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by Achilles G. Adamantiades, GWU1 and World Bank (Ret.)2

A. Introduction and Background

The greenhouse effect and the threat of severe climate change has become a dominant issue in our days. Witness the intense debates in the political bodies, the frequent articles in the news and the editorial pages of leading newspapers and magazines, and the preoccupation with this subject during the July 2005 meeting of the G8 in Gleneagles, Scotland. Many persons of consequence believe that it is the issue par excellence of our times that may determine the long-term survival of the human species (cosmologist Stephen Hawking); others do not share this view calling it alarmist. This brief paper provides background to this problem, highlights the issues, summarizes the risks of inaction and benefits of action and makes suggestions for a possible position that Church leaders may take, based on the fundamental teachings of the Orthodox faith.

What is the greenhouse effect? The greenhouse effect is a natural process in the Earth’s atmosphere caused by the presence of certain gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, among others) which trap energy from the sun. The greenhouse effect is important, because without these gases, heat would escape back into space and Earth’s average temperature would be about 60oF colder. Because these gases act to trap solar energy as a greenhouse does to enable man the grow vegetables even in cold weather, these gases are referred to as “greenhouse gases.” This effect is illustrated in Figure 1. Some greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, while others result from human activities. Naturally occurring greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

Figure 1

Certain human activities, however, add to the levels of most of these naturally occurring gases. For example, levels of carbon dioxide, which is at the epicenter of the current debates, have increased since the onset of the industrial age from about 280 parts per million to about 370 parts per million, a significant relative increase. Although the dynamics of carbon dioxide and the other gases in the atmosphere is a complex matter, scientists generally believe that human activities, mainly the burning of fossil fuels, are the primary reason for the increase. Other human activities like increased agriculture, deforestation, landfills (which produce methane), industrial production, natural-gas extraction from the earth and mining (which release methane into the air) also contribute to the increase of these gases in the atmosphere. It has been estimated that the natural capacity of the Earth to absorb carbon dioxide is about 2-3 billion tons of carbon annually, whereas the current level of emissions is of the order of 6 billion tons annually. It is conceivable that emissions could exceed 10 billion tons per year in 20 years and 20 billion tons in 50 years even if we apply strong energy-efficiency measures3.

Is there global warming? In 2001, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a comprehensive report on the science of climate change. The report stated that “temperatures are, in fact, rising.” The earth’s surface temperature has risen by about 1oF over the past 100 years while the ocean has warmed by about 0.09oF since the 1950’s. But why? and how? Scientists are not exactly sure. The Earth could be getting warmer on its own, but many of the world's leading climate scientists believe that these changes are most likely due to human activities (this conclusion was reached by the NAS in their 2001 report and by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It has been documented that levels of carbon dioxide and methane are now the highest in the last 420,000 years and nine out of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1990. The increase in temperature since the start of the industrial era is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

The Kyoto Protocol. In December of 1997, an international conference in Kyoto, Japan concluded that the phenomenon poses such a significant threat that limits must be imposed on nations to bring their emissions of greenhouse gases down compared to 1990 levels by amounts specified for each country (the U.S. was bound to a reduction of 7%) or group of countries (such as the European Union, which was obligated to a reduction of 8%) in the time frame of 2008- 2012. The U.S. Administration signed the Protocol but the U.S. Senate declared (95 to 0) that it would not ratify it and the Bush Administration withdrew the U.S. signature. In February 2005, after more than 100 countries had signed and ratified it and after Russia also ratified the Protocol, it came into effect – the requirement of having ratification by countries representing more that 55% of global emissions was satisfied.

The Bush Administration has opposed mandatory emission limits based on the following main arguments: (i) there exist large uncertainties in the greenhouse effect and the predictions of the models; (ii) the Kyoto Protocol makes no sense without obligations by large countries such as China and India with large future potential emissions; and (iii) it is not prudent to impose emission limits if they are going to harm the US economy. The president has, however, committed to cut greenhouse gas intensity by 18% over the next 10 years. In addition, at the G8 Conference of Gleneagles, the President signed the joint Declaration which included the following statement: “While uncertainty remains in our understanding of climate science, we know enough to act now.” The British Prime Minister, a strong supporter of decisive measures to prevent anthropogenic climate change, claimed that “significant progress was made in building consensus on this critical issue.”

B. The Debate and the Issues

As is already evident from the above, the matter is quite controversial and political. The main questions quoted by the side that denies the need for action are:

(i) Is the global warming real or not? And if so, should it be attributed to human activity or rather to natural phenomena, for example, emissions from livestock and termites, and controlled by temperature cycles of the Earth which could be long-term phenomena, not amenable to observations of 100 or 200 ago?

(ii) If increasing anthropogenic emissions are real, how well can we predict temperature rise in 100 years? Can our mathematical models take into account physical phenomena such as the effect of rock formations and the oceans and predict with sufficient accuracy temperatures well into the future? Uncertainties are too large and confidence in the predictions weak. It makes, therefore, better sense to concentrate on research to try and understand the phenomenon better.

(iii) If the phenomenon is poorly understood and predictions are uncertain, does it make sense to impose mandatory emission limits on industry that might cost large sums of money to comply with and impact negatively the economy? And finally,

(iv) Even if developed countries go ahead with mandatory emission limits, the overall effect on the gas levels in the atmosphere would be very small if large economies such as those of

China, India, Brazil, and other emerging economies do not agree to make reductions in their emissions.

The counterarguments, offered by the side that advocates action now, are the following:

(a) Uncertainties do exist but the large majority (over 90%) of climatologists agree that the phenomenon is real and it is man-made. A detailed study conducted at MIT, has examined the effect of uncertainty in climate studies, and has come up with the distribution of predictions and their probability, as shown in Figure 3. The median value predicted for temperature rise in 100 years is 2.5oC while predictions range from a low of 0.7 oC to a high of 6 oC.

Figure 3

(b) The economic impacts have been calculated and are, by most estimates, a fraction of one point on the Gross National Product (GNP). It is important to keep in mind that a concerted effort to reduce emissions would create new jobs through the introduction of new industries and novel technologies. These investments could provide a large benefit to the U.S. and world economies in coming years.

(c) Moving away from fossil fuels, which are the main cause of greenhouse emissions (carbon dioxide and methane), either through energy efficiency and energy conservation measures or by intensifying the development of renewable energy and/or other non-carbon technologies, would have the highly beneficial side effect of reducing the high dependence of the U.S. (now about 64% and rising) on imported oil.

(d) Rising temperatures will result in rising sea levels, which is a scientific fact now being confirmed in recent NASA satellite studies. Such rising sea levels will impact first and foremost some of the poorest peoples in the developing world and would aggravate their poverty condition, which the developed countries are trying to alleviate (see Declaration of the G8 Conference at Gleneagles, July 2005). There is a strong link between climate change and world poverty as will be seen more clearly below. The adaptation of poor peoples to changing climate conditions will be much harder than the ability of developed, (relatively) wealthy nations to do so.

(e) Even in the face of uncertainty, taking action is a matter of prudence as it would be equivalent to purchasing insurance. The consequences of inaction (see below) are so large, on the level of catastrophic, that the chance of a radical, man-made climate change cannot be taken.

C. The Risks of Inaction and the Benefits of Action

The probable consequences of temperature rise on the climate and the ensuing impacts on a great number of areas that may impact human life on Earth have been the object of numerous scientific studies. These impacts can be summarized as follows:

(i) Health. Emergence of new strains of microbes and viruses might lead to the spread of infectious diseases and place at risk large populations, especially those with poor health systems and weak defensive mechanisms. Weather-related mortality will increase as will also respiratory illnesses related to air quality.

(ii) Agriculture. Crop yields will drastically change and agricultural production will be shifted toward northern latitudes, which will impact more radically poor nations (particularly sub-Saharan Africa and central American regions). Irrigation demands will increase and will intensify the already keen competition for scarce water resources (see (iv) below).

(iii) Forests. The composition of forests will change as will the geographic range of forests. Forest health and productivity will be negatively affected. Deforestation and desertification will accelerate with large, deleterious effects on the local and the global environment.

(iv) Water resources. As the climate warms, water resources will become scarcer and their quality will decline. The Earth Summit in Johannesburg in 2002 stated that “over one (1) billion persons lack access to safe drinking water and two (2) billion lack access to proper sanitation.” The effect of diminishing resources will aggravate the competition for water and increase the probability of social tensions and international conflicts over it.

(v) Coastal areas. As the icecaps of the North and South poles melt at an accelerated rate, as is being documented in current reports, sea levels will rise resulting in erosion of beaches and inundation of coastal lands, particularly in small islands of the Pacific and the Caribbean, and including coastal areas of the Gulf States in the U.S. Additional costs will be needed to protect coastal communities but many of them are in the poverty category and in a weak position to take protective measures.

(vi) Species and natural areas. Loss of habitat will result in massive loss of animal and plant species, i.e., loss of biodiversity and disturbance of the ecological balance on which the well- being of all living organisms, including mankind, depends.

The arguments for action now. If, on the other hand, action is taken now to reduce drastically the amount of greenhouse emissions, the man-caused climate change will be prevented or at least minimized. There exists a growing international consensus to reduce emissions. In June 2005, eleven national academies of sciences released a statement claiming that “the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions.” This statement was signed by each of the science academies of the G8 countries along with science academies of Brazil, China and India4.

The need for timely action is the more pronounced because the greenhouse effect occurs with long time delays, which means that if action is decided later, when the negative effects become clear and unambiguous, it may be too late to reverse it. As a matter of fact, the effects of climate change, manifested in the form of large-scale damage from weather extremes, such as storms and hurricanes of unprecedented intensity and severe and protracted droughts, has so shaken and alarmed the insurance industry that it is has placed itself at the forefront of advocacy for measures to prevent climate change. In addition, the reduction of greenhouse emissions implies reduction and eventual weaning away from fossil fuels use, which carries the potential for energy independence from regimes of dubious political ilk and reduces the need for military interventions with all their negative consequences.

D. Ethical Issues

A number of ethical issues arise from the threat of climate change that confronts humanity. These can be summarized epigrammatically in the following:

(a) Climate change has been called the single most threatening risk for our planet (physicist Stephen Hawking). In the face of such a drastic threat, many religious bodies have expressed concern and have challenged politicians to respond with courage and responsibility.

(b) As the impacts are expected to manifest themselves in the future, and not necessarily in our own time, the question of our moral obligation to future generations arise.

(c) Although on a small scale human activity can be absorbed by nature and any damage can be healed with time, the present scale of interference now appears to be of such magnitude, and rising, that it is comparable with physical processes, which are, therefore, affected drastically. The capacity of the Earth to absorb the damage is no longer adequate. Do we have the right to interfere so drastically with physical processes?

(d) Can we remain indifferent in the face of large-scale climate change and large potential future impacts? If advocacy of a certain position seems partisan, is there moral responsibility in keeping silent in the face of a grave future threat?

(e) Do we have a moral obligation to act prudently even in the face of large uncertainties? What will be our excuse if, when the danger becomes clear and imminent, we find that it is too late to change course?

E. The Concerns and Positions of the Church

We start our thoughts by quoting his All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in a statement dated 1997:

“...we call on the world's leaders to take action to halt the destructive changes to the global climate that are being caused by human activity. We must be spokespeople for an ecological ethic that reminds the world that it is not ours to use for our own convenience. It is God's gift of love to us and we must return his love by protecting it and all that is in it.”

The Orthodox Church views all secular issues from its ecumenical and spiritual perspective. She is concerned with the salvation of “the person” in Jesus Christ, whose Gospel she proclaims. That Gospel is founded on the supreme command of Love, brotherhood of man, the transitory nature of this life, and a life in communion. Within this framework, the concerns of the Church with respect to the environment can be summarized in the following:

  1. The Church looks upon the environment as a gift of God, as the Patriarchal statement highlights. Man is not the “owner” of natural resources but their duly appointed custodian-steward (epistatis). Hence, an overarching obligation stems from the teaching of the Church to fulfill the role of custodianship-stewardship (epistasia) in the most careful and responsible way, knowing that we shall be called by the Lord, in due course, to offer an account of our actions (called in modern parlance “accountability”)5.
  2. The prime objective of a Christian life is spiritual growth, fulfillment of God’s will, and constant and gradual identification with Him. The drive for economic development, understandable as may be in the context of the effort for better living conditions, cannot and should not overshadow the spiritual character of human existence and should, by no means, lead to the degradation of nature.
  3. The application of energy efficiency – the most immediate response to the conundrum of increasing emissions and resource depletion -- is perfectly consonant with the Church’s teaching for frugality and simplicity of life. The ascetic ideal is not only for monks to apply inside monasteries but for all members of an authentically practicing Christian community.
  4. The world – and the Earth – is God’s creation, not the result or random forces and chance events, and Christians, therefore, stand in awe and respect before it; they do not view it merely as an object of exploitation. Such a new, spiritual attitude toward the world, long overdue in a nominally Christian world, will go a long way in the preservation of nature and the use of its resources. Actions that lead to the abuse of nature and the reckless wastage of natural resources are repugnant to the Church. Quoting once again from Patriarch Bartholomew:
    “For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation...for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate...these are sins.”

F. ConclusionsandSuggestedPosition

The Church is in a strong position, by its teachings and influence, to bring about the required “change of mind” in order to ensure that economic development takes place in a balanced, equitable, and sustainable way, and in accordance with its spiritual teachings. The preservation of nature for the enjoyment of present and future generations lies high among these values. The Patriarch of Constantinople has rightly identified the issue of the environment as one of the critical issues of our time and has understood the responsibility of church leaders to speak out. In his 1997 address mentioned above he said:

“...we call on the world's leaders to take action to halt the destructive changes to the global climate that are being caused by human activity. We must be spokespeople for an ecological ethic that reminds the world that it is not ours to use for our own convenience. It is God's gift of love to us and we must return his love by protecting it and all that is in it.”

 

Annex I

SCOBA

The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas 8 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10021

Press Release July 8, 2005

SCOBA Hierarchs Endorse

Statement on the Environment

A group of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant theologians, convened in Washington, DC by the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, released a letter recently calling all Christians to reject teachings that suggest humans are "called" to exploit the Earth without care for how our behaviour impacts the rest of God's creation.

This letter, reprinted below, was endorsed by the hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) at their meeting in New York City, on June 21, 2005, following its approval by the SCOBA Social and Moral Issues Commission, and recommendation by the SCOBA Study and Planning Commission.

God's Earth is Sacred:

An Open Letter to Christians in the United States

God's creation delivers unsettling news. Earth's climate is warming to dangerous levels; 90 percent of the world's fisheries have been depleted; coastal development and pollution are causing a sharp decline in ocean health; shrinking habitat threatens to extinguish thousands of species; over 95 percent of the contiguous United States forests have been lost; and almost half of the population in the United States lives in areas that do not meet national air quality standards. In recent years, the profound danger has grown, requiring us as theologians, pastors, and religious leaders to speak out and act with new urgency.

We are obliged to relate to Earth as God's creation "in ways that sustain life on the planet, provide for the [basic] needs of all humankind, and increase justice." Over the past several decades, slowly but faithfully, the religious community in the United States has attempted to address issues of ecology and justice. Our faith groups have offered rich theological perspectives, considered moral issues through the lens of long-standing social teaching, and passed numerous policies within our own church bodies. While we honor the efforts in our churches, we have clearly failed to communicate the full measure and magnitude of Earth's environmental crisis - religiously, morally, or politically. It is painfully clear from the verifiable testimony of the world's scientists that our response has been inadequate to the scale and pace of Earth's degradation.

To continue to walk the current path of ecological destruction is not only folly; it is sin. As voiced by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has taken the lead among senior religious leaders in his concern for creation:

"to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation...for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forest, or destroying its wetlands...for humans to injure other humans with disease...for humans to contaminate the Earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances...these are sins." We have become un-Creators. Earth is in jeopardy at our hands.

This means that ours is a theological crisis as well. We have listened to a false gospel that we continue to live out in our daily habits - a gospel that proclaims that God cares for the salvation of humans only and that our human calling is to exploit Earth for our own ends alone. This false gospel still finds its proud preachers and continues to capture its adherents among emboldened political leaders and policy makers.

The secular counterpart of this gospel rests in the conviction that humans can master the Earth. Our modern way of life assumes this mastery. However, the sobering truth is that we hardly have knowledge of, much less control over, the deep and long-term consequences of our human impacts upon the Earth. We have already sown the seeds for many of those consequences. The fruit of those seeds will be reaped by future generations of human beings, together with others in the community of life.

The imperative first step is to repent of our sins, in the presence of God and one another. This repentance of our social and ecological sins will acknowledge the special responsibility that falls to those of us who are citizens of the United States. Though only five percent of the planet's human population, we produce one-quarter of the world's carbon emissions, consume a quarter of its natural riches, and perpetuate scandalous inequities at home and abroad. We are a precious part of Earth's web of life, but we do not own the planet and we cannot transcend its requirements for regeneration on its own terms. We have not listened well to the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

The second step is to pursue a new journey together, with courage and joy.
By God's grace, all things are made new. We can share in that renewal by clinging to God's trustworthy promise to restore and fulfill all that God creates and by walking, with God's help, a path different from our present course. To that end, we affirm our faith, propose a set of guiding norms, and call on our churches to rededicate themselves to this mission. We firmly believe that addressing the degradation of God's sacred Earth is the moral assignment of our time comparable to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, the worldwide movement to achieve equality for women, or ongoing efforts to control weapons of mass destruction in a post-Hiroshima world.

Ecological Affirmations of Faith

We stand with awe and gratitude as members of God's bountiful and good creation. We rejoice in the splendor and mystery of countless species, our common creaturehood, and the interdependence of all that God makes. We believe that the Earth is home for all and that it has been created intrinsically good (Genesis1).

We lament that the human species is shattering the splendid gifts of this web of life, ignoring our responsibility for the well being of all life, while destroying species and their habitats at a rate never before known in human history.

We believe that the Holy Spirit, who animates all of creation, breathes in us and can empower us to participate in working toward the flourishing of Earth's community of life. We believe that the people of God are called to forge ways of being human that enable socially just and ecologically sustainable communities to flourish for generations to come. And we believe in God's promise to fulfill all of creation, anticipating the reconciliation of all (Colossians 1:15), in accordance with God's promise (II Peter 3:13).

We lament that we have rejected this vocation, and have distorted our God-given abilities and knowledge in order to ransack and often destroy ecosystems and human communities rather that to protect, strengthen, and nourish them.

We believe that, in boundless love that hungers for justice, God in Jesus Christ acts to restore and redeem all creation (including human beings). God incarnate affirms all creation (John 1:14), which becomes a sacred window to eternity. In the cross and resurrection we know that God is drawn into life's most brutal and broken places and there brings forth healing and liberating power. That saving action restores right relationships among members of "the whole creation" (Mark 16:15).

We confess that instead of living and proclaiming this salvation through our very lives and worship, we have abused and exploited the Earth and people on the margins of power and privilege, altering climates, extinguishing species, and jeopardizing Earth's capacity to sustain life as we know and love it.

We believe that the created world is sacred - a revelation of God's power and gracious presence filling all things. This sacred quality of creation demands moderation and sharing, urgent antidotes for our excess in consumption and waste, reminding us that economic justice is an essential condition of ecological integrity. We cling to God's trustworthy promise to restore, renew, and fulfill all that God creates. We long for and work toward the day when churches, as embodiments of Christ on Earth, will respond to the "groaning of creation" (Romans 8:22) and to God's passionate desire to "renew the face of the Earth" (Psalm 104.30). We look forward to the day when the lamentations and groans of creation will be over, justice with peace will reign, humankind will nurture not betray the Earth, and all of creation will sing for joy.

Guiding Norms for Church and Society

These affirmations imply a challenge that is also a calling: to fulfill our vocation as moral images of God, reflections of divine love and justice charged to "serve and preserve the Garden (Genesis 2:15). Given this charge and the urgent problems of our age-from species extinctions and mass poverty to climate change and health-crippling pollution -how shall we respond? What shall we be and do? What are the standards and practices of moral excellence that we ought to cultivate in our personal lives, our communities of faith, our social organizations, our businesses, and our political institutions? We affirm the following norms of social and environmental responsibility:

Justice - creating right relationships, both social and ecological, to ensure for all members of the Earth community the conditions required for their flourishing. Among human members, justice demands meeting the essential material needs and conditions for human dignity and social participation. In our global context, economic deprivation and ecological degradation are linked in a vicious cycle. We are compelled, therefore, to seek eco-justice, the integration of social justice and ecological integrity.

The guest for eco-justice also implies the development of a set of human environmental rights, since one of the essential conditions of human well-being is ecological integrity. These moral entitlements include protection of soils, air, and water from diverse pollutants; the preservation of biodiversity; and governmental actions ensuring the fair and frugal use of creation's riches.

Sustainability - living within the bounds of planetary capacities indefinitely, in fairness to both present and future generations of life. God's covenant is with humanity and all other living creatures "for all future generations" (Genesis 9:8-17). The concern for sustainability forces us to be responsible for the truly long-term impacts of our lifestyles and policies.

Bioresponsibility - extending the covenant of justice to include all other life forms as beloved creatures of God and as expressions of God's presence, wisdom, power, and glory. We do not determine nor declare creation's value, and other creatures should not be treated merely as instruments for our needs and wants. Other species have their own integrity. They deserve a "fair share" of Earth's bounty - a share that allows a biodiversity of life to thrive along with human communities.

Humility - recognizing, as an antidote to arrogance, the limits of human knowledge, technological ingenuity, and moral character. We are not the masters of creation. Knowing human capacities for error and evil, humility keeps our own species in check for the good of the whole of Earth as God's creation.

Generosity - sharing Earth's riches to promote and defend the common good in recognition of God's purposes for the whole creation and Christ's gift of abundant life. Humans are not collections of isolated individuals, but rather communities of socially and ecologically interdependent beings. A measure of a good society is not whether it privileges those who already have much, but rather whether it privileges the most vulnerable members of creation. Essentially, these tasks require good government at all levels, from local to regional to national to international.

Frugality - restraining economic production and consumption for the sake of eco-justice. Living lives filled with God's Spirit liberates us from the illusion of finding wholeness in the accumulation of material things and brings us to the reality of God's just purpose. Frugality connotes moderation, sufficiency, and temperance. Many call it simplicity. It demands the careful conservation of Earth's riches, comprehensive recycling, minimal harm to other species, material efficiency and the elimination of waste, and product durability. Frugality is the corrective to a cardinal vice of the age: prodigality - excessively taking from and wasting God's creation. On a finite planet, frugality is an expression of love and an instrument for justice and sustainability: it enables all life to thrive together by sparing and sharing global goods.

Solidarity- acknowledging that we are increasingly bound together as a global community in which we bear responsibility for one another's well being. The social and environmental problems of the age must be addressed with cooperative action at all levels - local, regional, national and international. Solidarity is a commitment to the global common good through international cooperation.

Compassion - sharing the joys and sufferings of all Earth's members and making them our own. Members of the body of Christ see the face of Christ in the vulnerable and excluded. From compassion flows inclusive caring and careful services to meet the needs of others.

A Call to Action: Healing the Earth and Providing a Just and Sustainable Society

For too long, we, our Christian brothers and sisters, and many people of good will have relegated care and justice for the Earth to the periphery of our concerns. This is not a competing "program alternative," one "issue" among many. In this most critical moment in Earth's history, we are convinced that the central moral imperative of our time is the care for Earth as God's creation.

Churches, as communities of God's people in the world, are called to exist as representatives of the loving Creator, Sustainer, and Restorer of all creation. We are called to worship God with all our being and actions, and to treat creation as sacred. We must engage our political leaders in supporting the very future of this planet. We are called to cling to the true Gospel - for "God so loved the cosmos" (John 3:16) - rejecting the false gospels of our day.

We believe that caring for creation must undergird, and be entwined with, all other dimensions of our churches' ministries. We are convinced that it is no longer acceptable to claim to be "church" while continuing to perpetuate, or even permit, the abuse of Earth as God's creation. Nor is it acceptable for our corporate and political leaders to engage in "business as usual" as if the very future of life-support systems were not at stake.

Therefore, we urgently call on our brothers and sisters in Christ, and all people of good will, to join us in:

Understanding our responsibilities as those who live within the United States of America - the part of the human family that represents five percent of the world population and consumes 25 percent of Earth's riches. We believe that one of the surest ways to gain this understanding is by listening intently to the most vulnerable: those who most immediately suffer the consequences of our overconsumption, toxication, and hubris. The whole earth is groaning, crying out for healing - let us awaken the "ears of our souls" to hear it, before it's too late.

Integrating this understanding into our core beliefs and practices surrounding what it means to be "church," to be "human," to be "children of God." Such integration will be readily apparent in: congregational mission statements, lay and ordained ministries, the preaching of the Word, our hymns of praise, the confession of our sins, our financial stewardship and offerings to God, theological education, our evangelism, our daily work, sanctuary use, and compassionate service to all communities of life. With this integrated witness we look forward to a revitalization of our human vocation and our churches' lives that parallels the revitalization of God's thriving Earth.

Advocating boldly with all our leaders on behalf of creation's most vulnerable members (including human members). We must shed our complacency, denial, and fears and speak God's truth to power, on behalf of all who have been denied dignity and for the sake of all voiceless members of the community of life.

In Christ's name and for Christ's glory, we call out with broken yet hopeful hearts: Join us in restoring God's Earth - the greatest healing work and moral assignment of our time. 

 

Footnotes

1George Washington University, Washington, D.C.- Adjunct Professor (retired).

2Margarita Tsirigotis-Oge, Director, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, was the principal technical advisor; Mr. Stratos Tavoulareas, consultant in energy and the environment, was also a technical advisor and reviewer.

3Sources: Okagan University College, Canada; University of Oxford; U.S. EPA; and Intergovernmental Panel for Climate change (IPCC) Second Assessment, Working Group I Report, 1995.

4This important document, which includes the signature of the President of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, is available on the AACST web site as a related article.

​5On July 8, 2005, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S. released a “Statement on the Environment” which was also endorsed by the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). The Statement is appended to this paper as Annex I.

 

Link to this paper in PDF format with figures