Sunday, August 21, 2016

How Long Will the Land Lie Parched?

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Last summer was the hottest on record.

This summer has been much hotter.

Raging wildfires in the California hills are spreading at record speed, consuming thousands of acres overnight.

Catastrophic flooding in Louisiana, the latest in a string of under-reported epic floods, has put the National Flood Insurance program billions into debt.

While some politicians debate the reality of climate change, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and international counterparts struggle to come to terms with the clear evidence of sea level rise and ever worsening 

The Migration Policy Institute has identified climate change as an important factor in the unprecedented surge in global migration, with millions on the move due to drought, famine, flooding, violence fueled by shrinking resources. 

The prophet Jeremiah described a world in which human choice brought environmental consequence: 
How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. (Jeremiah 12:4) 
What would Jeremiah say about oceanic dead zones? The growing man-made deserts in Central Asia and North Africa? Mountain top removal? The lingering sludge of the tar sand spill lining the Kalamazoo?

There is a tight correlation in scripture between the health of the land and the appetites of its people. Adam and Eve’s greed and disobedience in Genesis spilled immediately onto the ground itself: “Cursed is the ground because of you. 

In Leviticus, God’s people were warned that the productivity of the land would be tied to their obedience in the use of it. Plow and plant for six years, let it lie fallow the seventh, and God would provide far more than they needed: 
If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land. (Leviticus 26:3-5)
In the prophetic books, Jeremiah and others warned of environmental devastation resulting from misuse of the land, injustice toward the poor, disobedience of God’s laws. They warned of drought, famine, crop failure, barren fields, thorns and thistles, roving jackals.

Explicit condemnation of exploitation of the land echoes through the prophetic warnings: 
As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.  Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? (Ezekiel 34:17-19) 
As Ezekiel and other prophets make clear, the poor are most harmed by environmental exploitation, least responsible for its cause.

Pollution Yellow Skies, Kay Jackson, Washington DC
Given the connection between greed and global harm explicit in prophecy and increasingly evident in the physical world around us, I find it hard to understand that the strongest opposition to the idea of climate change has come from Christians who claim an allegiance to the authority of scripture.

I find myself wondering: what’s behind the insistence that climate change isn’t real?

Who has most to lose in a shift to renewable resources?

Who has most to gain from continuing the status quo?

Last week I found myself discussing rooftop solar panels with our son, who recently bought a house in Maryland.

I had spent months investigating solar for our own house, with its south-facing roof, and was told by several companies that given our energy efficient house and current Pennsylvania incentives, going solar wouldn’t save us much.

Since the 1830s, Pennsylvania’s energy policy has been shaped by extractive industries lobbying for subsidies and fighting off regulation. Our state is the only one in the country (in the world?) that allows natural gas extraction without any tax on volume extracted.

Maryland and New Jersey, with thousands of miles of coastline and hundreds of low-lying islands, have already seen the effect of sea level rise and have instituted strong policies to shift away from fossil fuel. Both states offer strong support to renewable energy. I find myself wondering: what would it take for Pennsylvania to do the same? 

In 2009, Donald Trump joined dozens of New York executives in an open letter to President Obama commending his attendance at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference. 
As business leaders we are optimistic that President Obama is attending Copenhagen with emissions targets. Additionally, we urge you, our government, to strengthen and pass United States legislation, and lead the world by example. We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today. Please don't postpone the earth. If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.
We recognize the key role that American innovation and leadership play in stimulating the worldwide economy. Investing in a Clean Energy Economy will drive state-of-the-art technologies that will spur economic growth, create new energy jobs, and increase our energy security all while reducing the harmful emissions that are putting our planet at risk. We have the ability and the know-how to lead the world in clean energy technology to thrive in a global market and economy. But we must embrace the challenge today to ensure that future generations are left with a safe planet and a strong economy.
Please allow us, the United States of America, to serve in modeling the change necessary to protect humanity and our planet. 
More recently, Trump has described "the concept of global warming” as a hoax “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

Here’s the latest Trump energy environment plan, described in a speech in North Dakota this spring:
  • We’re going to rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions including the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.
  • We’re going to save the coal industry and other industries threatened by Hillary Clinton’s extremist agenda.
  • I’m going to ask Trans Canada to renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline.
  • We’re going to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas
  • We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies. These technologies create millions of jobs with a smaller footprint than ever before.
  • We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs. . . . 
  • We’re going to do all this while taking proper regard for rational environmental concerns. We are going to conserve our beautiful natural habitats, reserves and resources.In a Trump Administration, political activists with extreme agendas will no longer write the rules. Instead, we will work with conservationists whose only agenda is protecting nature.
  • From an environmental standpoint, my priorities are very simple: clean air and clean water.

It's hard to imagine a more delusional, contradictory policy: unlimited gas and coal, no EPA, no regulations, crystal clear air and water. If only.

According our other major candidate, Hilary Clinton: 
Climate change is one of the most serious challenges we face. It’s real, it’s driven by human activity, and it’s happening right now. We need to use every tool we have to combat climate change and accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.
She’s described the tools she’s willing to use, but has also acknowledged that the tool economists consider most effective will not be discussed. 
“The clearest and most obvious way to reach the climate targets is with a nationwide carbon pricing method, whether a carbon tax or a cap and trade,” said Robert Stavins, the head of the environmental economics program at Harvard University. “But it’s not surprising, given the politics, that Secretary Clinton would not want to explicitly talk about carbon pricing.”
Climate Change in the American Christian Mind: Stewardship
The health of our globe, our communities, our children has fallen prey to political gamesmanship that will benefit a handful of extractive industries and the investors who lobby hard to bend the rules to their own economic advantage. 

Last year Yale University released a report on Climate Change in the American Christian MindThe report probed beliefs and concerns about global warming, perceptions of risk, ideas about stewardship and care of the earth and natural resources. 

The margins were narrower than I’d feared, but I still find myself wondering: if the trademark of the evangelical Christian is a strong belief in authority of scripture, how is it that we’ve missed the prophetic insistence that care of creation, care of the poor and obedience to God are inextricably linked?

This post is part of a series on What's Your Platform
Beyond the Party Platform July 24, 2016
A Different Way July 31, 2016 
Election Fraud and Rigged Elections, August 10, 2016 
Part of this was posted in 2012: Earth Day Shalom, Ripples of Resurrection