NASA photo of earth

Elders for a Sustainable Future

By Don Fausel

Before moving forward in my plan to focus on climate change, I want to share my experience with the Elders for a Sustainable Future. The Elders were founded on the Beatitudes Campus, which is a faith base community in Phoenix Arizona “…that offers a wide spectrum of services for older people. Our heritage of Christian hospitality calls us to welcome people of all faith traditions and commits us to a model of wellness and promoted soundness of mind, spirit and body.” This year the campus is celebrating its 50th Year since it was founded under The Rev. Dr. Culver Nelson who was then pastor of what is now Church of the Beatitudes, United Church of Christ.

The Beatitudes Campus has given its Elders an opportunity to follow the title of Dr. James Hansen’s book Storms of My Grandchildren: the Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity in a similar but smaller way.

The Elders meet twice a month on the second and fourth Saturdays to discuss articles on climate change and global warming. We also have over fifty members and friends on our e-mail list that receive monthly articles of interest. Although our title suggests that we focus on the sustainability of the future, we are also concerned with the here and now, since that has an effect on the future. If you are in Phoenix, you might see us marching in a rally in front of the State Legislature building with our Elders’ flags flowing in the wind, or one of our letters to the editors in the local newspaper, or our support for an article on solar energy that appeared in the paper that agreed with the 97% of the scientists who agreed with the article.


I believe that the Elders are some of many Stewards of our planet. I believe that each of us has a responsibility, up to our own ability, to learn everything we can about climate change and global warming so we can be part of the solution, not necessarily as a scientist but as followers of Jesus. I believe Jesus would be leading the way to save Mother Earth, if his earthly ministry was during the 21st century.  I believe that Elders are Change Makers—who can lead by example, creating positive change and inspiring others to do the same.

The more I read and researched the faith communities involvement as advocates for saving our planet, the more I was impressed and encouraged by how much impact their commitment has had locally, nationally and internationally. It became apparent to me that scientists cannot make changes in climate change all alone. The scientists supply the empirical data on which we base our judgments as to whether or not our earth is in peril, and if we are responsible for its condition. The faith-based leaders provide the theological underpinnings based on beliefs that we are stewards of creation.

Another surprise for me was that despite the diverse traditions and beliefs the major religious communities have, they are able to work together on the common concerns for our planet. Abortion, gay marriages, contraception, etc. all seem to pale in comparison to their mutual responsibility for the future of Mother Earth.


Just so we’re all on the same page, here are some brief definitions of major terms that are often confusing. First, Climate Change and Global Warming are the terms that are often used interchangeably; however Climate Change and Global Warming are two different phenomena. One thing that they hold in common is that they both are causing drastic changes to our planet. Climate Change is the change of the world, which occurs over a long period of time. Global warming is the rise in the average temperature of the atmosphere surrounding the Earth. Most scientists agree that Global Warming and Climate Change are a threat for every living thing on earth.

Then there is the Greenhouse Effect, which is the earth’s climate caused by accumulation of solar heat in the earth’s surface and atmosphere. Human activity contributes by increasing amounts of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbon, to the atmosphere back into space. The deniers believe that human activity doesn’t contribute to the atmosphere and is a “hoax”! You might want to acquire some scientific information from an article entitled The Connection Between Greenhouse Gases, Climate Change and Global Warming.

Or even better, an article I just discovered two days ago, Human-Induced Climate Change Began Earlier Than Previously Thought…  I intend to spend more time in a future blog on deniers, but for now let me quote one sentence from this article.  “The first signs of warming from the rise in greenhouse gases which came hand-in-hand with the Industrial Revolution appear as early as 1830 in the tropical oceans and the Arctic, meaning that climate change witnessed today began 180 years ago.” I hope that the current deniers, Donald J. Trump for one, are able to open their eyes and join the majority of scientists who recognize that greenhouse gases are from human activity and that it is being contributed in increasing amount.

Here are two TED Talks that might be helpful in digesting my brief explanation. The first Talk,  Explaining the Greenhouse Effect was created by Laura Horton. It’s only three minutes long, but at the end it has a little quiz to see if you passed her exam. Only you will know!

The second Talk is by Lord Nicholas Stern, titled The State of the Climate and What We Can Do About It. Lord Stern believes “The world as a whole is moving too slowly. We’re not cutting emissions in a way we should. We’re not managing those structural transformations as we can. The depth of understanding of the attractiveness we can do is not there yet. We need political pressure to build. We need leaders to step up.” AMEN to that! To get to this Talk you need to scroll down to the eighth presentation. You might even be interested on some of the other Talks.

One last thought. If you think becoming an Elder for a Sustainable Future is too difficult, consider St. Patrick’s Grammar School in Chatham, New Jersey and their Environment Club, whose president was a fifth-grader, William Brockman. To make a long story short, I just want to quote President Brockman’s wise words:

“There‘s so much we can do to save the planet. At St. Patrick’s we are learning as much as possible. We are environmentally aware. We need to conserve energy and our non-renewable resources. God has gifted us with the earth. We must do something to protect it.” Thank you President Brockman.


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