You wouldn’t have expected to find a New Jersey produce farmer at the global climate change “COP-21” summit in Paris last December.
But there I was, among Christians from countries all over the world, praying, learning and speaking out – all in support of action to combat the climate pollution that is threatening so many communities worldwide today.
I was amazed at the strong voice in Paris from Evangelicals. The World Evangelical Alliance, representing some 600 million Christians, sent their Secretary-General, Bishop Efriam Tendero, a tireless advocate for poor. The National Association of Evangelicals provided a video message from their President, Rev. Leith Anderson, encouraging and blessing those of us on the ground. The Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization was there too, on behalf of evangelical Christians representing the church in 190 countries.
And virtually every other Christian community – Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Anglicans – were there as well, all declaring that “the earth is the Lord’s,” and appealing for all to “tend and keep” this injured earth as God’s stewards.
After two weeks of intense activity, I returned home to my farm in Andover, New Jersey. My first act was to sit down to write my congressman – Rep. Scott Garrett – asking him to join with a group of Republicans who are breaking ranks with party leadership in its opposition to climate action. I told him that every country in the world has now agreed to take bold steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that they are supported by ecumenical alliances representing virtually everyone on earth who holds to the Christian faith.
Rep. Garrett sent me back a polite note, with the disappointing news that he is opposing the Administration’s plans to fight climate change, especially the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of our nation’s commitment to reduce carbon pollution. Even so, Rep. Garrett assured me: “Like you, I support responsible, balanced environmental policies that protect the natural landscape and beauty of our nation.”
Well, I was disappointed, of course. All those awkward questions from Paris came back to me in vivid relief: Why do your politicians remain willfully blind to the cost that we all bear for your pollution? Why do you insist on the right to pollute the air we all share? Can’t you see what’s happening to the world’s climate?
And they’re talking about my own congressman, no less.
But Rep. Garrett’s reassuring words about his desire to protect the environment made me curious: What specific “responsible policies” does he actually support? So I asked him: “Please be specific: What ACTUAL policies do you support to reduce carbon pollution to reduce the harm of climate change?”
Well, this time, Rep. Garrett’s response didn’t come so promptly. I waited more than a month. Nothing.
Three weeks ago, I summoned up my hopes and wrote Rep. Garrett again: “You have assured me that you share my concern for the creation that we have been entrusted. Please tell me then, what do you propose to do about the alarming increase in greenhouses gases that are dangerously heating the planet that our children will inherit from us?”
Once again, silence.
Well, Rep. Garrett, the world has finally decided to act on climate pollution, and to solve the threat to our children and the poor of our world. Democrats in our country are mostly on board. Some Republicans are speaking up as well. Two Florida congressmen – one from each party – have formed the Climate Solutions Caucus for bipartisan cooperation on climate action.
It’s okay with me if you don’t want to answer my letters. But would you at least consider joining them? Our kids are depending on you to protect the world we will leave them.
John Elwood owns Good Hand Farm in Andover, NJ, and serves as an elder in the Presbyterian Church.