CLIMATE CHANGE

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Greenpeace stages a protest outside the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 18, 2016. PHOTO: Youssef Boudlal/REUTERS

Greenpeace stages a protest outside the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 18, 2016. PHOTO: Youssef Boudlal/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] Nations worldwide convened Nov. 7-18 in Marrakesh, Morocco, to hammer out the details of the Paris Agreement in a shift toward implementation and action on climate and sustainable development.

“Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond,” reads the Marrakesh Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Development issued at the close of the 22nd Conference fo the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“We welcome the Paris Agreement … its rapid entry into force, with its ambitious goals, its inclusive nature and its reflection of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances, and we affirm our commitment to its full implementation.”

In December 2015, world governments and officials met in France to reach a historic agreement to reduce carbon emissions and arrest global warming. Since then, 111 countries, including the United States have signed the Paris Agreement, which went into effect on Nov. 4.

The agreement calls on the countries of the world to limit carbon emissions, which will require a decrease in dependence on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources; and for developed countries, those responsible for the majority of emissions both historically and at present, to commit to $100 billion in development aid annually by 2020 to developing countries.

The proclamation calls for strong solidarity with those countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; for all parties to strengthen and support efforts to eradicate poverty, ensure food security and to take stringent action to deal with climate change challenges in agriculture; to close the gap between current emissions trajectories and the pathway needed to meet the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement; and for an increase in the volume, flow and access to finance for climate projects, alongside improved capacity and technology, including from developed to developing countries.

“The Marrakesh Proclamation declares ‘irreversible momentum on climate,’ we now pray and discern our way to take part in this momentum,” said California Bishop Marc Andrus, who attended the United Nations climate conference in Marrakesh as an Episcopal delegate representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

“The Episcopal Church has an ecumenical and interfaith stance that impels us to work on building vibrant relationships with other denominations of Christianity and with other religions – again, we can ask what this diverse, complicated and increasingly integrated set of relationships offers to climate action.”

An interfaith climate statement signed by close to 300 religious leaders from 50 countries was presented Nov. 16 to a member of the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Change Support Team. The interfaith statement calls on nations to justly manage the transition to a low carbon economy and urges governments to shift trillions of dollars of investments in fossil fuels into renewable energy, goals in line with the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

The United States is the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, which trap heat in the atmosphere and make the planet warmer.

The Nov. 8 election of Donald J. Trump as the next U.S. president cast a pall over the climate conference, as he has vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and curb the country’s commitment to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. The president-elect has called human-caused climate change a “hoax.”

“In the first week, the general pulse of the COP gathering was one of shock, denial, grief and anguish when the results of the U.S. elections became known. It was characterized by gloom, even tears, as many felt that the hard work that had been done was just about to go down the tubes,” said Lynnaia Main, global partnerships officer for the Episcopal Church and its liaison to the United Nations, who also attended the conference on behalf of the presiding bishop.

The mood, however, began to change at the start of the second week, she said, “we began to hear signs of hope and reaffirmation of the willingness to remain together and push forward on climate action.”

For instance, said Main, faith-based groups in attendance at the conference pledged to continue their work, with a focus on city and state governments and at the global level; while continuing to engage with the U.S. government.

“These smaller actors have the potential to make big strides in curbing emissions, and as advocates, we can plug into this potential through urging local structures to play their part in the international climate effort,” said Jayce Hafner, the Episcopal Church’s domestic policy analyst based in Washington, D.C., and a member of Curry’s delegation.

On Nov. 16, major corporations and investors called on President Barack Obama and president-elect Trump, to continue low-carbon policies and investments, and to stay committed to the Paris Agreement.

On Nov. 18, Trump announced three cabinet picks, all on the record as climate deniers. That same day, some of the world’s poorest countries strengthened their pledges to move toward renewables to meet 100 percent of their energy needs.

For its part, the Episcopal Church engages in environmental and climate justice advocacy using as a basis resolutions passed by the Church’s General Convention and its Executive Council, which in 2008 adopted support for the Church’s long-term carbon neutral goals.

The 2015 General Convention passed legislation to create a task force on climate change, which will provide resources that parishes can use to “green” their churches and educate members on what they can do to address climate change in their everyday lives.

“As the Episcopal Church mobilized in the early years of this century to embrace and forward the United Nations goals to reduce extreme poverty globally, so we can work in partnership with non-governmental organizations and governmental bodies to create a sustainable world,” said Andrus, at the close of the climate conference in Marrakesh.

“The Episcopal Church has enormous resources – chief among them are what [Holocaust survivor and filmmaker] Pierre Sauvage called ‘weapons of the spirit’ – prayer and our spiritual values, the sacraments, the Scriptures, the Body of the faithful, and the Holy Spirit. All of these spiritual realities inform and support our action in the world – finance, advocacy, ‘greening the Church,’ resistance, solidarity, protest.”

Many Episcopal churches have installed solar panels. And this year, Church Divinity School of the Pacific installed the largest solar panel grid of any theological institution in the country.

The Diocese of North Dakota is working on an energy sustainability project in its seven native ministries and congregations, including churches on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, near where protesters have for more the six months opposed construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the tribe’s water supply and sacred sites. Andrus recently joined more than 540 clergy and lay leaders in a day of solidarity and witness with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

– Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.

Greenpeace stages a protest outside the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 18, 2016. PHOTO: Youssef Boudlal/REUTERS [Episcopal News Service] Nations worldwide convened Nov. 7-18 in Marrakesh, Morocco, to hammer

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has joined with the Episcopal-Anglican-Lutheran leadership of Canada and the United States in a letter to both United States President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper concerning the review and future of the Columbia River Treaty, drawing attention to its impact on Indigenous peoples and regional residents as well as the implications of climate change for this sensitive ecosystem, the fisheries it supports, and the environmental services it provides.

In writing the letter, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori joined with: Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, Primate, Anglican Church of Canada; and Bishop Susan Johnson, National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

“We hear in this moment the call of God to work for justice and to deepen our practice of living as treaty people,” the four leaders stated in the letter. “In this time of climate change, the United States, Canada, tribes and First Nations working together to promote stewardship of shared waters would be a sign of hope for a healthier environment and a fairer world.”

The following is the letter to the President and Prime Minister:

To President Barack Obama and Prime Minster Stephen Harper

 

June 11, 2015

We write to you to add our voices to those who are calling for a review of the Columbia River Treaty in order to respect the rights, dignity and traditions of the Columbia Basin tribes and First Nations by including them in the implementation and management of the Treaty, and to include the healthy functioning of the ecosystem as an equal purpose of the Treaty.

On September 23, 2014, you received the Declaration on Ethics and Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty, and the Columbia River Pastoral Letter upon which the Declaration is based. The Declaration sets forth eight valuable principles to consider in the review of the Columbia River Treaty.

As noted in the Declaration, the original treaty only included flood control and hydroelectric power generation as international management purposes of the Columbia River. We stand at a critical moment in history regarding both the renewal of relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and the addressing of climate change. In fact, Indigenous rights and climate justice are deeply interrelated. The right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent is enshrined in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The wisdom of Indigenous peoples is vital to addressing the environmental crisis.

We hear in this moment the call of God to work for justice and to deepen our practice of living as treaty people. In this time of climate change, the United States and Canada working together to promote stewardship of shared waters would be a sign of hope for a healthier environment and a fairer world.

Please move forward with negotiations to review the Columbia River Treaty, and thereby provide  a respectful, just and sustainable model for stewardship of these vital waters.

 

Sincerely,

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

 

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

Presiding Bishop

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz

Primate

Anglican Church of Canada

 

Bishop Susan Johnson

National Bishop

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

 

 

 

 

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Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has joined with the Episcopal-Anglican-Lutheran leadership of Canada and the United States in a letter to both United States President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen
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Students from Campbell Hall and St. Margaret's Episcopal Schools observe elephant seals during mating season on the coast of Big Sur, California. From birth to death and everything in between, the full cycle of life was on display. Photo: Andrew Barnett/Diocese of Los Angeles

Students from Campbell Hall and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Schools observe elephant seals during mating season on the coast of Big Sur, California. From birth to death and everything in between, the full cycle of life was on display. Photo: Diocese of Los Angeles

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians old and young often turn to the phrase “this fragile earth, our island home” when talking about stewardship of the planet. It comes from Eucharistic Prayer C, found in the Book of Common Prayer.

A little further down the page, the prayer continues: “You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.”

Over the last 21 days, Episcopalians have been participating in 30 Days of Action, a campaign designed and initiated by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to engage individuals and congregations in a conversation about climate change. (The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission.)

The campaign, which began with a live, webcast forum on March 24, culminates on Earth Day, April 22. Resources and activities for the campaign include advocacy days, bulletin inserts, stories, sermons and outdoor excursions.

The 30 Days of Action, as well as the fifth of the Five Marks of Mission, are a call to action to regain that trust and to come together in community to care for creation.

As James Pickett, a climate-change activist and young adult from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, makes clear in a recent blog post, unless Anglicans and Episcopalians take seriously the fifth of the Five Marks of Mission, “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth,” the other four marks are irrelevant.

“If we don’t treasure creation, the other marks of mission cannot be accomplished,” wrote Pickett.

Just talking about climate change and its related justice issues doesn’t cut it, according to Pickett and others; it’s about living the marks and putting faith into action.

Last fall, Pickett and other Episcopalians joined the more than 300,000 people from across the country and the world on the streets of New York for the People’s Climate March, the largest demonstration for climate action in history.

As evidenced in the activities and resources included and developed for the 30-day campaign, it’s impossible to have a conversation about climate change and not talk about justice issues implicit in the Five Marks of Mission.

“When The Episcopal Church adopted the Five Marks of Mission, I was struck by the practical nature of the language and its action-oriented invitation,” said lifelong environmentalist Bronwyn Clark Skov, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s officer for youth ministries. “I am especially thankful for the specificity of the Fifth Mark of Mission, ‘to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’”

“It could be argued that this area of ministry is an undercurrent of the Baptismal Covenant, but these newer words open greater possibilities for imagining our role as Christian citizens caring for the earth, our home,” she said. “This is a wonderful teaching point when engaged with young people and discussing how their Christian identity might impact the choices they make.”

An environmentalist since her father encouraged her as a child, Skov recalled learning about recycling early on.

“I remember sorting newspapers to drop off at the once-a-month newspaper drive. I was taught to rinse out tin cans, remove both ends and carefully flatten the can on the rug on the kitchen floor, so as not to damage the linoleum beneath the woven fabric,” she said. “When engaged in ministry with young people, I name and claim this lifelong habit and invite young people to join me in my commitment to reduce, recycle and reuse those items that will not easily biodegrade in a landfill. This behavior has become a part of who I am, a piece of my personal identity.”

The Five Marks of Mission begin to address how Episcopalians can become environmental stewards and turn toward one another in community, rather than betraying the earth and turning away from one another, as the eucharistic prayer states.

Children and teenagers especially feel empowered by the language used in the marks, said Skov. She refers to them as a way to practice the vows made at baptism, and she invites young people to name and claim the ways in which they are already living some of the marks.

“The beauty of the fifth mark, treasuring the earth with intentionality, is a place where we can engage in our communities in partnership across denominational, religious and political divides,” she said. “Mission and ministry in this area [are] easy to embrace with school-age humans as they learn about the environment in classroom settings and can then see the intersection of their secular experience in the world with their values as a member of a community of faith.”

More than 1,000 high school-aged students attended last year’s Episcopal Youth Event in Pennsylvania, where climate change was among the issues discussed and where youth were becoming agents of transformation.

Americans’ views on climate change vary from state to state, town to town and sometimes family member to family member. Climate change is an increasingly charged political issue that often pits conservatives against liberals. At the same time, religious communities across the spectrum have joined in the call to reduce carbon emissions and to treat climate change as a moral issue.

In an interview with The Guardian that ran on the day of the climate-change-crisis forum in March, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori described climate change as a moral challenge already threatening the livelihood and survival of people in the developing world.

“It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already,” she said.

Across the board, Episcopalians are taking that moral challenge seriously, including by contributing to the 30 Days of Action.

As the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, missioner for creation care in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, put it in a sermon written for the Sunday after Easter: “Climate change isn’t just an ‘environmental’ issue – it’s a ‘civilization’ issue. It’s not just about polar bears – it’s about where our grandchildren will find clean water. It’s about how societies will handle growing epidemics of infectious diseases such as malaria, cholera and dengue fever. It’s about where masses of people will go as rising seas drive them from their homes or when the rains don’t fall and the fields turn to dustbowls. It’s about hungry, thirsty people competing for scarce resources and reverting to violence, civil unrest or martial law in the struggle to survive.”

Formation resources focused on creation care
The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Lifelong Christian Formation Office and other clergy and lay Episcopalians active on climate-change issues have compiled comprehensive resources for environmental liturgy, including the 30 Days of Action.

“The formation offices have been talking about climate change and caring for the environment with children and their families for years,” said the Rev. Shannon Kelly, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s acting missioner for campus and young adult ministries.

“Young people encounter caring for the environment every day as they talk about recycling, ‘upcycling’ and conservation in their schools, at home and at church. Bringing this important subject into the life of the church and into the programs creates space for the children and adults to think, pray and experience how caring for the environment is caring for God’s creation.”

Environmental Stewardship Fellow Cindy Coe works in the garden with students of the Episcopal School of Knoxville. Photo courtesy of Episcopal School of Knoxville

Environmental Stewardship Fellow Cindy Coe works in the garden with students of the Episcopal School of Knoxville. Photo courtesy of Episcopal School of Knoxville

In Tennessee, exploring nature is becoming an integral component of learning to read.

In early June, the Diocese of East Tennessee will offer “Reading Camp Knoxville” to third- and fourth-graders who are both living in poverty and struggling to learn to read. As part of the program, the children, who come from urban areas, will go on afternoon field trips, hiking in wooded areas working in gardens, said Cindy Coe, who is on the planning committee and working with afternoon extracurricular activities.

“All of these activities are geared to fostering a sense of connectedness and appreciation of the natural world. The best way to do this is to actually get children outdoors, exploring nature,” said Coe, who last year received an environmental-stewardship fellowship from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

Through the fellowship, Coe is working to develop the next generation of leaders.

“This is not something that can be done by ‘book learning’ only,” she said. “Activities that encourage children to look closely at natural objects, mapping activities and identifying a special place outdoors are all effective ways to help children bond with nature. If a child is able to develop a bond with nature, chances are that the child will grow up with an appreciation of the environment and will care for the environment as an adult.”

Coe is working on developing new resources to introduce creation care to children and youth in The Episcopal Church, for use in camps, schools and parishes.

She hopes, she said, that all Christian formation programs in The Episcopal Church eventually will include some aspect of environmental stewardship.

In Virginia, Coe also is working with the planning team of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Greenwood, Virginia, to design a vacation Bible school program based on care for creation and the Fifth Mark of Mission called “Earth, Our Island Home.”

The parish takes seriously the words “this fragile Earth, our island home” in Eucharistic Prayer C, said Coe.

“So the concept of creation care has a special meaning for the parish,” she said. “ Each day, children will participate in worship, hear a story based on creation care and take part in noncompetitive games designed to introduce environmental stewardship.”

Arts and crafts will embrace environmental stewardship, as children will be offered objects to “upcycle” and make into new creations, she said. “New life will be an important theme of the camp, connecting themes of recycling, composting and gardening with the Christian story of resurrection and new life in Christ.”

In the Diocese of Los Angeles, where the Rev. Andrew K. Barnett serves as the bishop’s chair for environmental studies, young people are learning to care for creation by learning to love it.

“I think that we will not fight to save a thing we do not love, by which I mean in order to empower people to care for ‘this fragile earth our island home,’ we first have to find that meaningful and valuable in a deep way, and talking about it doesn’t really cut it,” said Barnett, before the March 24 forum.

“So I have really made a significant priority of taking kids outside. So we take these wilderness retreats to places like Big Sur, Lake Lopez, Yosemite and Catalina Island. We have games, we go kayaking, we go hiking, we do service projects,” he said.

“The kids love it, they just love it. They light up because they are doing exactly what we need, which is community, connection and reference in these incredible, awe-inspiring places. So you don’t have to say this is important, this is beautiful, because it is immediately present or it’s just in your bones.”

Barnett serves as school chaplain at Campbell Hall Episcopal School in the Diocese of Los Angeles, where Bishop J. Jon Bruno and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society partnered to host the March 24 forum

Barnett talks to the students about climate change in stark terms, incorporating research and science — not to exaggerate, he said, but to name the severity of the threat.

“Kids can handle that truth. They don’t like things being sugar-coated. They prefer: ‘This is going to be the biggest challenge of your generation,’” said Barnett. “Our generation has abjectly failed in our attempt to reduce emissions. We talked about it a lot, we have a lot of meetings, but emissions keep going up.

“If you fail at this task, most other tasks won’t matter, because climate change affects almost everything worth caring about and, other than nuclear annihilation, presents the greatest threat to humanity that we’ve ever known.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misattributed the authorship of the words “this fragile Earth, our island home,” which appear in Eucharistic Prayer C. They were written by Howard E. Galley Jr.

— Lynette Wilson is a reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service.

Students from Campbell Hall and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Schools observe elephant seals during mating season on the coast of Big Sur, California. From birth to death and everything in between, the full cycle of life was on display. Photo: Diocese

The mission of Interfaith Power & Light is to be faithful stewards of Creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. This campaign intends to protect the earth’s ecosystems, safeguard the health of all Creation, and ensure sufficient, sustainable energy for all.

The mission of Interfaith Power & Light is to be faithful stewards of Creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. This campaign intends to protect the earth’s