership and spokesperson for the Good Steward Campaign, published this piece, which responds to a statement made by Evangelical Pastor Mark Driscoll. Driscoll had previously made a comment suggesting that since God will eventually "burn it all down" (meaning the Earth), we can act however we want with regards to energy consumption and pollution. But this goes directly against God's teachings to be stewards of Creation.
And so, Rev. Cizik sets us straight. He says, "Unfortunately, millions of Christians who believe in a skewed end-times theology are less likely to support policies designed to curb global warming than are other Americans. They are conditioned to look and think short-term, and therefore often are resistant to trade short-term costs for long-term gain. Putting aside Christ’s very clear teaching that we could not know the time of his return, the bigger theological problem with this belief system is that it is based on an obviously flawed belief that we don’t have to do what the Bible commands because He who commanded it will be returning soon."
Stay posted for more Good Steward Campaign news!
On Sunday, April 14th, the Good Steward Campaign visited Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA to meet with students and staff. Currently, Dickinson College has an ongoing divestment movement led primarily by a group of students called Reinvest Dickinson. Some of them say, though, that often they hear people blaming Christianity for our environmental problems. These misinterpretations of Scripture have been hurtful in the past, but we know that God didn’t give us the earth so we could destroy it; God gave us this beautiful creation so we could tend to it, care for it, and be its stewards.
As the semester winds down, Dickinson College is doing everything it can to keep this wonderful momentum going. We look forward to collaborating with them in the fall. And if you're a student at Dickinson, a resident of Carlisle, PA, or just a supporter, feel free to get in touch with the Good Steward Campaign by e-mailing email@example.com.
Thomas F. Steyer, a California billionaire has pledged to spend as much as is necessary to call attention to climate change in a key Massachusetts senate race. This is great news for environmentalists everywhere, especially because Steyer has said that he is willing to get involved at every level of government - local, state, and national elections.
A recent piece in The Hill explains, "The Keystone XL pipeline won’t be his only fight. He said that he’ll look to engage more broadly where there is a 'clear choice' between a candidate who supports environmental protections and one who is opposed. A source familiar with Steyer’s thinking said that the Virginia governor’s race is one where he could chose to use his clout"
With the Keystone Pipeline remaining undecided, Steyer's involvement will draw necessary attention to the cause and inform voters of candidates' environmental positions. And maybe, just maybe this will help to combat the dirty money poured into bad science and pro-oil NGO's every year by the conservative opposition.
So the Good Steward Campaign would like to say thank you, Tom Steyer. Thank you for doing the right thing.
BOSTON – The Good Steward Campaign, along with a diverse group of environmental, student, community and faith leaders have been working on a field campaign in Massachusetts to educate Democratic primary voters about the importance of climate change and the Keystone XL pipeline in the Massachusetts Senate primary election.
From April 1 – 2, representatives of the Next Generation Committee participated in two days of meetings with environmental, student, cleantech and faith leaders in Massachusetts to discuss the rollout of the campaign. These groups include 350 Action, Environment Massachusetts, Catholics United and the Good Steward Campaign, a grassroots campaign targeted toward young evangelicals and people of faith.
The Good Steward Campaign’s very own Spokesperson Rev. Rich Cizik has been on the scene speaking out. “The faith community is speaking out against Keystone XL because it is a project where big oil gets all the profits, foreign countries get the oil, and America’s most vulnerable small farmers, ranchers, and wetlands bear all the risk,” he explained. This isn’t just environmental work; it aligns with our faith values and our Christian tradition.
“That is why we have begun reaching out to our list of over 400,000 Catholic and evangelical voters in this state to ensure they know which of their leaders are putting our moral interest over the special interests,” said Cizik.
If you’d like to get involved in the Massachusetts effort, contact the Good Steward Campaign at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reflecting on Ethical Investments: A Theological Statement on Divestment
They will neither harm nor destroy my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:1-16).
The world, it seems, is ever and always becoming more complicated. For Christians especially, making the right decisions, those that align with our faith, is not getting any easier. We at the Good Steward Campaign acknowledge this. We affirm the complexity of this world, that it is not just black and white, right and wrong. We make compromises and tradeoffs, tough decisions and tougher ones. And while we might wish that it was all easier, that worshipping God and following Christ could take the form of an easy, straight and narrow path, that is simply not the case. Just because it’s hard, though, is no reason to shirk our duties. It’s time to step up to the challenge. Given the current recognition of global climate change, our continued reliance on fossil fuels, and the degradation that we inflict every day on the earth God created for us, now is the time to “reflect theologically” about the ethical ramifications of our investments.
As humans, we are created in God’s image and consequently we know right from wrong, good from bad. Christians make choices every day in an effort to live their lives more like Christ. We are kind to our neighbors; we are generous with charity. We love one another and we love God. But what about how we manage our money? That’s a choice we need to make too.
Especially in a global economy, our choices have consequences (both positive and negative) for those near and far. Our purchases can be made from the local grocery co-op down the street or from a giant corporation that fails to treat its workers with dignity. We can travel by car or we can bike. We can turn up the heat or put on a sweater.
Knowing that our actions affect the rest of the world, it is our responsibility to reflect on the things we do and the investments we make. Keep in mind that no one is obligated to do more than she can, but in this instance we can make the choice to put our money in ethical places. The Good Steward Campaign believes that, as men and women of faith, we should dis-invest from corporations that fail to live up to the ethical standards of our faith and re-invest in socially conscious businesses. Specifically, we are calling for Christian colleges, universities, and denominations to divest from fossil fuels. It might seem like a small step, but if it helps align your actions with your faith, it’s a small step that matters.
The harsh reality is that for every unit of energy we use, there are environmental consequences. When we burn fossil fuels, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere and this buildup of greenhouse gases is having deleterious effects on the environment. Fracking, the process by which we obtain natural gas, has been shown to contaminate groundwater. Mountain top removal mining, currently the most effective coal mining process, destroys communities. And we all know the consequences of drilling for oil… unfortunately, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 showed us how bad things can get when something goes wrong.
While the United States bears a small portion of the consequences of climate change, it is the poor in the developing world that are getting hit the hardest. This isn’t fair; it isn’t just. Americans consume the most, waste the most, and enjoy the luxurious benefits of fossil fuels while our brothers and sisters in the developing world are struggling to survive on account of flooding, droughts, and famine caused by increased carbon emissions. This is not how you love your neighbor.
Knowing how climate change affects the poor around the globe, we cannot have a discussion about fossil fuel usage without also talking about the poor. Jim Wallis once said, “There are 2,500 verses in the King James Bible about poor people. One time in seminary, we cut out every reference to poor people, every single one. It took a long, long time. When we were done, that Bible was in shreds. It was falling apart. It was literally in holes, a Bible full of holes.” There is an unquestionable devotion to the poor in the Bible; we find it in both the Old and New Testaments. When we fail to care for the poor, we fail to live out the Gospel. We fail to act as Christ act. We fail to love others as God loves us.
In terms of environmental degradation, coal-fired power plants contribute to increased mercury, particulate, and arsenic groundwater contamination, as well as increases in smog, acid rain, and regional haze. This pollution interrupts ecological systems and it’s unhealthy for humans. One in six children in the US are born with harmful levels of mercury in their systems, resulting in severe brain damage and developmental challenges. Each year, there are 21,000 deaths, 24,000 hospitalizations, and 280,000 asthma attacks attributable to the impacts of mining and burning coal. In the most fundamental way, the burning of fossil fuels is a pro-life issue and we are failing to choose life.
Mountain top removal mining, also known as strip-mining, is the process by which we mine most of the coal in the United States. First, forests are clear-cut which removes all of the trees and scrapes away topsoil, understory herbs such as ginseng and goldenseal, and all other forms of life that do not move out of the way quickly enough. Next, huge shovels dig into the soil and trucks haul it away or push it into adjacent valleys. Then, a dragline digs into the rock to expose the coal. These machines allow coal companies to hire fewer workers. A small crew can tear apart a mountain in less than a year, working night and day. Coal companies make big profits at the expense of us all. Lastly, giant machines scoop out the layers of coal, dumping millions of tons of “overburden” – the former mountaintops – into the narrow adjacent valleys thereby creating valley fills. Coal companies have forever buried over 1,200 miles of biologically crucial Appalachian headwaters streams. After the process is over, the companies are supposed to reclaim land, but all too often mine sites are left stripped and bare. Even where attempts to replant vegetation have been made, the mountain is never again returned to its healthy state. This is not good stewardship of the world God created.
There’s a phrase in the business that people use when they want to talk about morally reprehensible investments – they’re called “sin stocks.” These include things like alcohol, weapons, tobacco, and pornography. Due to the environmental, health, and global impacts of the burning of fossil fuels, we at the Good Steward Campaign believe they are sin stocks too.
Furthermore, investing in fossil fuels is risky and it will become increasingly so in the coming decade. More than half of the coal plants in the United States are old, inefficient, and require major costly retrofits to continue their operations. Even the bible has things to say about investment. Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow (Proverbs 13:11), and A wise man thinks ahead; a fool doesn’t, and even brags about it (Proverbs 13:16). Now more than ever it is time to think ahead. It’s time to think about our children and our grandchildren and the kind of world they’re going to live in if we don’t change our ways. It’s time to think about those we don’t know or who seems foreign to us. It’s time to think about the interconnectedness of ecosystems. It’s time we showed others some protective care, especially those yet to be born and those in the developing world.
When we invest in fossil fuels, we are effectively endorsing the destruction of God’s Creation. The Good Steward Campaign cannot stand for that. And so, we are asking you to join us in the call for institutions everywhere to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in socially responsible businesses. In doing so, we will stop disrupting life and start supporting it. In the words of the great Christian writer and agrarian Wendell Berry, “...the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.” Let’s find hope together in good stewardship.