Earth care and faith



“The Earth is a very small stage
in a vast cosmic arena.”
Carl Sagan, Astrophysicist

Launched on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 is the first man-made vessel to escape our solar system. In 1990 it had traveled 3.7 billion miles, Carl Sagan dubbed the tiny 1/8 pixel photo of Earth ‘the pale blue dot.’

 The pale blue dot
Another photo, Earthrise, taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft, captures our planet arising from the far side of the moon. This majestic image inspired many of the 20 million Americans whose April, 1970 peaceful protests inaugurated Earth Day.

Sadly, our reverence for the Earth has faded. Evidence from many decades documents the toxic impacts of the industrial poisoning of our atmosphere. Nevertheless, influential U.S. politicians continually deny the obvious consequences of climate change.

Affecting conservatives and liberals alike, climate change should not be a political issue; it is an ethical issue.

The Defense Department’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap states changes in climate “will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

Translation: Expect disastrous wars over resources, catastrophic weather events, and widespread famine and disease.

Permitting unchecked climate change to extract astronomical costs is financial folly. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates the U.S. alone would incur annual costs of $3.8 trillion by 2100.

Clean energy is far more economical than fossil fuels. Remember how Iraqi oil was supposed to pay for our latest war? Instead, the U.S. has spent more than $2 trillion since 1991 subsidizing the oil industry by maintaining ‘friendly’ Middle East oil fields, militarizing the Persian Gulf, and paying for our misadventures in Iraq.

Denialism, often attributed to believers in a flat Earth, also applies to those claiming Earth’s changing climate is a hoax. Both have their origins in misplaced religiosity.

Genuine Faith is Thoughtful

Mature religious faith accepts responsibility for stewardship of the Earth, a God-given charge issued to mankind in Genesis 1, and explained and expanded throughout the Bible. Diligence is our duty.

The most powerful denier of climate change, Senator James Inhofe, claims it is arrogant and outrageous to “think that we human beings would be able to change what He is doing in the climate.” Thus, Inhofe asserts that God, not mankind, is Earth’s steward.

Similar to those denying a round Earth despite overwhelming evidence, Inhofe denies that ever-increasing worldwide temperatures–long in sync with rising carbon dioxide levels–are affected by mankind’s current annual infusion of ten billion metric tons of this greenhouse gas into Earth’s stratosphere.

Since the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased from 280 to 400 parts per million. This 250-year accumulation is shocking: Carbon dioxide has not exceeded 300 parts per million for at least 800,000 years!

The increase of CO2 levels over the course of 800,000 years. Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The increase of CO2 levels over 800,000 years. Scripps Institution of Oceanography

We are finally beginning to move in the right direction. China, with an emerging middle class, agreed that, by 2030, it will cap carbon emissions and use clean sources for 20 percent of its energy. In this non-binding agreement, Obama pledged U.S. emission cuts at 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, writes that while this agreement is historic, “These numbers are easy.” He points to Germany, well on their way to achieving 60 percent clean energy within a dozen years. “It’s not remotely enough to keep us out of climate trouble,” says McKibben, though “it is a good way to put pressure on other nations.”

Let’s start by converting the $4 billion tax giveaway to oil companies to a clean energy subsidy. Maximizing renewables is long overdue.

Consider again Sagan’s reflection on the pale blue dot: “This distant image of our tiny world…underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

©2014 Harry Rix. All rights reserved.

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