Guest Blog: Faith Leaders on the Environment

This column ran in the Concord Monitor on June 18, 2015. The Rev. Steve Blackmer founded Church of the Woods in Canterbury.


For the Monitor

Faith leaders from multiple traditions recently gathered in Concord to call upon their own communities as well as political leaders to meet one of the greatest moral challenges of our time: transforming our own behaviors and social policies to reduce the harm to our world due to human-caused climate change.

Stewardship of the Earth has become a unifying principle across a broad spectrum of faith traditions, emphasizing both our personal and collective responsibility to care for God’s creation. This call to care for the global community takes many forms, from supporting energy efficiency efforts within our congregations to supporting public policies that will lead us to a more sustainable energy future that reduces carbon pollution and the affects of climate change. Climate change isn’t coming . . . it’s already here as a reality of our daily lives. Action is needed.

The creation care movement is rooted in our moral obligation to nurture our world and to act as our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Recent trends suggest that the impacts of climate change are becoming more acute, with more frequent and powerful storms, disruption of agriculture, and increased sea level rise. The poorest among us are particularly vulnerable to the global ecological changes caused by climate change, adding to the moral imperative to act.

As leaders of faith communities in New Hampshire, we are committed to engaging our communities to reflect, pray and act to make a difference in our world to develop a sustainable future.

Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and climate change will be released by the Vatican soon and serves as a further reminder of our moral obligation to address this critical concern. The pope is responding to nature’s warnings with a message that has broad resonance on a global scale: We should act on the basis of a sacred and moral conviction to protect and care for all of creation.

While the moral imperative to take climate change action is rooted in scripture and values, its practical earthly impacts heighten the need to pursue public policy options that care for the Earth, provide a sustainable energy future and reduce carbon pollution. The effects of climate change have become more evident, both across the globe and here in New Hampshire.

Climate change threatens livelihoods and creates economic stress. Right here in New Hampshire, the economic impacts of climate change on the state’s native industries such as fishing, farming, and forestry are already taking a toll as ecosystems are disrupted. Our moose population is declining precipitously as a result of an increase in winter ticks and our streams are less populated with trout as warming trends continue. Maple producers report that spring temperatures are less predictable, negatively impacting the harvest. Additional invasive plant species are becoming more evident, and while new species of birds serenade us with their songs, their presence is a harbinger of broader concerns as a result of a changing climate.

The scientific basis of climate change and the highly significant contribution that human activity has made is an established consensus. In calling for action to meet the challenge of global climate change, there are specific strategies that can be pursued by political and community leaders to make a difference.

Reducing the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere is a critical imperative. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the Clean Power Plan, an approach that sets the first ever federal limits on currently unrestricted carbon pollution from existing power plants. Many citizens are under the impression that limits on carbon pollution already exist, as controls on other pollutants have been in place for decades. The final version of the plan will be released later this summer, and states like New Hampshire that have adopted programs such as the very successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are in a positive position to meet carbon reduction targets.

In addition to reducing carbon emissions, increased investments in renewable energy sources provide a variety of benefits, both environmental and economic. Fully funding programs such as New Hampshire Renewable Energy Fund to support energy efficiency projects protects our environment and creates jobs.

On the international stage, leaders from across the globe will meet in Paris at the close of 2015 for the United Nations Climate Change Conference to negotiate a broad agreement to reduce carbon emissions. This effort deserves our support and prayers for mutual respect and understanding to ensure truly significant progress.

As leaders of faith, a central tenet of our shared humanity is that we are the keepers of our brothers and sisters and the stewards of creation. This means working to protect all that has been entrusted to us by our creator from harm. Encouraging the development of a transformative effort to meet the critical challenge of climate change is thus a moral imperative that can be ignored no longer.

(Also in support of this op-ed are Rev. Tim Roser, Rev. Roger Burkhart, Pastor Durwood Sargent, Rev. Michael Leuchtenberger, Patrick Carolan of the Franciscan Action Network and Bob Schultz of the Friends Committee on National Legislation.)