Find a Church or Worship Online


Environment


20 December 2023

Climate change is real, and we need to address it. Now!

This is the first in an occasional series of articles written in response to World Conference Resolution 1325, Climate Emergency, adopted 25 April 2023. The articles are provided by the North American Climate Justice Team.

By Susan D. Oxley
North American Climate Justice Team Seattle, Washington, USA

In 1980, my husband, John Skoor, and I moved from Michigan to Seattle, Washington, USA. A year later we bought a home and began renovations while we lived with John’s folks.

Two weeks before we planned to move in, a nighttime phone call awakened us. A sleepless neighbor smelled smoke, investigated, and saw flames flickering through the windows of our empty house. He called the fire department and then called us with the horrifying news: “Your house is on fire, and all the windows are blown out!”

Emergency!

We experienced shock, disbelief, fear, confusion, helplessness. We drove to the house and stood on the driveway, watching flames shoot through the roof. A third of the house was destroyed, the result of arson.

“What will you do now?” a fireman asked quietly.

Without hesitation we answered, “Rebuild.” We didn’t know if we had the resources, but we weren’t willing to give up. Insurance paid for the bulk of the costs, but all our remaining funds, energy, and time were needed for repairs. It required sacrifices and changes in our lifestyle, but the result was worth it.

We moved into the newly rebuilt house on Christmas Eve and lived there happily for twenty-three years.

Global Fire!

This summer, record heat in the USA seared California, Nevada, and Arizona. Warming water off the coast of Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico threatened coral reefs and augmented storms and hurricane formation. Record floods claimed lives and property in Vermont and New York, fed by air supersaturated with moisture from global warming. Unprecedented wildfires continued to rage in Canada, bringing death to all forms of life.

In April, Community of Christ World Conference attendees voted overwhelming approval for a resolution to declare a climate emergency. Emergency means “Urgent! Do something now!”

Like finding a house on fire, we are letting people know that danger exists. The crisis is increasing, and something must be done immediately. Our church has just joined a growing number of organizations in publicly declaring that climate change is real, human-based, and urgent.

We acknowledge that actions taken so far are inadequate, and we commit to help mitigate global warming. Declaring an emergency signals that we want to make this issue a priority because it is life-threatening. Average global temperatures are increasing faster than nature can adapt. The goal is to avoid irreversible damage to our planet and populations by acting now, while we can.

The crisis is increasing, and something must be done immediately. Our church has just joined a growing number of organizations in publicly declaring that climate change is real, human-based, and urgent.

Since the Industrial Revolution, most people have pursued dreams for the future, unaware of the growing danger of global warming. We have taken for granted our food and water, the diversity of species, and the cycle of life from plankton to the largest predators. But all of those resources depend on stable weather patterns, currents, atmospheric makeup, and carefully honed balance in nature.

Long ago, scientists began to “smell smoke.” They detected imbalances and changing patterns caused by the rise in carbon emissions from fossil fuels. They charted the rise in average global temperatures, the decrease in arctic ice, the rise in sea levels, and the increase in weather crises. As a body they sounded the alarm: “Fire!”

Global Emergency

Initially, few believed them. People experienced shock, disbelief, fear, confusion, denial. In recent years, the increased storms, fires, droughts, and floods provided incontrovertible evidence that climate is changing. Studies of human output of carbon emissions from burning gas, oil, diesel, and coal show that the problem is based in human actions. Organizations throughout the world, including our church, now are waking from their long sleep and shouting: “Emergency!”

Climate change is truly a matter of life and death—for you and me, and for every plant and animal on the planet. That’s scary, and a lot of people don’t want to believe it’s that serious. For you and me, if the temperature increases by two degrees, we assume we can adapt, and it’s not a big problem. But consider the effect it has on the tiniest creatures, the “least of these” in the cycle of life.

The ocean is getting warmer, absorbing much more carbon from the atmosphere than normal. The microbes and plankton in the ocean can survive only in a limited range of temperatures. A small increase can be deadly. If the microbes and plankton die, the entire marine food chain collapses.

Climate change is truly a matter of life and death—for you and me, and for every plant and animal on the planet.

On land, the gnats, bees, and insects that form the foundation of our food chain also are at-risk. Temperatures are rising, pollinators are decreasing, drought is damaging crop production, and human and animal life are impacted. The poorest populations on Earth are most at-risk, and they are the ones that have contributed the least to climate change.

When crops fail year after year, they die—or join the millions who are trying to migrate to cooler areas, taxing the resources of nations already struggling to adapt. We are declaring that this humanitarian emergency should take top priority. It requires action.

Putting Out the Fire

In an emergency such as a house blaze, we first must “put out the fire.” You cannot fan the flames and rebuild. With the climate emergency, that means eliminating fossil fuels to decrease carbon emissions.

What? Totally eliminate them? That’s what the scientists are telling us must happen if we want to avoid the worst effects of increasing temperatures. We must completely halt the mining, manufacture, and burning of coal, oil, and gas. It’s an ideal that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But anything we can do to decrease the use of fossil fuels takes us one step closer to halting the rise in temperatures.

Easy? No. It’s costly and will require sacrifice—a word no one wants to hear. It means phasing out our investments in the fossil-fuel industry and supporting the shift in industry, lifestyle, and jobs to clean energy. Initially, everyone’s expenses are going to increase, but the changing demand for clean energy will lower costs as more and more people make the shift.

It’s already happening at an increasing rate. More people are employed in clean-energy jobs now than in the fossil-fuel industry, while innovation and efficiency are increasing.

What Can (Must) We Do?

Individual action can affect systemic change. Each of us can decrease wasteful use of resources like electricity, water, and energy. We can drastically reduce consumption and take seriously our church’s directive to repress unnecessary wants. We can help bring changes in government, banks, and corporations by writing letters, encouraging efforts to mitigate carbon emissions. Every letter sent by one individual represents a thousand people who think the same way, and letters already have started making a difference.

Begin with issues in your own town or city. What is the city council doing to revise building codes, establish more green spaces, implement green energy in marginalized communities, and decrease carbon emissions? What pending legislation is helping or hurting the environment? Where do your local politicians stand?

Individual action can affect systemic change.

Since every Community of Christ congregation exists in a specific, unique context of geography, climate, and environment, appropriate actions and advocacy must be tailored to local circumstances. One master resource can’t adequately serve multiple situations. The resolution calls for “the church” to create resources. That means the World Church, and the local jurisdictions.

Identify actions that are appropriate for your situation and then share them with other congregations in your area. By sharing key ideas and workable solutions, we can help “put out the fire” in this emergency.

Hold onto Hope

While we are putting out the fire, we must hold onto the hope and vision of an alternative reality for the future: a lush, green world with abundant, clean resources for all people. When someone asks in despair, “What do we do?” the answer is automatically, “Rebuild.” But the rebuilding must be equitable, fair, and empowering to all people.

Too often, climate solutions first are implemented among the wealthier neighborhoods, without considering those impacted most by climate crises and have fewer resources to cope. What are the emergency-response provisions for your area? Who needs extra support in the face of a climate crisis, and how can you ensure support is available?

Community of Christ holds as an Enduring Principle the Worth of All Persons. We are called to build Zion, God’s peaceable reign on and for the Earth. We must continue to live in hope, even as we assess the danger and difficulties of living with a climate emergency.

Community of Christ holds as an Enduring Principle the Worth of All Persons. We are called to build Zion, God’s peaceable reign on and for the Earth. We must continue to live in hope, even as we assess the danger and difficulties of living with a climate emergency.

As a community we must hold onto the long-term vision of God’s new creation and begin building the world we want to see our grandchildren inherit. Only when they are safe to thrive, can we stop shouting, “Emergency!”

Susan Oxley lives in Seattle, Washington, USA. She earned a Master of Arts in Religion from Graceland University and previously served as a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles.

Resources

  • Science behind climate change, the effects of increased carbon emissions: CofChristclimatejustice.org.
  • Earth Stewardship Lesson Series (free PDF download).
  • Checklist for environmentally conscious congregations.
  • Books: Simple Acts to Save Our Planet, The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution, Green Guide: The Complete Reference for Consuming Wisely.

Previous Page

Learn more about Community of Christ. Subscribe