by Don Fausel

At my age (eighty something) I’m not able to get out to participate in rallies that I think are worth wild. I still have signs in my closets like Elders for a Sustainable Future or Mr. President Veto Keystone XL that I carried outside of Senator John McCain’s office in Phoenix, Arizona, or on the corner of downtown Tempe, Arizona with a group of folks who hoped they could change President Obama’s mind. But in the last month or so I’ve been getting more and more emails with petitions for me to sign and of course to send money, though it’s not required. So one of the ways I feel I’m being an environmental activist now is by responding to petitions. Some days I answer six or more petitions on my computer. So in today’s blog I’d like to focus on Divest and Invest. Not because I have a lot of money that I can divest, or that I think you can divest, but the founders of Divest—Invest would certainly like to have more and more interested activists in divestment, and hope our petitions can make a difference.

Here is a website, What is Fossil Fuel Divestment?, that I found to be fairly straightforward to understand. And here are a few of their dictums:

  • Divestment is simply the opposite of investment. It means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.
  • Fossil fuel investments are a risk for both investors and the planet, so we are we’re calling on institutions to divest from these companies.
  • Only a decade ago, tobacco companies were seen as respectable partners for public institutions. That is no longer the case. It is our belief that that fossil fuel companies should be seen in the same light.
  • The public is rapidly coming to recognize that sponsorship programmers are means by which attention can be distracted from their impacts on human rights, the environment, and our global climate.

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

It was back in June 2011 when a group of students and environment activists met at Wallace Global Fund to talk about what eventually would be a new proposal. “Why not launch a coal divestment campaign on the nation’s campuses, modeled loosely on the Anti-Apartheid Movement of the 1980s?” Actually the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) was founded in 1960 to campaign for the abolition of apartheid. AAM grew out of the Boycott Movement which began in 1959. If you want to know more about AAM you can look at the movement above.

Within a year, divestment campaigns were in progress on fifty colleges and universities. Thanks to climate activist Bill McKibben, today, Divest-Invest have spread worldwide “…to become a full—fledged global movement, demanding divestment from fossil energy and investment in climate solutions.” It has brought hospitals, cities, pension funds, faith groups, foundations and individuals into climate activism. Before the United Nations Climate Summit in 2014, “…more than 800 institutions and individuals announced their commitments to divest from fossil fuels—for a total of over $52 billion in fossil—free  investments.”

Here is an outstanding TED TALK for 15 minutes titled: Divest-Invest & the Future of New Energy Solution by Jenna Nicolas on June 21, 2015. Judging from the applause from the audience, if you ignore Ms. Nicolas first line, she managed to get a lot of useful information across in short period of time.  I hope you agree!

In case you don’t like videos, here are several articles, all within the 2016-17. The first article is Assets Pledged to Fossil Divestment Surpass $5 Trillion Says New Report PR Newswire December 12, 2016. Notice the date! It starts off by saying: “The scope of global fossil fuel divestment has doubled over the last 15 months, with institutions and individuals controlling $5.197 trillion in assets pledging.” That’s correct; I said “trillion”!

Even before the UN Secretary—General Ban Ki-moon left his position he took time to say, “One year after the adoption of the historic Paris Climate Agreement, it’s clear that investors have a key role to play. I commend today’s announcement that a growing number of investors are backing as shift away from the most carbon intensive energy sources and into safe, sustainable energy. Investments in clean energy are the right thing to do—and the smart way to build prosperity for all, while protecting our planet and ensuring no one is left behind.”

Divest to Invest:The New Global Movement, by Marcia G. Yerman , 6/14/2016, The Huffington Post. The author of this article is concerned about herself and about us. Especially if we are also concerned about climate change, “…from college student to those planning for retirement is how to combine concern for the future of the planet with money issues, and economic safety.” She has the answer! She’s following the plan of Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). He wants us to use the same procedures that the World War II Bonds . Unfortunately, Sen. Udall’s amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 did not pass. On last April 19 a “…vote tally of 50 yes and 47 no fell short of the requisite 62 votes needed for passage.”

But Ms.Yerman isn’t quitting. After giving us some people who are divesting like Prince Charles, the Rockefeller Fund, and Leonardo Di Caprio, the rest of her article shows us a “A good place to start learning about options is at Divest-Invest . They have an extremely robust website with information geared to different groups including individuals.” Check it out!

Just one more article! This one is by Lorraine Chow, and it’s dated January 12, 2017 Exxon Ordered to Fork Over 40 Years of Climate Change . All I’m going to say isExxonMobil was dealt a major blow when after a Massachusetts judge ordered the company to hand in more than 40 years of climate research.” Interesting, Rex Tillerson worked for 42 years at Exxon as an executive, and now the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday approved his nomination. We shall see what we shall see!


A Book That Changed Our Planet?

by Donald Fausel

I was living in Baltimore, Maryland in 1962, finishing a year of what the Sulpician Fathers called Solitude, which was the last step before being becoming a Sulpician priest, and teach in a seminary. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring came out in September of 1962. A friend of mine sent me a copy of Carson’s book. At first I didn’t think it was an appropriate book to read, since the daytime in Solitude was filled with spiritual reading and I didn’t have time for a book about environmentalism. How wrong I was! But I didn’t know that at that time. It wasn’t until several years ago when I replaced my copy of Silent Spring.

It was only then that I could agree with the words of former vice president and almost president Al Gore, “Rachel Carson was one of the reasons why I became so conscious of the environment and so involved with environmental issues.” I also I agree with reviewer Walter Sullivan and many others who “… compare Silent Spring to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the most controversial American book of the nineteenth century. Silent Spring inspired immediate outrage and opposition. ”

First let me give you Rachel Carson’s Website. As you’ll see she was born on May 27, 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania. At an early age, she had a great ambition to be a writer, but at college she switched from her major in English to biology. She earned a master’s degree in zoology from John Hopkins University in 1932 but her doctoral studies were interrupted due to the Great Depression. “She took a job as a biologist with the US Bureau of Fisheries—and later the US Fish and Wildlife Service—and wrote and edited informational material for the public.”

Silent Spring was not the first book that Carson wrote; Under the Sea-Wind was published in 1941. Sea Around Us, her second book, published in 1952 and it was an unbelievable success. It became a bestseller and stayed on the list for a eighty-six weeks.

After her success with her previous books she turned her attention to a problem with which she had concerned for over a decade—the use of dangerous new chemicals in agriculture and pest control. From there she wrote Silent Spring.

Sadly, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and according to her website “…she hid her illness from the public while she defended her book on television, at congressional hearings, and before many audiences. Silent Spring was published on September 27, 1962 and she died at home in Silver Spring, Maryland, at the age of fifty-six.”

According to Margaret Atwood’s article in the Guardian, Silent Spring also “…met with furious resistance, chiefly from the big chemical companies and the scientists in their employ.” These were scientists concerned with DDT and other pesticides. To give you a few examples, here is video Rachel Carson: Impact of Silent Spring . It was published on April 18, 2013, and has  historical clips on DDT.

Another example is The Power of One Voice. This is a perspective of Rachel Carson’s life as a groundbreaking documentary, examining her life and the profound implications of her  environmental work. The 52-minute film features interviews with Rachel Carson’s adopted son, Roger Christie, her biographer, Linda Lear, and other notable writers, scientists, and advocates.

Today, Rachel Carson remains a role model and inspiration for people across the globe, even as the controversy created by her challenge to the chemical industry continues.  By highlighting the power of Carson’s voice, they hope to inspire others to add their voices to this essential conversation.

Despite the deniers when she published Silent Spring, “Rachel Carson is recognized around the world as the Mother of the Modern Environmental Movement, even as she has continued to be attacked in the 21st Century by those who misrepresent her message of Silent Spring.

This article by Margaret Atwood Rachel Carson’s Book, 50 Years on, fifty years after Silent Spring was published, wonders “…what would Carson have said about the spraying of dispersants during the Gulf Spill?” Or “What would she have said about the rapidly melting Arctic ice or about the plans to shove a pipeline through the Great Bear rainforest to the Pacific Shore?” The article goes on that “She would have seen many signs of hope…”

As Time magazine put it in 1999: “Before there was an environmental movement, there was one brave woman and her very brave book.”

“A Who’s Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones—we had better know something about their nature and their power.” –Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

“How could intelligent beings seek to control a few species a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind? Yet this is precisely what we have done. We have done it, moreover, for reasons that collapse the moment we examine them.”    –Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

May we all see those same signs of hope and follow in the footprints of Rachel Carson!


Climate Change Awareness: The Fight for Future Generations

Climate Change Awareness: The Fight for Future Generations[i]

by Amos Smith

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  -Proverbs 31:8 (NIV)

 I was drawn to the United Church of Christ (UCC) because of its legacy of fighting for social justice.

The first anti-slavery tract ever written in America, called “The Selling of Joseph,” was written by the Congregationalist, Samuel Sewall. The first black man ever ordained in the United States was Congregationalist minister Lemuel Haynes in 1785. The first woman ever ordained in America was the Congregationalist minster Antoinette Brown Blackwell in 1852. The Congregationalist Church, a forbearer of the UCC, constantly stuck its neck out on behalf of those on the margins. Congregational Church members were on the forefront of Women’s Suffrage, Native American rights, the Civil Rights Movement, and Gay Rights.

Now there’s a greater threat to social justice than in any prior generation. At this precise point in history all future generations are threatened. We are hanging over a precipice. The precipice is climate change.

Ninety-seven percent of the scientific community in the United States and abroad agree that the earth’s temperature is rising and that it will continue to rise at an ever accelerating rate.[ii] Some will say, “Stop right there Amos. I have heard that the earth goes through cyclical climate change and that we are just in another cycle of heat that will be followed by a cooling cycle.” If you have heard this message it’s because the Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars so that you hear this message. And yes it’s true that the earth goes through cyclical climate change. Yet, the industrial revolution and the rapid burning of coal and fossil fuels brought an abrupt change that is incomparable to the normal cycles of climate change of preceding generations.

Scientists tell us that 350 parts per million of carbon molecules in the air is sustainable. Back in the days prior to the Industrial Revolution there were 275 parts per million of carbon in the air. As I write this we are at 401 parts per million of carbon molecules in the earth’s atmosphere. And scientists predict that in one hundred years there will be 800 parts per million of carbon molecules in the air.

800 parts per million of carbon in the air will drastically change everything! Water tables will rise and whole countries will be flooded and obliterated.[iii] Masses of people will be displaced and reduced to refugee camps. And refugees are easy prey for sex traffickers, drug lords, and organized crime. The earth’s temperatures will continue to rise (the highest temperatures in recorded history happened in 2014!). And species sensitive to climate will go extinct at faster rates disrupting the delicate balance of numerous eco-systems. The book of Job says “Ask the beasts and they will teach you” (Job 12:7). The alarming rate of extinctions on the planet tells us something! Every decade we see an alarming escalation in the number of extinctions.[iv]

Given our predicament, it’s time for a whole new vision of what it means to be successful! The new vision will place resilience before growth, vision before convenience, and accountability in place of disregard.

A recent poll indicated that 83% of Americans think we should do something about climate change even if it costs.[v]

Proverbs encourages us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute!”

I am compelled to speak on behalf of future generations. We have a responsibility to the future!

We’re the first generation that’s aware of the time-bomb of climate change and the devastating effects climbing carbon levels will have on our world. We are also the last generation who can make a big difference in the trajectory of this time-bomb.

It will take the magic connective interplay of the Holy Spirit to change our current trajectory. People on opposite ends of the playing field (environmentalists and big oil) will eventually have to join together to save our skins. There’s no other way.

This is the current gridlock… Environmentalists say that all fossil fuel burning energy will have to be cut back by eighty percent over the next fifteen years. Then the response of big oil interests like the Koch brothers is to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to discredit the hard science behind climate change. The reason for this massive campaign to discredit sober scientific realities of climate change is that oil companies have calculated that they have roughly 22 trillion more dollars of oil that’s still in the ground. This is their anticipated profit over the ensuing decades.[vi]

One thing is for certain: if the gridlock between environmentalists and big oil continues future generations are doomed.

The only way out will be for the gas and coal burning titans to realize that for their children’s sake and for their grandchildren’s sake coal and gas burning technologies need to be rapidly phased out! Then hundreds of millions of dollars (a fraction of the 22 trillion in anticipated oil sales) needs to be invested in top engineering minds at M.I.T. and elsewhere to devise means of leaching carbon molecules from the earth’s atmosphere.[vii] If Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project could split the atom, then top engineering minds of today can find a way to leach carbon molecules from the atmosphere. This will buy us some time!

Settle down environmentalists! This is not a “technological way out that lets the oil companies off the hook.” This is called pragmatism! This is called paradoxical thinking! We let sophisticated engineering and sophisticated technology buy us some time. And meanwhile we plant trees, we convert massive tracts of land into land trusts, we buy electric cars,[viii] we buy organic food, we plant gardens, we invest in solar and other clean energies, we completely divest from oil, and we cut back the number of children we plan to have.[ix]

The ensuing catastrophe of climate change will bring sweeping devastation to generations unborn.[x] They matter! Their future matters. We must fight for them!

Every time there is a baby shower it should become a politicized event! And at the baby shower everyone should be encouraged to write their local and national representatives urging them to fight climate change!

Our Judeo-Christian covenant is to generations yet born: “I am making a covenant between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come” (Genesis 9:12). This is also called The Golden Rule 2.0: “Do unto future generations what you would have them do unto you” (see Matthew 7:12).

Our minds are hardwired not to evaluate huge abstract threats. That’s the conclusion of George Marshall’s book, Don’t Even Think About It. Yet, for the sake of future generations we are compelled by our conscience to think about climate change and act on it!

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the top leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, has been working on climate change since the 1990s. On June 18th, 2015 Pope Francis initiated an encyclical on the environment, which may prove to be the turning point for climate change awareness.[xi] Vatican Cardinal Peter Turkson, who helped write the first draft of the encyclical, recently called global inequality and the destruction of the environment the twin “greatest threats we face as a human family today.”[xii] Pope Francis said, “we have a moral obligation to all creatures alive and yet unborn to care for all creation.”

I encourage you to do something after reading this essay. I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to get the ball rolling in one of three areas 1) move toward using public transportation more frequently or toward swapping out your gas-guzzler for a hybrid or emission free vehicle. 2) Put solar panels on your house or business 3) Pull your money from companies who profit from oil and invest in a green mutual fund.[xiii]


[i] A number of the ideas in this essay were taken from climate change lectures of United Church of Christ Conference Minister Jim Antal on April 17th and 18th 2015 in Sedona, Arizona.

[ii] The American Association for the Advancement of Science has an eight page paper titled “What We Know: The Reality, Risks, and Responses to Climate Change”

[iii] According to author Ross Gelbspan and others, lands that are the closest to sea level, such as the Marshall Islands, will be the first to go.

[iv] Wikipedia. “Extinction.”

[v] USA Today. “Poll: 83% of Americans say climate is changing.” December 2, 2014.

[vi] In other words, currently 1% of the population is trying to maximize their profits and don’t soberly consider the impact on future generations because it threatens their business and their way of life.

[vii] David Keith, CEO of Carbon Engineering, argues that spraying the stratosphere with sulfuric acid will cool the planet.

[viii] Better yet, buy a hydrogen powered vehicle!

[ix] See Bill McKibbin’s book on this subject titled Maybe One: A Personal and Environmental Argument for Single Child Families.

[x] It’s hard to predict what will happen in future generations. Some phenomena are certain like errant storms and weather patterns, rising water tables, melting glaciers, extinction and waning bio-diversity. Yet, an unstable system will act in unpredictable ways. One possibility is a new Ice Age for Europe and the Northern Hemisphere…

[xi] You can read the English translation of the Encyclical and find resources that will help you interpret the Encyclical here: http://www.climatewitness.org/pope-francis-encyclical.html

[xii] American Thinker Blog.

[xiii] The leaders of green mutual funds are Green Century, Aquinas, and Domini.

Climate Change Deniers

by Don Fausel

Usually I don’t have any problem falling to sleep at night. But the one thing that keeps me awake is after I’ve spent time researching about climate change deniers. When I do get to sleep I usually have nightmares more scary than the 1984 movie Nightmare on Elm Street. When I wake up I’m a little more reasonable and realize that climate change can be solved. It’s a matter of “facts” and “claims”. Facts are unarguable and proven; “claims” are arguable but contain evidence as well, but are not proven.

As a matter of fact climate change it’s not just a “claim” as the deniers would have us believe. Rather, it’s an established scientific fact. Don’t take my words for it! What I want to do in this blog is to give some of the scientific facts, which most scientists agree with, as opposed to the “claims” that most deniers rely on.


Let’s begin with a piece from the New York Times titled, Liberal Biases, Too, May Block Progress on Climate Change, by Eduardo Porter on April 19, 2016. I chose this article because it demonstrates how the diverse positions between the left and right, can impair factual information about climate change. As the article suggests, the people on the right, are identified as individualistic and couscous of big government, and in their view, the scientific consensus takes an opposite position. According to the article, “The people on the right like private businesses, which they see as productive job creators. They mistrust government. It’s not surprising they will play down climate change…” The people on the left tend to mistrust big corporations, and see them as dishonest and harmful. “When science is aligned with big corporations the left immediately perceives the technology as not benefiting the greater good, but only the benefiting the corporations.”

Basically, the authors are suggesting “…those attitudes about climate change have little to do with education and people’s understandings of science.” We don’t need better science, but that somehow “…scientific facts from deeply rooted preferences about the world we want to live in, on both sides of ideology divide.”

It’s not new information that Exxon Mobil and the Koch brothers “…and their scientists are being investigated by the attorneys generals for whether they committed fraud for denying the role of fossil fuels in climate change, even though while its own scientists were aware of the connection.” If you want to know more about how the tobacco companies and the deniers of climate change, read the book by Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming. You might be surprised of how many of the same attorneys that represented the tobacco companies were the same attorneys who were hired by Exxon Mobil when they had to be defended for keeping information about the damage the coal and oil companies kept for 20 years. As Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) reminded us “In America, it is unlawful for companies to lie to their stakeholders.” Shame on them! And if you can get the book Scientific Proof that Exxon and Kochs Distorted the Public’s Understanding of Climate Change, you’ll get more recent information.


Here’s an article from Live Science by Tia Ghose titled 9 Real Ways the Earth Could End. All though it was written in 2013 the content is up to date. Note this article is from scientists not from someone running around the street shouting “The end is nigh!”

The first ways that the scientists believe is a threat to planet earth is Global Warming. The other eight ways that could end the earth are available in the article above.

It’s interesting that Global Warming is at the top of the list that it is identified as “The mother of all apocalyptic fears, climate change is the biggest threat facing the planet, many scientists say.” As we know from positions of those who go by facts vs. claims above, not everyone agrees with the scientific fact. To back that up, here is information from NASA’s website titled: Scientific Consensus:Earth Climate is Warming Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”  The article is followed by statements from 18 scientific associations, along with links to their published statement and a selection of related resource.

If you looking for the congressional deniers from your state who think climate change is a hoax, here is a brief video by Bill Moyers: When Congress Deny Climate Change and Evolution He takes on radical-right congress men and women for denying the science behind evolution and climate change. The video clip shows “Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) chairman of the investigation for Science, Space and Technology Committee of the US House of Representatives, who says “…evolution is a lie straight from the pit of hell and climate change is a hoax.”  

And if that isn’t enough, Here Are the 56 Percent of Congressional Republicans Who Deny Climate Change.  You can see where your congressperson stands on climate change.


Climate Change and Denial: Heads in the Sand, by Haydn Washington and John Cook. With a Foreword by Professor Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt. The good news from Washington and Cook’s book is that it gives you a sense that climate change can be solved, when we cease to deny that it exists. It also gives you a good perspective of the denial industry that is fighting and funding for the fossil fuel companies. We’re saying “keep the coal in the ground” and their saying “more coal for jobs”. It seems that they are not aware that the solar industry is reaching record growth.  See:  California Solar Industry Job Growth Reaches Record Level

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know by Joseph Romm. The book cover reads: “This book offers the most up-to-date examination of climate change’s foundational science, implications for the future, and cleans energy solutions that can mitigate its effects. It offers authorative answers to the topic’s most vexing questions.” The author Dr. Joseph Romm is one of the country’s most influential communicators on climate science and solutions.  


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.


P.S. Leave a reply in the comments section below, “add me to the Elders’ email list”, to be added to the Elders’ email list.

End Poverty, Protect the Planet

by Donald Fausel

On September 25, 2015, world leaders at the United Nations agreed on 17 Sustainable Developmental Goals. Here are those 17 Goals.

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well being for all at all ages.

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

From those 17 goals, today’s blog will focus on Goal 1, ending poverty, and on Goal 13, taking urgent action to combat climate change. It will also include moral issues from Yale Climate Connection. If you want to read the entire article on Sustainable Development 17 Goals, when you get there, click on Goals.  

The forward of the document begins with a statement that is no secret, that it is the poor countries and people who tend to be particularly vulnerable to the difficult effects of climate change and there “…are already evident, natural disasters are more frequent and more devastating and developing countries are more vulnerable…they are more vulnerable because of their high dependence on natural resources and their limited capacity to cope with climate variability and extremes.”

Can We End Poverty?

According to the Sustainable Development goals, more than “…700 million people live in extreme poverty and are struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation.” That’s a lot of people, and sadly Children Suffer the Most… Even in developed countries there are 30 million children growing up poor in some of the world’s richest countries. Any discussion based on the thesis of “ending poverty” couldn’t evade the question: Can it be done? If you don’t ever listen to another TED Talk give yourself a big treat and listen to a 16 minute Alex Thier’s TED Talk on The End of Extreme Poverty . Thier explains how it can happen and how you can help solve humanity’s greatest challenge. He leads policy development, strategic planning, learning and evaluation at the United States Agency for International Development—the lead development agency for the US government and the world’s largest bi-lateral donor. Enough of his background, except to say this Talk is dynamite.

Science and Mortality

“The absence of certainty is not an excuse to do nothing.” This is a caution that Christine Todd Whitman, President George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), made. Whether we’re talking about poverty or climate change, we can apply her wisdom to almost any situation. However, recently there’s been a shift in the conversation from scientific and technical issues to mortality and ethics. According to the Vatican Radio, April 28, 2015, a meeting of world leaders issued a final statement declaring “…human-induced climate change is a scientific reality…and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.” Basically, the statement says that humans have the technological and financial means, and the know-how, to combat human-induced climate change, while at the same time eliminating global poverty.

Fighting Poverty and Climage Change Must be Done Together is a twelve-minute interview with Isabella Lovin, the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, who explains why goals must not be dealt with separately.

Science and Values

Douglas Allchin opens his essay Values in Science: An Introduction, by writing, “A fundamental feature of science, as conceived by most scientists, is that it deals with facts, not values. Further, science is objective, while values are not.” Later he acknowledges that this value-free notion has been challenged by sociologists of science about the authority of science, and its methods are “overstated and misleading”. Many of us might say that science can only provide data to inform our decisions but cannot tell us what we should do, that we should leave our values up to religion. If you read Sam Harris’ latest book The Moral Landscapeyou might not agree.

But for the present time lets us see what some of our religious values are that will help us end poverty and combat climate change. Since this blog is mainly for the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, it seems appropriate to start there. Here is an article from the Yale Climate Connection website by Christine Woodside on April 4, 2012, The United Church of Christ on Climate Change .

I like the first phase of the article; Humans carry responsibility—and should take action. I also was impressed by the Rev. Jim Antal, the head of the Massachusetts United Church of Christ conference, spending three days in jail last August for refusing to leave the park across from the White House. It’s also very motivating to see how the synods have moved forward from 2005 despite  “…all the resistance we met…”. And how about the “Not Waiting for Someone Else to Do It” activity. And how Pastor Susanna Griefen gave a sermon about the climate titled “Slouching Towards Crisis” a play on William Butler Yeats poem, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”. And don’t miss Politics Aside… ‘Everyone Wants to Take Care of the Earth’ I believe we can all learn these.

Below are a list of other religious groups and what they are doing for the poor and climate change. All of these are worthwhile. I want to end this blog with paragraph from the ‘Preach-In’:

“All people of faith share a moral obligation to care for the poor and vulnerable. These are the people who are least able to adapt and who are most affected by the climate crisis. We must not turn our backs on the future generations.”

I’ll focus on other goals in future blogs!

Also see, as part of this continuing series on faith-based groups:
Nationwide Climate ‘Preach-In’ To Target Broad Faith-Group Congregations
The Catholic Church and Climate Change
Judaism and Climate Change
Episcopalians Confronting Climate Change
Baptists and Climate Change
‘Green Muslims,’ Eco-Islam and Evolving Climate Change Consciousness
Presbyterians and Climate Change
Preachable Moments: Evangelical Christians and Climate Change
Mormon Silence on Climate Change: Why, and What Might It Mean?

From Earth Day to Earth Week

by Donald Fausel

Last December I joined a group of residents at the Beatitudes Campus of Care in Phoenix, Arizona to plan for a celebration for Earth Day on April 22. Early on in our meetings we decided to make our celebration a week long event rather than just a day. For the next three and a half months we met regularly to plan activities for each day of our Earth Week. I’d like to share with you some of the events that we had during the week.

Since the Beatitudes is a faith-based campus, we started and ended with:


God of the sun and moon
Of the mountains, deserts and plains,
God of the mighty oceans, rivers, lakes and streams
God of all creatures that live in the seas and fly in the air
Of every living thing that grows and moves on this sacred Earth
Help us to love and respect it,
To repair what we have damaged,
To care for what You have made good and holy.
Give us the wisdom and the passion to change our minds,
Our hearts and our ways.
Let us be mustard seeds in our world
Bringing about ecological conversion which grows and
Spreads to every corner of the Earth.
Four our sake now and for every generation which is to come
We offer this our prayer. Amen.

(Based on Catholic Earthcare, Australia 2003)

Our Earth Week began on Sunday evening when we started with Vesper services accompanied by our Campus choir.

On Monday Gerald Roseberry and I had our first of four TED TALKS. Before each TALK we would read a prayer or petition from an article titled Where’s an Earth Prayer When You Need One?  I found all these requests very inspiring.

Each of the TALKS was about 15 to 20 minutes. After each TALK we would encourage audience participation by our asking questions or their bringing up points they thought would be helpful.  For example, the first TALK was given by Al Gore titled The Case for Optimism for Climate Change. If you haven’t followed his career since he ran for president of the United States, he’s been quite busy. He was co-recipient of a Nobel Laureate Medal with the Intergovernmental Planet on Climate Change for their documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2007, is chair of The Climate Reality Project, and has authored Earth in the Balance, The Assault on Reason, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, and most recently, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. In this TED TALK he asks three powerful questions about “…man-made forces threatening to destroy our planet—and the solutions we’re designing to combat them.” You’ll see, he’s still optimistic about our overpowering climate change.

Our second TED TALK was by Sylvia Earl. She is a legendary ocean researcher who is known by her colleagues as “Her Deepness” or by the Library of Congress as a “Living Legend” and by Time Magazine as the “Hero for the Planet”. She’s earned these titles because she’s “… led more than 50 expeditions and clocked more than 7,000 hours underwater. As captain of the first all-female team to live underwater, in 1970 she and her fellow scientists received a ticker-tape parade and White House reception upon their return to the surface. In 1979, she walked untethered on the sea floor at a lower depth than any other woman before or since.” The title of her TED TALK is My Wish to Protect Our Oceans .

Dr. Earl’s hope is, “I wish you would have all the means at your disposal—film! Expeditions! The web! More! To ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.” I hope you’ll find her TALK interesting and motivating.

Our third TED TALK was by Dr. James Hansen. One of his titles is The Father of Climate Change. As far back as 1988 at a US Senate hearing, Hansen declared that the “greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now”. Later in his career as director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, he “…described how government officials had…changed his testimony, filtered scientific findings and controlled what scientists could and couldn’t say to the media—all to underplay the impact of fossil fuel emissions on the climate.” He now is an American adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. (One of my Alma Maters.)

I had the good fortune to attend a lecture he gave at Arizona State University before we had his TED TALK at our Earth Week last April. He sat right in front of me before his lecture. As usual, he was wearing his wide-brimmed hat and started his lecture  by saying, “What do I know that would cause me, a reticent mid-western scientist, to get arrested in front of the White House, protesting?”  I had a chance to talk with him briefly after he finished his lecture and I told him about the Elders for a Sustainable Future that we had at the Beatitudes Campus. He was very supportive of what we were doing as Elders and he flippantly asked me if he was old enough to join since he had turned 75 recently. So much for my claim to fame! Here’s Hansen’s TED TALK, titled, Why I Must Speak Out about Climate Change.

Our final TED TALK is by Alex Teffen and titled, The Route to a Sustainable Future. After working as a journalist on four continents, Steffen co-founded and ran the online magazine Worldchanging.com from 2003-2010. “In those seven years, he made Worldchanging one of the world’s leading sustainability-related publications with an archive of almost 12,000 articles and a large global audience. He also edited an internationally best-selling book surveying innovative solutions to the planet’s most pressing problems: Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century. “ His most recent work is Carbon Zero, a book describing cities that create prosperity not climate change, accelerating their economies while reducing their climate emissions to zero. As the New York Times said in a recent profile, “Alex Steffen lays out the blueprint for a successful century.”


In addition to the TED TALKS there was some activity related to our planet every day between April 17 and 23. To mention a few, on Tuesday there was a campus stroll to learn about our campus vegetation and a planting of a tree. The Roadrunner Extra, that is published periodically “for the residents and by the residents” had nine articles/poems on issue that related to Earth Day. For instance, The Day that Mother Earth Jolted My Attention Irrevocably!!! by Leroy Calbom was about the 1980 explosion of Mt. St. Helen in Spokane, Washington. Or a beautiful poem by Una Thomas titled Mother Earth and Father Time. Then there was Earth Day on the Farm by Bob Hunter.

The library had a display of books related to climate change and residents were provided with pictures of Mother Earth to past on their apartment doors. Residents also had the choice to take an Earth Day Pledge.  The pledge has four practices:  To REDUCE, RECYLE, REUSE and to BECOME ENVIRONMENTALLY—MINDED.  Each section had at least a dozen pledges. For example, the first three practices for REDUCE were: Take quicker showers—Walk short distances instead of driving—Turn of the lights when I leave a room. If you chose to do anyone of these you put an X next to that practice  you agreed to do. There were 24 practices altogether. At the end of the sheet was the pledge: “I pledge to begin as many of these good practices in my day-to-day life as I can to be a good steward for the future of Mother Earth and for the benefit of humanity.”


Friday evening we had a two-hour program with a diversity of participants. From readings from the Chinook Psalter, to a piano solo, and a PowerPoint on the Greening of our Campus, to singing It’s a Small World, to a number of Earth Notes that were read by residents; to a couple acting out their version of This Earth is Your Earth, we had a great time. But the presentation by a number of fourth grade singers from the Casa Academy brought down the house, as they say in show business.  

So as my father used to say, “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise”, let’s look forward to Earth Week 2017.

Happy (early) Earth Day 2016

by Donald Fausel

bird in hand

Just a reminder that Earth Day for 2016 will be celebrated during the week of April 17 to April 22. Many of us can remember April 22, 1970 when the first Earth Day was celebrated. It was the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, and was inspired by the antiwar protests of the late 1960s.  Earth Day was originally aimed at creating a mass environmental movement.  It began as a “national teach-in on the environment” and was held on April 22 to maximize the number of students that could be reached on university campuses. By raising public awareness of air and water pollution, Nelson hoped to bring environmental causes into the attention of the legislators. The first Earth Day had close to 20 million participating. Future Earth Day celebrations were global.

If you want to bring some nostalgia into your life, here’s a five minute video narrated by Tom Brokaw titled A Quick History of Earth Day and an Interview by Hugh Downs with Senator Gaylord Nelson and Several other Activists .

When I look back at 1970, I wish I could say that I was one of the activists who followed Senator Nelson’s foresight. As far as the environment was concerned I was more focused in learning about the sciences of ecology and cosmology as a way of thinking about the world.  I spent time reading books and articles by Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme and other ecologists. Two books that I still pick up frequently which you might be interested in are: Living by Surprise: A Christian Response to the Ecological Crisis by Rev. Woody Bartlett who has served as a director of community ministries for the Episcopal Diocese in Atlanta, with an emphasis on poverty and environmental issues. As the book’s cover reads “This book lays out four Dynamics of creation that can help humankind reconnect with its origins.”

The second book edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, is a collection of 20 essays. The book was given a strong review by Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. He wrote, “It’s hard to imagine a wiser group of humans than the authors represented here, all of them both thinkers and do-ers in the greatest battle humans have ever faced.” If you go on Vaughan-Lee’s website you can see his article on Pope Francis’ Encylical: Hearing the Cry of the Earth . It was originally first published on Huffpost Religion.

To steal Bill McKibben’s phrase above, at that time in my life as far as the environment was concerned, I was more of a thinker than a do-er.  My interests were more academic than insurgent. My activism was focused more on Welfare Rights, Civil Rights, Mobilization for Youth, the Vietnam War, and other social justice issues.  Besides making a modest donation to the Sierra Club or The Friends Committee on National Legislation, I didn’t get involved personally in the environmental movement until I became a resident at the Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix.

Three years ago, another resident, Gerald Roseberry and I co-founded the Elders for a Sustainable Future. Our mission is:  a solution-based effort to: 1) involve elders as stakeholders for future generations, and Mother Earth;  2) take action through education and advocacy; 3) contribute to reducing global climate warming, and supporting sustainable solutions. We meet twice a month to discuss climate change issues from fracking to divesting from fossil fuels and depositing our money in “Green investments”.

We also participate in rallies at legislators’ offices to challenge their positions on environment issues or at the Arizona Corporation Commission when Arizona Public Service (APS) was trying to raise prices on customers who were already using solar energy. At that rally we carried signs that read, “The Lord Giveth and APS Taketh away.” That was our way of letting them know that they didn’t have the ownership of the sun.

Many of the members of the Elders for a Sustainable Future are on a committee of residents that is planning for the 2016 Earth Day at the Beatitudes Campus.  I’d like to share with you some of the material that we’re considering might be helpful for your celebration of Earth Day.

This first reference, God’s Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States was an effort in 2005 by a group of American theologians, convened by the National Council of Churches USA to negate what they called a “false gospel”. They called on Christians to confront the seriousness of environmental disgrace and take concrete steps to prevent abuse of Mother Earth. The letter lists a series of norms to guide Christian involvement, including “…justice, sustainability, generosity, frugality, solidarity and compassion.” The letter to Church and Society ends with a Call to Action, for “…healing the earth and providing a just and sustainable society.” They end with a prayer, “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 an moral assignment of our times.”  I say Amen to that! Although the letter was published eleven years ago, I believe its message still needs to be heard and followed today. 

Thoughts and Actions for Earth Day 2016

Here’s a three minute speech on Earth Day, 2015, Every Day is Earth Day by Rev. Sally Bingham, President and Founder of Interfaith Power and Light followed by two minutes of videos of what climate changes is doing to God’s Earth.

How about a toe-tapping Love Song to the Earth by Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow and More Call for Action on Climate Change.

Your children or grandchildren might like this four minute cartoon type song, I AM the EARTH , and so do I.

I’ve saved this for last! 12 TED TALKS to Watch this Earth Day. That’s right 12 TED TALKS for Earth Day! And they have some heavy hitters doing the talking and they don’t talk more than 27:44 minutes or less.

James Hansen’s topic is Why I Must Speak Out about Climate Change.  As far back as 1988 he “…saw it as his moral imperative to speak out about the rapid changing plane he saw in his work.”  I read his book, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity back in 2010 when it was first published. Robert Kennedy Jr. called him, “…the Paul Revere to the tyranny of climate chaos-a modern-day hero who has braved criticism and censure and put his career and fortune at stake to issue the call to arms against the apocalyptic forces of ignorance and greed.” I second Kennedy’s accurate description of James Hansen.

Coincidently, I will hear Hansen’s lecture on February 25 at Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. His topic is, “Climate Change and Energy: How Can Justice Be Achieved for Young People and Nature?”

Last but not least is a TED TALK by Al Gore, titled New Thinking on the Climate Crisis . You remember Al Gore, he was the former vice president who wrote and starred in the environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth. He opens the documentary by greeting the audience by saying, “I am Al Gore; I used to be the next President of the United States.” In this TED TALK presentation he shows “…that the impact of climate change may be even worse than scientists had predicted.”

I hope you can use some of this information in your celebration of Earth Day 2016.   Shalom.

The Un-evolving Relationship between Evolution, American Christians, and Climate Change

by Ryan Gear

Last week marked 156 years since Charles Darwin published Origin of Species. Had Darwin lived an incredibly long life, he would be able to see that a high percentage of Christians in 2015 still have trouble with his theory that species evolve over time.

Not only that, he would see that Catholics and Protestants have trouble with the science affirming some human element in climate change. According to a study by Arbuckle and Konisky, a belief in biblical literalism, the same belief behind the denial of evolution, also correlates with a denial of climate change.

While world leaders convene this week in Paris for the COP21 conference on climate change, could it be that the biblically influenced denial of science is actually what is slowing our country’s progress on mitigating climate change? If so, perhaps the place to begin is with a treatment of the Bible’s relationship with the theory of evolution.

Conservative Christian groups like the Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans believe that the theory of evolution is incompatible with the Bible’s teaching of creation in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 (Roman Catholics and mainline Christians see evolution as compatible with Christian faith). The groups who reject evolution do so because the Genesis creation accounts appear to have God creating the heavens and the earth in six 24-hour days.

Even those who hold to a more literal reading of the Bible have proposed that Genesis 1:1 leaves room for a gap of unknown time, making it possible to reconcile evolution with a literal reading of the Bible. This is not the only way of reconciling faith and science. In a post I wrote for the religion blog Onfaith entitled 10 Things Evangelicals Aren’t Supposed to Say, I cited evidence that there are actually two creation accounts in Genesis chapters 1-2.

This evidence, however, is unconvincing to a significant percentage of American Christians. The Pew Research Center found that:

Only a minority of Americans fully accept evolution through natural selection. About two-thirds (65%) of U.S. adults say humans have evolved over time, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey on science and society. But only a little more than half of that group (35%) expresses the belief that humans and other living things evolved solely due to natural processes. About a quarter (24%) of U.S. adults say that evolution was guided by a supreme being. The same survey found that 31% of Americans reject evolution entirely, saying that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

As to the role of religion, a full 64% of American white evangelicals reject the evidence accepted by 98% of American scientists, that humans and other species evolved. According to the Gallup Poll, the percentage of Americans who reject evolution has remained relatively unchanged since 1982.

Evangelical Christian and scientist Francis Collins believes that it doesn’t have to be this way. As head of the Human Genome Project, Collins argues that DNA essentially proves the theory of evolution to be true, and that evolution does not have to be a threat to any religious person’s faith. As a believer in theistic evolution, Collins writes:

But I have no difficulty putting that together with what I believe as a Christian because I believe that God had a plan to create creatures with whom he could have fellowship, in whom he could inspire [the] moral law, in whom he could infuse the soul, and who he would give free will as a gift for us to make decisions about our own behavior, a gift which we oftentimes utilize to do the wrong thing.

I believe God used the mechanism of evolution to achieve that goal. And while that may seem to us who are limited by this axis of time as a very long, drawn-out process, it wasn’t long and drawn-out to God. And it wasn’t random to God.

Even though secular scientists may not agree with his explanation, Christians can. It is a better alternative to denying evidence-based science and human discovery, altogether. More importantly, due to the correlation between biblical literalism and climate change denial, it just might save our planet.


Noah as Metaphor

by Q. Gerald Roseberry

When I was a kid growing up in Georgia, in a small village outside Atlanta, my parents were leaders in a small fundamentalist congregation. All six of us kids attended the Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. One of the things I enjoyed most about those early educational experiences was the teachers’ use of “flannel graph” art as a teaching aid in illuminating the Bible stories. Pictures of people and significant objects in the story backed with flannel adhered to a lightweight board covered with flannel which helped make the story come to life.

One of the stories I loved was “Noah and the Flood.” So I was fascinated to hear that Hollywood was producing a movie on the subject, and I intended to see it. Unfortunately I was unable to see the movie. Many years ago I stopped believing that the stories were literally true. In my imagination, however, I would like to have a heart-to-heart conversation with Noah. The really big question I would ask Noah is, why did God send such a terrible flood to destroy the people and animals and everything else in the land where you lived? But, of course, my interview with Noah doesn’t go well because we live in such different worlds. Everything is different. They are said to have lived unbelievably long lives, such as Noah’s 950 years. Different times, cultures, languages. Even to talk of faith and beliefs would be a difficult at best.

Setting aside a preoccupation with all the species of animals, birds, and insects being rounded up and adequately housed as totally impossible, I am left with the most important question of all: Why did God send such a terrible flood to totally destroy people, animals, and everything in the land were Noah lived? The ancient text gives the explanation:

God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race. . .it broke his heart. God said, “I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep: people, animals, snakes, bugs and birds—the works.” – Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message, chapters 6-7.

So what can we learn from Noah’s story? One possible lesson is that when human beings forget their origin in God’s creation, neglect their responsible stewardship of the earth, God’s gift, and forsake their due care for one another, then bad consequences follow. Pope Francis, a scientist himself, has caught the attention of the world, and one thing he said reverberates in our thoughts: “Destroy the earth, and the earth will destroy us.” In his encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home, Laudato Si, he referred to “integral ecology” which means that everything on earth is connected, and implies that our actions can and do upset the delicate balance of our environment, disrupting the intricate web of life supporting everything existing on earth.

 The Psalmist says in Psalm 24, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who dwell therein. For it was He who founded it upon the seas and planted it firm upon the waters beneath.” Poetic to be sure, but it points to our problem: we have forgotten that earth is not ours to do with as we please. We mortals hold the earth in trust for future generations. In one way or another, we have participated in bringing the earth to the point of rebelling and crying out against the harmful effects of hubris and technology which destroy human community, and disrupt, poison, and pollute the oceans, our atmosphere, water, and soil. This, I venture to say, is the world-destroying “evil” which has brought us to this critical point in human history.
The nations of the world, their leaders and representatives, will meet in early December in Paris to make commitments to reduce and eliminate greenhouse gases from their combustible energy systems. Solutions are at hand. We need to find the political will and the moral courage to apply them. Obviously, the change cannot be overnight, but we must act now with all deliberate speed in ways that enable the essential transitional changes to begin and continue without undue obstruction. That meeting of the nations should be in the prayers of every community of faith and in the hearts of all believers, beginning now and continuing until a just and healing solution is reached.