Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Booklist: What we are reading

I'm trying to catch up on books that have been on my list for a while. I'll start with the ones I've finished.
Serve God Save the Planet by Dr. Matthew Sleeth. This was a good introductory book for people who may not already know some of the issues surrounding Creation Care. It is also a good practical guide for people who want to get started in conservation practices at home but don't know where to begin. Sleeth covers both the biblical need for Creation Care and why we should care, he gives examples and also shows how he has changed his own life to live more sustainably.
Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential by Gordon T. Smith. This book is affirming and empowering. Smith talks about what it means to align your calling with your vocation, but not forget that calling is also about your life outside of work. A nice relief from books that strictly focus on the working life, Smith covers a wide range life aspects and how that related to your potential and calling, or vocation.
Mmm, coffee and a good book is how I like to spend my Saturday mornings.

Books on my list to read:
Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for our Planet by Jonathan Merritt. I bought this book off Amazon recently, where it retails new for less than $15. The description says: Imagine God recycling bottles and planting trees. In this book by faith and culture writer Merritt, God is honored as the ultimate environmentalist who restores and loves His own creation. Evangelical Christians are less supportive of environmental causes than other groups, a statistic that Merritt attributes to misinformation and politics that hamper understanding. Through a compilation of scripture, statistics, and his own anecdotes, Merritt explains that creation care is a shared moral obligation—not a political viewpoint or a film by Al Gore. The world is God's apologetic about Himself; it is the Christian's job to maintain its beauty and complexity. Merritt arms the reader with Bible verses commanding care for creation; resources and suggestions for green living are given in the appendixes. Himself a convert to the idea of God as green, Merritt is sure to appeal to the hearts of even the most polarized Christians. His guide could be turned into relevant sermon material and should be mandatory reading for churchgoers.
The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book by Dr. Matthew Sleeth. I bought this one recently as well. It has very high reviews. The description says: From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is filled with instructions on how we can demonstrate our love for the Creator by caring for the earth. Sleeth leads us on a highly creative journey through Scripture, visiting some of the most important characters in the Bible and discovering what they can teach us about issues such as stewardship, caring for our neighbors, climate change, and pollution. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden teach us the importance of physical work in relation to discovering fulfillment and a sense of human purpose, the prophet Daniel calls us to question our dietary habits, and the story of Noah addresses key issues for life on earth: how do we relate to the Creator, to others in the human community, and to the rest of the natural world? With passion and faith, Sleeth provides a new green lens through which we can read the Bible to discover answers to our biggest questions about the environment and how to care for it.
Sustainability on Campus: Stories and Strategies for Change, edited by Peggy Barlett and Geoffrey Chase. I picked this one up at the recent AASHE conference in Denver. The description says: These personal narratives of greening college campuses offer inspiration, motivation, and practical advice. Written by faculty, staff, administrators, and a student, from varying perspectives and reflecting divergent experiences, these stories also map the growing strength of a national movement toward environmental responsibility on campus. Environmental awareness on college and university campuses began with the celebratory consciousness-raising of Earth Day, 1970. Since then environmental action on campus has been both global (in research and policy formation) and local (in efforts to make specific environmental improvements on campuses). The stories in this book show that achieving environmental sustainability is not a matter of applying the formulas of risk management or engineering technology but part of what the editors call "the messy reality of participatory engagement in cultural transformation." The authors of Sustainability on Campus report from a diverse group of institutions ranging from two-year community colleges to famous research universities. They tell of environmental stewardship on campus, curriculum changes, green building design, working with local communities, and system-wide initiatives. Their chronicles include the early mistakes and successes of the Green Task Force at Illinois Wesleyan, the history of an innovative interdisciplinary graduate curriculum at the University of California at Berkeley, the planning and construction of a green Environmental Studies building at Oberlin College, the joint efforts of local businesses and students at Allegheny College to promote eco-tourism in northwest Pennsylvania, a donor-initiated multi-university consortium in South Carolina, and the implementation of sustainability requirements for all students at Oakland Community College in Detroit.

What books are on your list? Do you have a book to recommend to me?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meet Stephen

[Today's blog post was written by Stephen Temple, student intern for CSI/Operations at IWU. Stephen is a senior studying business, and he hopes to become a consultant after graduating in the spring of 2011.]
Photo from www.myfootprint.org

Today was the end to a very interesting first week for me working with the sustainability division of Operations and Facilities Planning at here at IWU. Upon arriving I was asked to take a test unlike any other I have ever set eyes on. This test was done online at a website called www.myfootprint.org, and is basically an assessment as to how large one’s ecological footprint is (how environmentally friendly one is), and gives steps after assessing this to help reduce the impact of your footprint on earth.
 One of the most unique things about the website itself, was how they rated one’s “eco-friendliness.” When I was done with the assessment, instead of telling some meaningless figures regarding my progress, they instead used practical terms that applied to me by listing how many “earths” we as humans would need to sustain all the consumption that would occur if everyone in the world used as much energy and resources as I have been.
My number was 4.72 earths when tested against how I used resources at Indiana Wesleyan. However, it 6.63 earths when I calculated it with time when spent at my home in Nebraska. When I was done with it though, I was not extremely pleased with my results so I looked on the website for other things that I could possibly do to reduce my individual footprint. One of the most convicting things was my lack to conserve water during my end-of-day showers when it’s used more for relaxing than hygiene. I saw the impact of these actions though, and committed to stop. Also, I realized I need to shop more at organic stores. Doing this not only keeps our earth cleaner, but also, more nutritional forms of food are there and so this in turn keeps our bodies cleaner as well.
So by now I assume you realize that the primary reason I am writing today is to encourage all of you to go on myfootprint’s site and see where you are at regarding your own impact. See how much of the earth’s resources you are using. See how you stack up against the average consumption in other third world nations. And through us all doing this, maybe we will even see beyond the results, finally able to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. And maybe, just maybe, we could see this not as a measure of what we have been using, but what we have been taking, and who we have been taking from in order that we maintain the lifestyles that we have chosen to live.

Matt. 25: 37-40 - "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Claim 4: The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change—starting now.

(This post is number 5 of 5 in our series on the Evangelical Climate Initiative's Call to Action, found here: http://christiansandclimate.org/learn/call-to-action/)
Wait no longer. Act now.
The basic task for all of the world’s inhabitants is to find ways now to begin to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels that are the primary cause of human-induced climate change.
There are several reasons for urgency. First, deadly impacts are being experienced now. Second, the oceans only warm slowly, creating a lag in experiencing the consequences. Much of the climate change to which we are already committed will not be realized for several decades. The consequences of the pollution we create now will be visited upon our children and grandchildren. Third, as individuals and as a society we are making long-term decisions today that will determine how much carbon dioxide we will emit in the future, such as whether to purchase energy efficient vehicles and appliances that will last for 10-20 years, or whether to build more coal-burning power plants that last for 50 years rather than investing more in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
In the United States, the most important immediate step that can be taken at the federal level is to pass and implement national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through cost-effective, market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade program. On June 22, 2005 the Senate passed the Domenici-Bingaman resolution affirming this approach, and a number of major energy companies now acknowledge that this method is best both for the environment and for business.
We commend the Senators who have taken this stand and encourage them to fulfill their pledge. We also applaud the steps taken by such companies as BP, Shell, General Electric, Cinergy, Duke Energy, and DuPont, all of which have moved ahead of the pace of government action through innovative measures implemented within their companies in the U.S. and around the world. In so doing they have offered timely leadership.
Numerous positive actions to prevent and mitigate climate change are being implemented across our society by state and local governments, churches, smaller businesses, and individuals. These commendable efforts focus on such matters as energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy, low CO2 emitting technologies, and the purchase of hybrid vehicles. These efforts can easily be shown to save money, save energy, reduce global warming pollution as well as air pollution that harm human health, and eventually pay for themselves. There is much more to be done, but these pioneers are already helping to show the way forward.
Finally, while we must reduce our global warming pollution to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, as a society and as individuals we must also help the poor adapt to the significant harm that global warming will cause.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Claim 3: Christian Moral Convictions Demand Our Response to the Climate Change Problem

(This post is number 4 of 5 in our series on the Evangelical Climate Initiative's Call to Action, found here: http://christiansandclimate.org/learn/call-to-action/)
In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. Gen 1

While we cannot here review the full range of relevant biblical convictions related to care of the creation, we emphasize the following points:
  • Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is God’s world, and any damage that we do to God’s world is an offense against God Himself (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16).
  • Christians must care about climate change because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and to protect and care for the least of these as though each was Jesus Christ himself (Mt. 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46).
  • Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures. Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better (Gen. 1:26-28).
Love of God, love of neighbor, and the demands of stewardship are more than enough reason for evangelical Christians to respond to the climate change problem with moral passion and concrete action.
 I'm not sure if I can put this any clearer or add anything to this claim. It's pretty clear already, don't you think?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Claim 2: The Consequences of Climate Change Will Be Significant

(This post is number 3 of 5 in our series on the Evangelical Climate Initiative's Call to Action, found here: http://christiansandclimate.org/learn/call-to-action/)

The Consequences of Climate Change Will Be Significant, and Will Hit the Poor the Hardest

The earth’s natural systems are resilient but not infinitely so, and human civilizations are remarkably dependent on ecological stability and well-being. It is easy to forget this until that stability and well-being are threatened.
Even small rises in global temperatures will have such likely impacts as: sea level rise; more frequent heat waves, droughts, and extreme weather events such as torrential rains and floods; increased tropical diseases in now-temperate regions; and hurricanes that are more intense. It could lead to significant reduction in agricultural output, especially in poor countries. Low-lying regions, indeed entire islands, could find themselves under water. (This is not to mention the various negative impacts climate change could have on God’s other creatures.)
Each of these impacts increases the likelihood of refugees from flooding or famine, violent conflicts, and international instability, which could lead to more security threats to our nation.
Poor nations and poor individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. The consequences of global warming will therefore hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected first are in the poorest regions of the world. Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.
 There is much data to support this claim. Many people, and scientists, believe that we are already experiencing some affects of a warmer average global temperature. And for those who live in endangered areas, who do not have transportation or the ability to flee before a disaster, the affects will be felt harder. We have a responsibility to care for our neighbors in this global world. That means we must work diligently to reduce the impacts we are having today, and in the future, on the climate by reducing our personal impacts. Any amount that we can reduce today may mean less severe consequences tomorrow. This is part of caring for our neighbors, not just when they are in trouble, but also thinking about how our actions today cause that trouble in the (near) future. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Claim 1: Human-induced Climate Change is Real

Since 1995 there has been general agreement among those in the scientific community most seriously engaged with this issue that climate change is happening and is being caused mainly by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels. Evidence gathered since 1995 has only strengthened this conclusion.
Because all religious/moral claims about climate change are relevant only if climate change is real and is mainly human-induced, everything hinges on the scientific data. As evangelicals we have hesitated to speak on this issue until we could be more certain of the science of climate change, but the signatories now believe that the evidence demands action:
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s most authoritative body of scientists and policy experts on the issue of global warming, has been studying this issue since the late 1980s. (From 1988—2002 the IPCC’s assessment of the climate science was Chaired by Sir John Houghton, a devout evangelical Christian.) It has documented the steady rise in global temperatures over the last fifty years, projects that the average global temperature will continue to rise in the coming decades, and attributes “most of the warming” to human activities.
  • The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, as well as all other G8 country scientific Academies (Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy, and Russia), has concurred with these judgments.
  • In a 2004 report, and at the 2005 G8 summit, the Bush Administration has also acknowledged the reality of climate change and the likelihood that human activity is the cause of at least some of it.
In the face of the breadth and depth of this scientific and governmental concern, only a small percentage of which is noted here, we are convinced that evangelicals must engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or humanity’s responsibility to address it.
 Right. We have evidence: there is a problem. And the good news is that we ARE capable of solving it. Human ingenuity is unmatched in the world. Human ingenuity with the moral compass provided by God is a force not to be trifled with. Solving climate change will be hard. Perhaps one of the hardest things we have ever done as a whole. I do not doubt that it is and will be the greatest challenge facing everyone living today. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

An Evangelical Call to Action Series

In early 2008, the Evangelical Climate Initiative released a document called Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action a document offering a biblically-based moral witness to the issue of human-induced climate change. This post will be the first of a 5-part series, covering the Preamble and each of the four claims made in that document.
The ECI's website is located at http://christiansandclimate.org/ and there are resources on the website to learn more about climate change, to pray, and to act. The website also has the full text of the Call to Action and a list of the Signatories.


As American evangelical Christian leaders, we recognize both our opportunity and our responsibility to offer a biblically based moral witness that can help shape public policy in the most powerful nation on earth, and therefore contribute to the well-being of the entire world. Whether we will enter the public square and offer our witness there is no longer an open question. We are in that square, and we will not withdraw.
We are proud of the evangelical community’s long-standing commitment to the sanctity of human life. But we also offer moral witness in many venues and on many issues. Sometimes the issues that we have taken on, such as sex trafficking, genocide in the Sudan, and the AIDS epidemic in Africa, have surprised outside observers. While individuals and organizations can be called to concentrate on certain issues, we are not a single-issue movement. We seek to be true to our calling as Christian leaders, and above all faithful to Jesus Christ our Lord. Our attention, therefore, goes to whatever issues our faith requires us to address.
Over the last several years many of us have engaged in study, reflection, and prayer related to the issue of climate change (often called “global warming”). For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority. Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough to offer the following moral argument related to the matter of human-induced climate change. We commend the four simple but urgent claims offered in this document to all who will listen, beginning with our brothers and sisters in the Christian community, and urge all to take the appropriate actions that follow from them.
Let's take a look at some of the language in this fascinating and powerful piece. First, "opportunity and responsibility" is right in the first sentence. Sustainability is both of those- and this document is addressing the problem of climate change, to which the answer is sustainability in all its forms. The authors move on to proclaiming a stance, in an almost military way, by saying that they are in the public square to say something and will not withdraw.
"We are not a single-issue movement." None of us are single sided people. We all have facets and interests that are separate and diverse. And yet we have a calling, a pulling on the heart, that God calls us to focus on. Just like individuals, the authors of this document illustrate the diverse range of issues that the evangelical community focuses on, and yet that they need to speak out on this issue for the very reason that they are faithful to Jesus.
Following this preamble are four very powerful and simple claims, which we will cover in the next four posts. In fact, they are urgent. The signatories of this document are speaking first to the Christian community and to everyone who will listen- which we need to do. And then to act.