Tag Archives: climate change

While Washington Implodes, Nature Keeps Obeying Its Laws

The daily barrage of recklessness coming out of the nation’s capitol has us riveted. Mass deportation! Muzzle the scientists! To hell with the refugees! Build more nukes! Repay the Kremlin! Un-insure the poor! Terminate the EPA! Trample on native rights! Bring back the bathroom bills!

It’s hard to look the other way.

But the other way is where we must look. Because nature doesn’t care about the latest midnight Tweet or executive order. After back-to-back-to-back record hot years, the creation is groaning again. The Arctic melt is now happening so fast that it’s hard to predict the climate effects in store for us and our children.

So take a look. It’s not Tweeting, or speechifying, or giving TV interviews. IT’S MELTING.

Source: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/

 

 

Trump’s Cabinet and Invincible “Doubt”

I’ve been doing this for a long time now. Ten years ago, it was clear enough that human pollution was jeopardizing a livable future for my children. Clear enough to lead me to commit before God that I would dedicate what remained of my life to prevent or mitigate tragedy.

There was no honest debate about the facts at the time. The earth was warming. From a scientific perspective, the pace of warming was terrifying. The graph was, in fact, a “hockey stick.” Worse yet, we were pouring more and more of the gases that cause the heating into the atmosphere. For centuries, the atmospheric chemistry had been well understood. More of these gases would cause more warming. And with thicker and thicker blankets of earth-warming gases every year, we weren’t just committing the earth to a continuation of last year’s warming, melting and disruption, we were accelerating the pace.

CO2 concentrations off the charts.      Source: NASA

Then my grandchildren began to come along, adding new urgency to my task. We began to see new record after new record: a hotter world, year after year; faster polar ice melting; accelerated rise in sea levels; more and more extreme weather events; massive die-offs of marine ecosystems; mass human migration from regions beset by epic droughts; a spike in billion-dollar storm events.

It became clearer than ever that I’d chosen the right fight.

But always, always, there were opponents. And they weren’t a few scattered voices. They were everywhere. Certainly, dominating the Republican narrative. But also, the evangelical movement. You’re an alarmist. You’re a tax-happy liberal. This is a big hoax. How else can scientists get rich? Relax, God is in control.

Pruitt, Tillerson and Perry.         Source: Common Dreams

When I started, the claim was that global warming simply wasn’t happening. It was “the world’s biggest hoax.” Scientists were “cooking the books.” When outright rejection of temperature records became completely untenable, then those same records were selectively cited to argue for the “warming pause.”  Yes, it once was warming, but that’s over now.

Of course, that’s now impossible to argue, given three straight years of off-the-charts global heat and polar melting. So the “doubters” changed their tactic. Sure, it’s warming, they said. But no one knows why. Things go up; things go down. Change is inevitable. No one knows why for sure.

But sooner or later, the scientific community would be heard. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, NASA and NOAA all made it clear, as did every major scientific society in the world: greenhouse gases from fossil fuels are the main contributors to climatic disruptions we’re seeing all over the globe.

For a time, the “doubters” muddled by, insisting that they were not scientists, and couldn’t be expected to answer basic questions on the topic. But this only lasted for a couple of years, till it began to dawn on people that they were also not oncologists, but still got treated for cancer when diagnosed.

And that brings us to today’s new talking points being rolled out by the Trump transition team. Scott Pruitt for EPA, Rick Perry for Energy, Rex Tillerson for State: they’re all reading from the same script:

Sure, climate change is real. Sure, greenhouse gases are a big part of the problem. BUT, we don’t know how much, or what the future will hold. We don’t know for sure the best way to fix the problem. So, we need to keep debating this.

Let’s keep talking, because no one is positively certain what the future will hold.

What’s the common thread in all these arguments over the years? For an economy addicted to fossil fuels, we’ve got wonderful news: We don’t need to do anything. We can stop the global efforts at climate action, while we talk. We can stop the transition to a clean electric grid, while we talk. We can stop helping flooding and drought-stricken countries, while we talk.

And we can talk for a long, long time.

Please, dear friends: Don’t let them talk while our Father’s world – and our children’s only home – flirts with tipping points to runaway heating. What to do? Start by joining Climate Caretakers, and begin to learn, pray and act to protect the creation.

Climate Orphans: What You Did For Fokandraza, You Did For Me

“As Donald Trump Denies Climate Change, These Kids Die of It.”

That’s the title of an article written last week by Nicholas Kristof, op-ed columnist for the New York Times. For the article and related video, Kristof travels to Madagascar, the enormous island off the coast of eastern Africa, pictured as a lush paradise in the popular animated children’s movie series. Now, southern Madagascar is little more than a desert wasteland. Major rivers are reduced to muddy puddles. Forests and farm fields are now dust spotted with cactus, where starving children nibble around sharp thorns to put something in their bellies.

So, meet two little boys, Fokandraza and Foriavi, among the millions now dubbed “climate orphans” – their parents having left long ago to find work and money in desperate hopes of feeding the family. They live with their aunt, who can’t afford to feed her own children, let alone Fokandraza and Foriavi.

“If I were smart, I’d go and find a better life,” says the starving boys’ aunt. “But these kids are so sweet, I can’t leave them.”

Kristof asks the boys: “Have you eaten anything today?”

Fokandraza’s stick-thin arms hang limply at his sides. “No.”

Kristof: “Have you drunk water today?”

“No.”

Foriavi can’t even stay awake during the interview.

Kristof: “I don’t blame the aunt. The situation is more my fault than hers. Here’s the paradox of climate change: It’s mainly caused by affluent people. People like us. And those who suffer the most are the poor and vulnerable.”

So maybe we don’t care all that much about climate change here in affluent America. Our president elect certainly doesn’t, and has promised to gut all global and national efforts to deal with the crisis. But now we know Fokandraza and Foriavi, the faces of a world facing runaway climate chaos.

Remember their names: Fokandraza and Foriavi. We will certainly hear them again, when the Son of Man comes again in his glory. “What you did for Fokandraza and Foriavi, you did for me. And what you did not do for them, you did not do for me.” (Adapted from Matthew 25: 31-46)

How will we answer, brothers and sisters? How will we answer?

What to do? For starters, go to the Climate Caretakers website and take the climate pledge — to learn, pray and act on climate. Every week, you’ll receive an email helping you in your prayers. This week, you’ll be praying for Fokandraza and Foriavi, and for Donald Trump.

Why is the Electoral College a Concern for Earth-Keepers?

What we Americans think about the Electoral College is – now as always – almost certainly driven by what it does to our party’s electoral prospects. This year, Trump won the Electoral College, but millions more people voted for Clinton. So it’s almost certainly predictable: If we went for Trump, then we’re for the Electoral College; if we preferred Clinton, we hate it.

But for earth keepers, the arguments for and against Electoral College are pretty serious concerns. That’s because a strong majority of Americans are concerned about God’s creation and threats to its health and survival. About two-thirds of us now say we’re worried about climate change. Lopsided majorities of Democrats feel strongly about climate action. About half of Republicans agree. And yet, our electoral system has given us a president elect who calls climate change a hoax and “bullsh**.” He’s sworn to reverse his predecessor’s environmental policies, and to disrupt the global climate agreement sealed in Paris last year among 195 nations. He’s stacked his cabinet with fossil-fuel advocates, even picking the chairman of the world’s biggest oil company for its most powerful position – Secretary of State.

So no matter which party we might like best – or dislike least – it’s worth asking honestly if this is really what democracy looks like. Does the Electoral College really make sense? Much has been written about the Electoral College’s roots in slave-holding states, and these accounts can be useful for historians. But let’s not even go there. Today, does a system like the Electoral College make sense for any of the world’s democracies? Here are some factors to consider.

The Electoral College makes Presidential voting almost meaningless for most Americans

“Sure I’d vote, but I’m from California.”

You’ve heard something like this from your friends in solid-Red or solid-Blue states before, haven’t you? What difference did it make if I pulled the lever for Hillary or Trump in New York, Texas, Indiana or Illinois? Let alone California? All those states are going solidly one way or the other. In fact, 30 states representing 320 Electoral College votes are all considered solid for one party or the other (see complete list below). Presidential candidates don’t campaign in those states; they don’t listen to voters there; they don’t bother getting out the vote there. And once elected, they don’t lose much sleep over the interests of those citizens either.

Real Clear Politics highlights president-deciding states in gray.

If you’re among the huge majority of Americans living in one of these non-swing states, presidential democracy is a spectator event for you. You’re not part of the conversation. Instead, you’re just watching voters in 14 “swing states” to see what they’ll do to choose the next president. Thanks for your interest, but voters in Florida will handle this one for you. And in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia (plus seven other small states).

So we lament low voter turnout in our country, but ignore the obvious: Our system removes most of the incentives for going to the polls. It’s the Electoral College, folks.

The Electoral College makes my vote count more than your vote

In the U.S. we have about one elector for every 600,000 people. Californians have a somewhat worse deal. Their 38 million people have only one elector for every 692,000 people. Those extra 92,000 Californians for each elector simply don’t count. With 55 electoral votes, that’s about five million Californians who really don’t matter. Too bad for California.

But North Dakota has a much sweeter deal. Of course, their tiny population – smaller than the cities of Charlotte or Columbus – gets to send two Senators to Washington. Good for them. But their presidential votes also have an outsized impact. They get one elector for every 250,000 people. That’s huge. One vote in North Dakota is worth about three votes in California. (Actually, about 2.7 votes.) But would anyone ever design a system like that in a modern democracy?

The Electoral College hands unelected officials the keys to the presidency

On Monday, the Electoral College convened to cast their votes, sealing the win for Donald Trump, as expected. But Trump and Clinton weren’t the only ones who tallied votes. John Kasich got a vote. So did the aging libertarian, Ron Paul. Retired Secretary of State Colin Powell got three votes, even though he was never a candidate. Finally, Bernie Sanders and tribal leader Faith Spotted Eagle each notched a vote.

The electors who cast votes like these have traditionally been called “faithless electors.” They may be faithless, but there’s nothing illegal or even reprehensible about what they’ve done. In fact, many Americans were hoping for a revolt this year, banking upon the Electoral College to nullify the election results. It didn’t happen, of course, nor has it overturned an election during our country’s history. But this year’s election warns us that precedent means very little in our day. We could easily see the day when large numbers of electors decide to thwart the will of voters. This would be perfectly legal.

It will take a transformation of heart among Americans for us to take our place among the nations in caring for God’s creation. But for starters, why don’t we take another look at how we choose our most important officials? Maybe we should consider something a little more like, well, democracy?

Solid Blue:

  • California (55)
  • New York (29)
  • Illinois (20)
  • New Jersey (14)
  • Washington (12)
  • Massachusetts (11)
  • Maryland (10)
  • Hawaii (4)
  • Rhode Island (4)
  • Vermont (3)
  • District Of Columbia (3)
  • Delaware (3)

Solid Red:

  • Texas (38)
  • Indiana (11)
  • Tennessee (11)
  • Missouri (10)
  • Alabama (9)
  • Louisiana (8)
  • Kentucky (8)
  • Oklahoma (7)
  • Mississippi (6)
  • Arkansas (6)
  • Utah (6)
  • Kansas (6)
  • West Virginia (5)
  • Nebraska (4)
  • Idaho (4)
  • North Dakota (3)
  • Montana (3)
  • South Dakota (3)
  • Alaska (3)
  • Nebraska CD2 (1)

Plant Hardiness Zones Racing Toward the Poles

“Sweetheart, what hardiness zone are we in?” It’s getting late in the fall season, and Barbara is reading up on whether or not to bring her thyme plants indoors.

What plant hardiness zone are we in?

What hardiness zone are we in?

Like all growers, we care about plant hardiness zones. They guide us with regard to planting times and suitable plant varieties. They tell nurseries when to ship saplings to us, and when we ought to plant them. Just now, they’re going to settle for Barbara whether or not to dig up her thyme. But at the moment, I somehow can’t remember.

“I think we’re in seven. Or maybe six. Let me check.”

There are eight plant hardiness zones in the United States, as determined by the USDA. Zone 3 is a thin strip up along the Canadian border. Only the hardiest plants will survive the winter up there. Zone 10 is basically South Florida, where winter is always balmy.

It turns out I had a good reason for my confusion about our zone at Good Hand Farm. When we started farming here, almost all of New Jersey was Zone 6. Fifteen years later, it’s basically all Zone 7. The plant hardiness zone has moved about 200 miles north in sixteen years. That’s about twelve miles per year, around here.

But it’s happening just about everywhere. In 1990, virtually all of Kentucky was Zone 6. By 2006, the whole state was zone 7. In the Upper Midwest, the border between Zones 4 and 5 ran through Sioux City, Iowa. Now it runs through Minneapolis, more than 200 miles north. Virtually every state has experienced one zone change in less than twenty years. At this pace, in one century, New Jersey would be about four hardiness zones hotter, like Miami, or maybe South Texas.

changes15

Notice the black zone (Zone 3): Almost all gone since 1990.

Repeat that: New Jersey would be like South Texas in one century.

So, how do you grow trees when you’re changing the climate this rapidly? Trees can live for hundreds of years. Two sugar maples out our front door are nearly two centuries old. What happens to them now, as every couple decades ushers in a whole new climatic zone? And what happens to our forests, brimming with cold-weather species, but now subject to increasing heat every decade?

We are performing a massive, uncontrolled experiment upon ourselves, and upon all the creatures who share our communities. When are we going to grasp how reckless it is to radically alter climate conditions within a single human generation?

Climate change is real. It’s high time our politicians own up to the fact, and begin to work on solutions. Why not contact your Congressional representatives, and ask them where they stand? Otherwise, you might have New Jersey feeling like South Texas or Miami. And if so, those places would feel like something straight out of your worst nightmares.

The time to do something is now. This world belongs to God, and we’ll surely have to account to him for what we’ve done to it — or for our silence while others did so.

Contact your Congressional Representatives.

Why I Am Devastated by the Election

Reverend Ed Brown is a preacher. And a good preacher knows how to tell a story.

The former missionary to Pakistan is now in the business of caring for God’s creation, and mobilizing the Christian church to join him. And to help us understand the world we now live in, he asks us to imagine ourselves as the crew of a passenger liner at sea, many days from the nearest shore. We all have important jobs to do. Some of us prepare delicious food for the restaurants on board. Some of us manage entertainment for our passengers. Some run children’s programs for families on the trip. Some keep the toilets working. Still others provide medical care to the sick on board.

reflection-hero-1600x900_tcm27-78547

“I have some sobering news…”

We are all busy with our callings, and each of them is vital to the success of our voyage, and even the safety of the thousands of passengers under our care.

But on this particular morning, the captain calls us all into a meeting on the ship’s bridge. His expression today is grave.

“I have received some sobering news from the chief engineer today,” he begins. “None of us should panic, but I need you to listen carefully to every word he tells us.”

The engineer steps forward, and lays out the story: During the night, there was an accident in the engine room, and the ship is taking on water. The pumps are running at capacity, but we are not keeping up. The ship is already riding lower in the water. More can be done, but we need everyone’s help for the survival of the ship. He lays out the plan in detail. It calls for our best efforts. If we all play a role, we can make it safely back to port.

“You still have your own jobs to do,” concludes the captain. “Children still need to be cared for. Meals still need to be prepared. Sick passengers still need medical care. But now, you must do your work with this in mind: It will all be for nothing unless we pull together on the engineer’s plan. The voyage, our passengers, and even our own lives hang in the balance. We can spare no effort.”

Rev. Brown’s story is, of course, the story of manmade climate change and Christian mission. Some of us are called to care for the aged. Some are called to relieve hunger. Others provide clean water; or teach children; or reconcile those in conflict. Others, perhaps, are more like the passengers – until now, mainly focused on our own vacation, leisure and appetites.

But whatever we’re doing now, runaway climate change threatens to sink all of our efforts. The hungry, the thirsty, the children, those fleeing conflicts – none will be spared if we don’t rise to the challenge.

But like the ship’s crew, we have a plan. In fact, the whole world has come together and agreed on a response to climate pollution. It’s called the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the 195 nations of the world have all agreed to it. It’s designed to assure that global temperatures don’t rise more than 2 degrees Celsius from those that sustained our parent’s world. Despite an ambitious start, we’re told that it’s not quite good enough to get us there. We’ll have to come back with even more creativity and resolve if we want to keep our planet below that perilous heat threshold.

But let’s go back to the ocean liner. Let’s imagine that the crew had some doubts about the captain’s plan. The entertainment director never had much trust in captains anyway. And he certainly had no time for boring engineers with their oily coveralls and dire warnings.

“The leak is a hoax,” he begins whispering to his shipmates. “We’re being led by stupid, stupid people. I could make this voyage really great, but we need to make some changes at the top.”

And next morning, we wake up to find the entertainer in command on the bridge, and the captain confined to his quarters below deck. The ship is just beginning to list slightly to starboard, but the casino and nightclub are packed. Everyone’s having fun. We’re no longer headed back to port. The children under our care run and play, unaware that the engine room is now almost flooded out.

And that’s the story that began to unfold last week, when voters in the world’s richest and largest economy chose a climate change denier as captain of their ship for the next four years. He has promised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement; to forbid the EPA from regulating CO2 as a pollutant; to abandon the Clean Power Plan; to construct new pipelines to increase the flood of Canadian tar sands crude – the world’s dirtiest oil – through the American heartland to export terminals on the Gulf; to increase fracking for natural gas; to reverse the long-term decline of coal extraction and burning.

ship-21And in case there’s any doubt about how serious he is, he’s appointed one of the most notorious climate change “hoaxers” to lead his transition team at the EPA. The rest of the world has begun to ask if it’s possible for worldwide climate action plans to survive under such an assault. Some are talking about slapping carbon tariffs on anything imported from the US. Others are calling us a “rogue nation,” like North Korea.

Me, I’m watching the children play on the ship’s pool deck. Look! There are my little granddaughters! And my daughter-in-law rocking her new baby! They’re so beautiful. They’re so beautiful. My eyes moisten.

Suddenly, I grab for a rail to catch my balance. The ship is now listing harder to starboard. The little ones don’t notice yet. Ice cream is being served. With sprinkles.

Never-Trump Evangelicals on an Endangered Planet

For many American Evangelicals, this election season is different. Whatever we think about guns, or emails, or Roe v. Wade, or billionaires paying no taxes, or health care – we’ve never seen anything like this before.

Since Reagan in the 1980’s, we’ve been a reliable base for the Republican Party. But not this year. This year, we Evangelicals have been split wide open by the looming shadow of a Trump presidency. With nearly daily pronouncements that would normally send Christians packing, Trump has attracted intense criticism from many religious leaders, and awkward theological contortions from many of the Old Guard. James Dobson and Jerry Falwell Jr. still stand by their man. But many church leaders – from Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, to pastor Max Lucado, to evangelist Beth Moore, to author Phillip Yancey, and even to Pope Francis himself – have criticized the GOP standard-bearer as antithetical to Christian teaching.

Russell Moore: "The damage done to gospel witness this year will take longer to recover from than those 1980's televangelist scandals."

Baptist Russell Moore: “The damage done to gospel witness this year will take longer to recover from than those 1980’s televangelist scandals.”

The Never-Trump Evangelicals are a diverse bunch. But we share with each other allegiance to the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We believe that he is Lord of all things: All things were created by and for him; he holds all things together; he is reconciling all things to himself; and he has made us agents of his reconciliation toward all things. There simply is nothing beyond the scope of our Lord’s care – and ours.

Of course, this means that we are not misogynists. We struggle against racism and xenophobia. We recoil at threats of torture, and killing the families of our enemies. We are dismayed at the prospect of a president whose entire campaign has earned him the notorious “Lie of the Year” award. We can hardly imagine handing the world’s strongest military into the hands of one who indulges in noxious conspiracy theories, who flirts with inciting political violence, who admires authoritarian rulers, and who threatens to jail his political enemies. And we feel the threat to what remains of our cultural decency from a thrice-married presidential aspirant whose casinos feature strip clubs, and who boasts of grabbing women by the genitals while his third wife is pregnant with his fifth child.

Trump’s “antics,” insisting that, “such insensitivities wouldn’t even be acceptable even for a middle school student body election.”

Max Lucado: Trump’s antics “wouldn’t even be acceptable for a middle school student body election.”

But for some of us Never-Trump Evangelicals, these are trifles, when compared to the most ominous consequences ahead.

Trifles? How can anyone pass off such patent disregard for the foundations of Christian decency as mere trifles?

Here’s how.

While it’s attracted curiously little public debate, Candidate Trump has promised to singlehandedly undo the entire world’s last, best effort to save our common home from runaway ecosystem destruction. For people who take geo-science seriously, Trump’s promises amount to destruction of the creation that sustains our civilization.

Really. We’re not reading between the lines. This is not something he might do. This is what he has expressly promised to do. Considering the stakes, we’d be fools not to take “straight-talking” Trump at face value: He has promised to spare no effort to destroy every national and global effort to salvage a livable climate for us and our children.

Here are just a few targets on Trump’s planetary hit-list:

  • Abolish the EPA as we know it. (Anyone remember Pittsburgh or Cleveland in the 1970’s? Or Beijing today?)
  • Forbid the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide. (Of course, this won’t be necessary once it’s been abolished.)
  • Halt funding for the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change. (As the second-largest polluter in the world, the defection of Trump’s America would bring down the entire 190-nation effort to stop runaway climate change.)
  • Cancel the Clean Power Plan. (The fossil-fuel industry would be free to emit as many greenhouse gases into our common atmosphere as they want – for free.)
  • Build the Keystone XL pipeline and more like it. (Despite historically low fuel prices, the world’s dirtiest oil would be piped through America’s largest aquifers, for refining and export.)
  • Kill federal fracking regulations. (Even if toxic fracking chemicals can destroy community drinking water, that’s not government’s business if oil companies are against it.)
  • Oppose any carbon tax. (The cost of climate disruption should be borne by you and me, not by fossil fuel polluters.)

So what would it mean to us if Trump kept even a few of these promises?

Well, his scheme will trigger the collapse of the global climate initiative aimed at keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. (In case you are skeptical, mega-polluter China has just warned of the danger of Trump’s plans.) Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will continue to grow unabated. And while the consequences may sound apocalyptic, they are well understood by experts around the world: polar ice sheets will melt faster in the runaway heat; rising sea levels will inundate coastal cities and nations; the oceans will become too acidic to support marine ecosystems; and extreme weather – droughts, floods, wildfires and tropical storms – will drive mass migration and desperate resource conflicts in a world armed to the teeth.

Pope Francis: "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian."

Pope Francis: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

And if that is not enough, the survivors of our recklessness will bear the knowledge that of all the nations on earth, ours will bear unique responsibility for the world’s suffering. At the very moment that the entire planet came together under the Paris Agreement to save our children from runaway climate change, America will have handed the reins of a superpower to the only leader in the world to scoff at the threat of climate change — the one leader whose plans amount to a manifesto for planetary destruction.

Worse yet, our country will have done so with the key backing of leaders of the Religious Right or conservative Evangelicals. Now that’s something to think about.

Because the very name “Evangelical” comes from the Greek word for “good news.” We bear the good news of the gospel – God’s love offered freely in Jesus Christ to an injured world in need of restoration and healing. And yet, perhaps we will have a key hand in destroying the most basic systems that humanity needs for its survival? Really? That’s good news?

No, it’s not. But we Never-Trump Evangelicals know that. Our Lord is not in the business of destroying his creation and his people. In fact, he loved his world so much that he laid down his life to reconcile all of it to himself. And we will do all we can to offer this good news to an injured world.

This is who I am.  This is what I care about.  Other Never-Trump Evangelicals like me agree with this. Maybe you agree too?