Monthly Archives: June 2012

Judges Unanimously Reject Challenge to EPA Greenhouse Gas Rules

[We thank Texas Climate News and Bill Dawson, who have published the following report on their website: http://texasclimatenews.org/wp/?p=5248. Please visit TCN for excellent scientific coverage of climate issues, especially those confronting Texas and the Southwest.]
June 27, 2012
Judges unanimously reject Texas’ challenge of federal greenhouse-gas rules
Texas – and its courthouse allies among industries and other states – took it on the chin Tuesday in a stinging rebuke from a federal appeals court in Washington, which unanimously rejected their challenges against the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of heat-trapping, climate-changing greenhouse gases.
Texas, along with Virginia, was a leader of a 14-state group with litigation challenging the rules. Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott, both Republicans, have been strongly outspoken in their criticism of the EPA’s climate-protection actions, saying they would badly damage the state’s economy.
However, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a ruling by a chief judge appointed by Republican Ronald Reagan and two judges appointed by Democrat Bill Clinton, declared the EPA’s “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten human health and the environment and its subsequent regulations to limit emissions of those gases from vehicles “are neither arbitrary nor capricious,” as the challengers claimed.
The judges likewise ruled that the EPA’s challenged interpretation of the Clean Air Act – that the law authorizes the agency’s current regulation of greenhouse gases – “is unambiguously correct,” and also that none of the petitioners had standing to challenge associated EPA rules that focus its regulatory effort on major greenhouse-gas sources.
A central element of Texas’ own attack on the EPA’s climate initiatives was the allegation, echoing climate-change skeptics, that the agency had, in Abbot’s words, “outsourced the scientific basis for its greenhouse gas regulation” to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The work of that United Nations-sponsored body involves participation of hundreds of scientists from the U.S. and other countries.
The judges’ ruling on such claims that the EPA had thus “delegated” its scientific review to others was withering, calling it “little more than a semantic trick” and oblivious to “how science works.”
State and Industry Petitioners assert that EPA improperly “delegated” its judgment to the IPCC, USGCRP [U.S. Global Change Research Program] and NRC [National Research Council] by relying on these assessments of climate-change science. … This argument is little more than a semantic trick. EPA did not delegate, explicitly or otherwise, any decision-making to any of those entities. EPA simply did here what it and other decision-makers often must do to make a science-based judgment: it sought out and reviewed existing scientific evidence to determine whether a particular finding was warranted. It makes no difference that much of the scientific evidence in large part consisted of “syntheses” of individual studies and research. Even individual studies and research papers often synthesize past work in an area and then build upon it. This is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.
Addressing Texas’ and other challengers’ arguments against the IPCC’s reliability as a source of valid scientific conclusions, the judges said:
State Petitioners point out that some studies the IPCC referenced in its assessment were not peer-reviewed, but they ignore the fact that (1) the IPCC assessment relied on around 18,000 studies that were peer-reviewed, and (2) the IPCC’s report development procedures expressly permitted the inclusion in the assessment of some non-peer-reviewed studies (“gray” literature).
Moreover, as EPA determined, the limited inaccurate information developed from the gray literature does not appear sufficient to undermine the substantial overall evidentiary support for the Endangerment Finding. State Petitioners have not, as they assert, uncovered a “pattern” of flawed science. Only two of the errors they point out seem to be errors at all, and EPA relied on neither in making the Endangerment Finding.
The judges were similarly robust in their disagreement with Texas’ argument that EPA officials should have spelled out precisely which greenhouse-gas concentrations, rate of climate change or climate-change impacts it deems to be unsafe:
According to Texas, without defining these thresholds and distinguishing “safe” climate change from climate change that endangers, EPA’s Endangerment Finding is just a “subjective conviction.”
[…]
In its essence, Texas’s call for quantification of the endangerment is no more than a specialized version of Industry Petitioners’ claim that the scientific record contains too much uncertainty to find endangerment. EPA relied on a substantial record of empirical data and scientific evidence, making many specific and often quantitative findings regarding the impacts of greenhouse gases on climate change and the effects of climate change on public health and welfare. Its failure to distill this ocean of evidence into a specific number at which greenhouse gases cause “dangerous” climate change is a function of the precautionary thrust of the CAA [Clean Air Act] and the multivariate and sometimes uncertain nature of climate science, not a sign of arbitrary or capricious decision-making.
The Associated Press reported that Texas officials may appeal the appellate ruling to the Supreme Court. The AP quoted Abbott as saying that the Reagan and Clinton appointees on the appeals court had “failed to rein in the unelected bureaucrats at the agency who are holding our country’s energy independence and fragile economy hostage to a radical environmental agenda.”
The Texas office of the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group that joined 15 states and other organizations in intervening in support of the EPA, posted a statement on its Texas Clean Air Matters Blog that asserted the court had “thoroughly rebuked” Texas and others “who attack science and obstruct progress in reducing climate pollution.”
Dallas Morning News reporter Randy Lee Loftis, writing on that newspaper’s “The Scoop Blog,” noted that while the court had “rejected every challenge to the rules,” Texas and other petitioners “will probably take the case to the Supreme Court,” which had ruled that the EPA has the authority to issue greenhouse-gas regulations in 2007.
Loftis identified “the big questions” involved in the litigation and summed up its current status this way:
Is global warming science real and does the Clean Air Act govern emissions of greenhouse gases?
For now, the courts’ answer is an unqualified yes.
– Bill Dawson

What a Billion Chinese are Longing For

Early this year, my month-long travels in south China taught me many things. Things about China, of course; but also about life back home in the U.S. In particular, my glimpses of unchecked Chinese pollution and the related human toll gave me a new perspective on our great American accomplishments in protecting the environment. They also showed me the danger posed by those trying to roll them back.
And so I read with sadness an email sent to me by my congressman last week.  I had urged him to support the EPA’s recent rulings protecting children from mercury poisoning and particulates. His response ignored my words completely, and instead took up the mantra that drives many in Congress today:
“Thank you for contacting me concerning legislation to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from imposing new burdensome regulations on consumers and small businesses,” he wrote. “Like you, I believe that we need to address the impact that unnecessary regulations are having on small businesses and consumers.”[i]
For my congressman – and for most of his colleagues – environmental protection is mainly seen as unnecessary regulation that needs to be curtailed. And letters from constituents to the contrary simply don’t register.
China, I’ve observed, doesn’t have the problem of over-regulation. With a much smaller environmental protection agency, and with local control over most policies, businesses large and small have been almost completely unburdened for decades. But the results have been catastrophic.[ii]
So I read with interest the results of a new Gallup poll last week, which showed that Chinese people – numbering more than 1.3 billion – rank environmental protection ahead of economic growth by a huge margin.[iii] 57% of respondents said that environmental protection was more important, even if it slowed the economy. Only 21% answered the other way around.  And this comes from a country whose people are six times poorer than Americans.
In fact, the world’s four largest developing countries (the BRIC countries) all responded in the same way. In India, where people have only one-thirteenth the average wealth of Americans, respondents favoring environmental protection won out 45% to 35%. In Brazil, an astonishing 83% favored environmental protection.
What do all these people know that my congressman doesn’t?
For starters, they know that a better job isn’t worth your family’s health.  In China, cancer is spinning out of control. Since the 1990s, cancer has become the nation’s biggest killer. In 2007, the disease was responsible for one in five deaths, up 80% since the start of economic reforms 30 years earlier.[iv]
Pollution in China has given rise to an explosion in “cancer villages,” as polluting industries have pushed into hinterland locations susceptible to the allure of promised new jobs, but which contaminate air, water and soil with heavy metals like mercury and chromium.  While official data is scant, recent estimates total 500 cancer villages; and this map, prepared by a Chinese journalist, pinpoints 100.[v]
A few of China’s cancer villages.
But Chinese people also know that lax environmental protection is bad for business.  Lead and mercury exposure harm the development of Chinese children, who will have to carry the Chinese economy to the next level.  Chinese polluting factories will have to shut their doors in coming years, as the current levels of toxic discharge are not sustainable for any country.  Chinese commercial hubs are dealing with air pollution on a scale not seen in Los Angeles or Pittsburgh in generations, if ever. In fact, just last year, Beijing was forced to close its airport because aircraft could not navigate in the thick smog that frequently blankets the city.[vi]
Here in America, we’re being told of the need to roll back environmental protection to help our struggling economy. But the experience of China shows that this is a false choice.  Admittedly, some Chinese business owners are getting rich as they foul their country’s water, air and soil. But a steep price is borne by the growing ranks of Chinese cancer victims, and by families and businesses in cities too polluted to support normal commerce.
The Gallup poll provides a strong word of caution for Americans: Let’s be careful what we wish for.  The Chinese have been down this road ahead of us. And by large margins, they want nothing more than the environmental protections we already enjoy.
Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.
J. Elwood


[i] Rep. Scott Garrett, NJ 5th Congressional District
[ii] Several Clothesline Report posts in January 2012 discussed Chinese pollution issues; here’s a sample: http://clotheslinereport.blogspot.com/2012/01/ive-found-perfect-epa.html
[iii]Gallup World, Majority of Chinese Prioritize Environment Over Economy, June 8, 2012; http://www.gallup.com/poll/155102/Majority-Chinese-Prioritize-Environment-Economy.aspx
[iv]The Guardian; China’s ‘cancer villages’ reveal dark side of economic boom; http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/07/china-cancer-villages-industrial-pollution

The Courage to Preach

We don’t have to kill prophets anymore.  We can always just fire them.  Or we can motor on down the road to the church whose pastor doesn’t offend us. Or at a bare minimum, we can shoot off an email giving our preacher the full benefit of our opinions.
It takes courage to be a preacher. More courage than most church members can imagine.
Perhaps that’s why we don’t often hear sermons about the great moral issues of our time.  It took courage for English preachers to stand with William Wilberforce, when so many of their parishioners were making money from the African slave trade. And more recently, it took courage for preachers to stand with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela, when many of those sitting in the pews were driven by opposing cultural passions or economic interests.
Today, a growing chorus of evangelical leaders is encouraging preachers to speak up regarding creation care, especially in light of the threat of global climate change.  But it takes courage to preach.  You don’t take on the world’s most powerful industry without paying a steep price.
And so, you haven’t heard a sermon on creation care recently, have you? And if you have, you probably haven’t heard from the pulpit about the about the danger posed by human-caused climate change – to the poor, the vulnerable and to future generations. But it’s not because global religious leaders aren’t challenging churches to speak up.  They are.
Here’s a short list of major declarations urging Christians to speak out on creation care:
  • Evangelical Declaration on Care of Creation (1994, Evangelical Environmental Network, adopted by many Christian denominations and leaders)[i]
  • Oxford Declaration on Global Warming (2002; issued by 70 leading climate scientists, policy-makers and Christian leaders from across 6 continents)[ii]
  • Micah Declaration on Creation Stewardship and Climate Change (2009, The Micah Network, representing churches in 83 countries)[iii]
  • Climate Change: An Environmental Call to Action (2006, Evangelical Climate Initiative, signed by more than 330 presidents of Christian colleges and service agencies, authors and pastors)[iv]
  • African Church Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change & Water (2008, issued by All-Africa Council of Churches)[v]
  • Christians and Climate Change (Australian Evangelical Alliance, affiliated with World Evangelical Alliance)[vi]
  • Christian Reformed Church Creation Stewardship Report(2012, denomination of more than 1,000 congregations in the U.S. and Canada)[vii]
  • National Association of Evangelicals; Loving the Least of These (2011, representing 45,000 local U.S. churches in 40 denominations)[viii]
  • Cape Town Commitment; Lausanne Global Conversation(2010, Lausanne founded by Billy Graham, John Stott and others to direct global evangelization, with delegates representing more than 190 countries)[ix]
  • Prominent mainline Christian declarations, including the Vatican[x], the World Council of Churches[xi], and the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church[xii].
Each of these declarations has its own unique voice. The Lausanne Cape Town Commitment addresses world evangelization, and incorporates creation care as a core element of Christian mercy and witness in the world, calling on all Christians to repent of complicity in exploitation of the creation:
“We lament over the widespread abuse and destruction of the earth’s resources, including its bio-diversity. Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together and with equal urgency.”[xiii]
The Micah Declaration and the National Association of Evangelicals highlight justice to the world’s poor, who are most vulnerable to drought, disease and flooding from climate disruptions.
“If the things we have been reading are true, that we are called to love God and to love our neighbor, that our climate is changing, and this change will affect the poor most of all,” writes the NEA, “then we, the evangelical family, have no choice but to act on this problem.”[xiv]
The African Church Leaders and the Australian Evangelical Alliance bring the unique perspectives of Christians in those regions: with the African sensitivity to the suffering of the developing world because of the actions of the industrialized North; and the Australians seeking repentance as one of the leading per capita greenhouse gas emitters.
And the Christian Reformed Church brings a scholarly tradition and rigorous review of science and theology, leaving no stone unturned in reaching their assessment:
“Human-induced climate change is a moral, ethical, and religious issue… [and] poses a significant threat to future generations, the poor, and the vulnerable. Future generations will inherit climate change, driven by emissions of today….  Poor societies will have fewer options and resources than wealthier societies to adapt to these changes….  Urgent action is required to address climate change.”
Add to these declarations the voices of the Vatican, the Orthodox Church and numerous protestant churches affiliated with the World Council of Churches, and it would seem that every church on every corner would be talking about caring for our Father’s creation, and for the poor who are most vulnerable to its misuse.
But it’s not that easy for preachers. There are people in the pews with other ideas. Their favorite politicians tell some of them that climate change is a hoax. Oil and coal companies advertise nonstop on their cable news channels. They fear that solutions will be costly. And they even have one religious declaration developed by a free-market advocacy group. Among other things, it states: “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.”[xv](This assertion is rebutted by 97-98% of climate scientists[xvi].)
You’d think that the debate would be a mismatch. On the one hand, you’ve got thousands of global leaders as disparate as the Pope, the worldwide Lausanne evangelistic movement, the Orthodox Patriarch, and the U.S. National Association of Evangelicals issuing dozens of declarations urging Christians to act on climate change. On the other, you have a think tank denying human contributions to the problem. In fact, the Christian Reformed Church even rebuts the think tank’s claim to represent evangelicals: “Considering the limited number of authors and their lack of religious credentials, it is somewhat disingenuous to label these as evangelical documents.”[xvii]
But given the polarized state of cultural and political conversation in America today, this one voice is enough to persuade many churches that creation care is controversial, dangerous, and a catalyst for disunity in the church. And with the flood of oil money in today’s politics and airwaves, the man in the pew is likely to have strong – if misinformed – opinions. 
 
Faced with this, we can understand the temptation of preachers everywhere to kick the can down the road, and remain silent.  But when God calls a person to the ministry, he doesn’t offer the option of silence.  Bonhoeffer’s colleague, Martin Niemöller, warns us of this in haunting verse:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
 
Perhaps this week, you will pray for your pastor. Preaching is a tougher job than you or I can imagine.  A word of kindness and encouragement will do a world of good. Because a preacher needs courage. And the future for your children and grandchildren almost certainly hangs in the balance.
Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.
J. Elwood
End Notes:


[i] Evangelical Environmental Network; On the Care of Creation; http://www.creationcare.org/blank.php?id=39
[ii]Climate Forum 2002; Oxford, England; http://www.jri.org.uk/news/statement.htm
[iv] Climate Change; An Evangelical Call to Action; http://christiansandclimate.org/statement/
[vi] CHRISTIANS AND CLIMATE CHANGE: A statement from the Australian Evangelical Alliance;
[vii] Creation Stewardship Task Force Report, Christian Reformed Church; http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/resources/synodical/CreationStewardship.pdf
[viii]National Association of Evangelicals; http://www.nae.net/lovingtheleastofthese
[ix] Cape Town Commitment, Lausanne Global Conversation – Part 2, Section IIB, 6; http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/home/creation-care
[x] Statements by Pope Benedict and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; http://catholicclimatecovenant.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Quotes-from-the-Pope-and-the-Church.pdf
[xi] World Council of Churches website lists denominational declarations on creation care and climate change too numerous to list here; http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/justice-diakonia-and-responsibility-for-creation/climate-change-water.html
[xii] The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, 9/01/2006; http://www.patriarchate.org/documents/2006-encyclical
[xiii]Cape Town Commitment Call to Action, The Lausanne Movement, Sec. II.B.6; http://www.lausanne.org/en/documents/ctcommitment.html#p2-2
[xiv]Loving the Least of These, NAE, p. 37; http://www.nae.net/lovingtheleastofthese
[xvi] Expert credibility in climate change; Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences of the United States; http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html
[xvii]Creation Stewardship Task Force, Christian Reformed Church, 2012, p. 108; http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/resources/synodical/CreationStewardship.pdf

The Evangelicals are Waking Up

There’s a new energy stirring in today’s evangelical church. At its core is a renewed understanding of the call of the Christian gospel to care for God’s creation. To powerful polluters, this is very bad news. But to the poor and vulnerable of the world, this awakening offers a brilliant ray of hope.
Two years ago, Christian delegates from all over the world convened at the Lausanne Conference in Cape Town, South Africa to discuss and affirm core elements of gospel proclamation. Prominent among those tenets is that the earth and its creatures belong to God. “We care for the earth, most simply,” they affirmed, “because it belongs to the one whom we call Lord….  We cannot claim to love God while abusing what belongs to Christ by right of creation, redemption and inheritance.” [i]
Yesterday, the Christian world witnessed another tectonic shift: The Christian Reformed Church (“CRC”) convened in Ontario to discuss and adopt a powerful declaration regarding the Christian response to global climate change.  “Human-induced climate change,” they affirmed, “is an ethical, social justice, and religious issue.” [ii]
Like the Lausanne conferees, the CRC delegates affirmed that care for the creation is inseparable from loving God and our neighbors. They went much further, however, honing in on the issues of Christian justice: “Climate change,” they said, “poses a significant threat to future generations, the poor, and the vulnerable.” And they called on all CRC churches to promote stewardship and to seek justice for the victims of climate change, notably the poor and future generations.
The CRC climate change declaration, however, does not end with concern for humans, but also extends to all species that God has made.  “We are called to commit ourselves to honor all God’s creatures,” they affirmed, “and to protect them from abuse and extinction, for our world belongs to God.”
While approved by a strong majority of delegates, the CRC declaration was met with skepticism by some.  Initially, some attempted to cast doubt on the body of scientific climate research acknowledged by the CRC.  The declaration states: “It is the current near-consensus of the international scientific community that climate change is occurring and is very likely due to human activity.” Some delegates attempted to water down the statement by replacing “near-consensus” with a much weaker “many believe.”[iii]
The Creation Stewardship Task Force, however, consisted largely of prominent atmospheric and earth scientists, as well as leading Reformed theologians. Their defense of the scientific consensus evidently carried significant weight among the delegates.

Even some delegates who expressed skepticism about climate science also spoke in favor of the declaration:
“I’m a skeptic on much of this. But how will doing this hurt?” asked Rev. Steven Zwart. “What if we find out in 30 years that numbers (on climate change) don’t pan out? We will have lost nothing, and we’ll have a cleaner place to live. But if they are right, we could lose everything.”[iv]
Still others expressed their concern that talking about climate change would replace the gospel of Christ.  But the CRC takes a very robust view of the span of the gospel.  The Task Force reflected this understanding:
“Jesus Christ rules over all. To follow this Lord is to serve him wherever we are without fitting in, light in darkness, salt in a spoiling world….
“We also recognize that there are many challenges in our world to God’s rule, but we believe that we should confront those challenges by seeking to do God’s will on earth, as it is in heaven….
“Thus our ultimate motivation in creation care is not any secular notion of ‘saving the planet’; salvation is through Christ alone. The Christian’s ultimate motivation for creation care is love for God and neighbor. This love for our neighbor includes both this generation and generations to come because we do not know the time of Christ’s return.”[v]
By mid-morning yesterday, the debate had run its course, and the entire declaration was resoundingly approved by the delegates.  In addition to the core findings regarding climate change, the declaration called for specific actions by churches and members. These include:
  • to live sustainably within our God-given resources;
  • to seek justice for the poor and vulnerable, and for future generations;
  • to reduce individual and collective carbon emissions to the atmosphere;
  • to advocate for public strategies that reduce carbon emissions; and
  • to advocate for an effective global framework to assist populations that are bearing the brunt of the negative effects of climate change.
Upon approving the declaration, the CRC leaders stood to sing these words so familiar and so dear to Christians:
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done.
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heaven be one.
Well done CRC brothers and sisters. The battle, indeed, is not done.  But you have taken a brave stand, and sounded a clarion call to Christians everywhere to care for everything that belongs to the Savior.
J. Elwood


[i] FOR THE LORD WE LOVE: The Cape Town Confession of Faith; Article 7 http://www.lausanne.org/docs/CapeTownCommitment.pdf
[iv] Church Called to Action on Creation Care; CRC Newsroom; http://www.crcna.org/news.cfm?newsid=3547&section=1

Will God Heal Our Land?

You know the old joke about the weather, right? Everyone talks, but no one ever DOES anything about it.
Well, in Texas last year, everyone was talking about the weather.  As reported frequently on this site, the climate went berserk.  So the state’s governor decided to do something: He issued a statewide proclamation calling all Texans to prayer. The governor urged – for a period of three days last April – “Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on those days for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal way of life.”
How bad was it, for the governor to call everyone to prayer?  His proclamation listed a litany of miseries besetting the Lone Star State:
  • 8,000 wildfires had broken out;
  • 1.8 million acres of land had been burned;
  • Almost 400 homes had been destroyed;
  • And a tremendous financial and emotional toll had fallen upon the people.
And so Texans prayed. People of all faiths.  And if they prayed as suggested by the governor, they prayed for the healing of their land, and the restoration of their normal way of life.
To some of us, that prayer sounds somehow familiar, doesn’t it? There’s a phrase in there that comes from the Bible. After King Solomon had completed building the temple in Jerusalem, God appeared to him in the night, and warned that the kingdom would face times of drought and pestilence. But there were powerful words of assurance:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turnfrom their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
“Heal their land” – just like the governor asked Texans to pray. Surely, God would hear and answer, if the Bible is what Christians everywhere believe it to be.
Well, in fact, the months following the prayer proclamation weren’t much fun for Texans.
  • The 8,000 wildfires mushroomedto a record 30,457 by October. 
  • The 1.8 million scorched acres more than doubled to 4.0 million acres – an area larger than the state of Connecticut. 
  • The 400 homes destroyed by wildfire in the governor’s proclamation turned out to have been the tip of the iceberg: 2,946 homes went up in smoke by October. 
  • And the final bill from Texas agricultural losses came to a whopping $7.6 billion in 2011, almost doubling the previous record set in 2006.
  • In only twelve months, Texas lost as many as 500 million trees to drought, excluding all those incinerated in the wildfires.
The figures are staggering, and our sense of accounting for loss grows numb.
2011 Texas wildfires bigger than all of Connecticut

So, you may wonder, where was God in all this? All this comforting talk about healing the land, followed by an unprecedented statewide calamity. Surely, some would see this as proof that he’s not really there at all – or doesn’t care.

But maybe we should take a closer look at God’s promise to Solomon. Anyone might have missed it, but it’s really not much like the governor’s call to prayer.  You noticed the goal of the Texan prayer, didn’t you? Heal our land, for “the restoration of our normal way of life.” In effect: “Answer us, O God, so that we can go back to living the way we always have.”
Nothing could be further from God’s words to Solomon: If my people will pray – but also repent, humble themselves and turn from their wickedness – I will heal their land.  God’s desired result was a radical change in their way of life, not a return to old patterns.
This is true for all people, beginning with me, and then you.  I should never pray without expecting to be deeply changed. But how might the people of Texas consider an alternative to their “normal way of life” as they pray? To begin with, they might consider the unanimous warnings of Texan climate scientists, who see the current and future drought trends as linked to our human activities – our normal way of life.
They might consider Texas’ status as the country’s runaway leader in power plant greenhouse gas emissions, with more than four times the CO2 emitted by the much larger California economy.
Or they might give a second look to the environmental voting records of their Congressional delegations, among the very worst in the Senate, and only slightly better in the House, according to rankings by the League of Conservation Voters.
And lastly, they might look across the border at the suffering of drought-stricken Mexico, currently in the grip of the worst drought in 71 years, and with much fewer resources to adapt to the ravages of a climate on steroids.
For me, I believe that God answers prayer. But not all my prayers. Because when heaven is silent, perhaps I’ve forgotten about repentance; maybe I’m still hoping for someone to bail me out of my ongoing folly and wickedness; and maybe I’ve forgotten the plight of my poorest neighbors.
God give us the grace to humble ourselves, to seek him, to seriously ask how we may turn from wickedness and embrace mercy and justice. And then Lord, hear us from heaven, forgive us, and heal our land.
Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.
J. Elwood