Statement by the Rev. Mitch Hescox,
President/CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN),
On the Accomplishments of the Honorable Nancy Sutley,
Chair of the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ)
Nancy Sutley has been a terrific friend to the evangelical creation-care movement, and so we're sad to see her leave CEQ -- but thankful for all she has accomplished to make our country greater. We know Chair Sutley has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make our air cleaner, our water purer, our kids and communities safer, and to protect our natural resources.
President Obama may have said it best when he said that Chair Sutley:
"has played a central role in overseeing many of our biggest environmental accomplishments, including establishing historic new fuel-economy standards that will save consumers money, new national monuments that permanently protect sites unique to our country's rich history and natural heritage, our first comprehensive National Ocean Policy, and our Climate Action Plan that will help leave our children a safer, healthier planet."
We will keep Chair Sutley in our prayers as she transitions to her next place of service.
On September 20, 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first uniform national standards for carbon pollution standards for new power plants. This action coupled with the eventual existing source standard provides a historic step in the right direction to defend our children's health, and limit the already experienced threats of our changing climate.
Children,both born and unborn, are our most precious gift. Each child should be born into a welcoming world, not one threatened by a changing climate. For people like me who are pro-life evangelical Christians and life-long Republicans, defending our children, theunborn, and those yet to be born, is at the heart of who we are.
I live inSouthern York County, Pennsylvania. According to the American Lung Association, Central Pennsylvania,including the Harrisburg and York areas, already receives failing marks forhigh ozone and particulates, leading to over 27,000 cases of pediatric asthmaand over 270,000 children at risk. Higher temperatures caused by a changing climate simply multiply theharm. Already York has the same climateas Richmond, VA twenty years ago.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's September 2013 Report stated, "The global land surface temperature was 0.89°C (1.60°F) above the 20th centuryaverage of 12.0°C (53.6°F), marking the sixth warmest September on record. For the ocean, the September global sea surface temperature was 0.54°C (0.97°F) above the 20th centuryaverage of 16.2°C (61.1°F), tying with 2006 as the fourth highest for September on record." Those under the age of 29 have only known a warming world, because every month since February 1985 has been above the 20th Century average.
"The simple fact isthat if man [sic] is not able to solve his ecological problems, then man'sresources are going to die." Noted evangelical Francis Schaeffer correctly stated those words in 1970 and they remain true today. The earth has a fever, and the fever's impacts threaten all of us. Simply put, climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our time.
Climate Change resulting from carbon pollution makes bad things worse. It intensifies natural processes, making natural events unnatural or extreme, and hits the most vulnerable the hardest.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Bangladesh are already some of the most difficult places to survive in the world, and with climate change, they are at the most at risk. These threats are not some future event. They are happening now,and God's children across this planet cry for our help. The Cape Town Commitment issued by the Lausanne Movement (founded by Billy Graham and John Stott,another internationally respected evangelical leader) recognizes the need for climate action, as does the global evangelical network Micah Challenge.
The changing climate kills thousands a year, multiplies diseases, and forces millions to flee their homelands, as food and water security simply do not exist. Without basic needs met,conflict ensues. In October 2009, Burke et. al. published WarmingIncreases the Risk of Civil War in Africa. They conclude that for each 1 degree Celsius warming there willbe a 49% increase in African civil wars,a 54% increase in conflict, and an additional 393,000 battle deaths within the next 20 years. They are not alone in predicting increased instability. The 2010 United States Department of Defense Quadrennial Review states:
Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease,and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.
While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as anaccelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world. In addition, extreme weather events may lead to increased demands for defense support to civil authorities for humanitarian assistance or disaster response both within the United States and overseas.
Just a fewmonths ago, my dad, an 87-year-old former coal miner, and I were sitting at hiskitchen table and having a discussion. "We just don't have the winters we used to have," he said, "Snow used to stay around all winter, and we had a lot more of it. I think it's time to do something about this climate change stuff before it's too late." My dad gets it, and most of us feel it inside. In 2012, Pennsylvania experienced atotal of 24 broken heat records, 5 broken snow records, 40 broken precipitation records, and 5 large wildfires. Ourweather is more extreme and getting worse.
In addition to my Dad, most of my family worked in coal; and before becoming a pastor, I worked fourteen years designing and supplying equipment to both the coal mining and utility industries around the world. While businesses like Dow Chemical, M&M Mars, and even Wal-Mart spend billions for energy efficiency, big coal spends hardly anything to study how to clean up their act. Only when forced by regulations did the coal industry address mine safety, acid rain, mercury pollution, and all forms of water pollution and land reclamation. My childhood play grounds near my Cambria County home were un-reclaimed strip mines that spewed sulfur and heavy metal contaminated water into the remaining forests and streams.
Some say coal produces the cheapest electricity. In York County, I could pay around $0.08 per kWh for electricity but thanks to Pennsylvania's Switch Program, I elected to pay $0.085 per kWh for renewable energy. This is hardly an economic burden that you may hear from some today. However, sustainable energy costs much less when you factor in all the external costs from coal like medical bills, lost lives, property damage, and the like;coal electricity is triple what you pay at the meter, according to one study. It may appear cheap, but each of us pays the price in our children's health, insurance premiums, and polluted water and air. They are hiding their costs in the bodies of our children and in the changing climate.
Defending our children's health now and in the future must be a national priority. It's the greatest moral challenge of ourtime, one we are all called to do something about. We need creative minds making new energy discoveries, energy efficient cars, appliances, homes, and buildings. We also need state specific plans that wil lallow each region the maximum flexibility to reduce carbon pollution. Pennsylvania is not Iowa or even New Jersey. State flexibility provides the advantage for local wisdom, industry, and opportunities.
Let's worktogether as one nation under God to defend our children, and understandovercoming carbon pollution as an All-American Opportunity.
The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox
by Alexei Laushkin
One of the primary tasks of the body of Christ is to help the city of man remember other more fundamentally truths about himself and the world around him.
It's been one year since Hurricane Sandy. So many lost their homes and property when a storm of epic proportions battered the East Coast, and while we can not lay the blame on global warming, we can say that climate change contributed to the dimensions of this storm.
In particular we saw first hand, as we have before, the vulnerability of American infrastructure to this type of storm. We continue to see the vulnerability of our governing culture and insurance industry in the empty homes and displaced lives.
Storms of this proportion cause Christians of conscience to stop and wonder what like events mean for people in distant lands. Lands where the resources are scarcer, governance more corrupt, and infrastructure nonexistent.
In light of these realities we begin to consider climate change afresh. To consider the impacts of pollution on human life. The need for Christians to defend the family, the home.
Let us not forget that our only hope is truly in the Lord of hosts. He lifts our eyes to see Him and His work in the midst of suffering. The Trinity who guides and defends, enables us to be better stewards of his good gifts.
by Jim Ball
Do you know what was popular the last time the world had a cooler-than-average month? Ironically, the top movie was Back to the Future. The No. 1 song was "Like a Virgin" by Madonna. And David Letterman had just introduced for the first time his signature comedic vehicle, his Top Ten List. All back in February 1985. Ever since Letterman's Top Ten List began, each month has been warmer than the 20th century average, 342 consecutive months, more than 28 years. Our young people have only known a warmer world.
One week ago, on Friday, September 27, the world's leading scientists once again took us back to the future, the future of an ever-warming world. And maybe this time we'll hear what they have to say as if for the very first time and take it to heart.
This particular back to the ever-warming future report was released by the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's most authoritative body on the subject. In this instance it was their Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the first volume (WG1) of the long-awaited 4-volume Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). As the name implies, this is the fifth time the IPCC has issued a thorough assessment of where things stand with climate change. The last 4-volume report, AR4, came back in 2007. So it has been a while. (They take the time to get it right, which can be frustrating for folks like me who work on the issue!)
Here are the highlights.
1. Human Activities Are the Problem
This basic conclusion was actually reached all the way back in 1995 with the second report. (Brad Plumer of Wonkblog has a nice, brief review of this history; as a personal aside, I just love Wonkblog.) Through the years the confidence has grown to where now it is determined to be a near-certainty. As the summary says:
"It is extremely likely [a 95 percent or greater chance] that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century."
(FYI, evangelical leaders affirmed this basic finding back in 2006 in the Evangelical Climate Initiative statement.)
Thus, for nearly 20 years the world's leading scientific experts have told us that human pollution from burning fossil fuels has created a situation where we are artificially heating up God's creation; we are giving the planet a fever. This latest IPCC report reaffirms this conclusion even more strongly, a 95 percent or greater chance that we're the problem. The good news, as the IPCC also affirms, is that we still have time to overcome global warming -- and with God's help, we can do so. We have the solutions; what we need is the will.
2. We Are Starting to Feel the Consequences
As this IPCC report highlights, each of the last three decades has been warmer than the last. The scientists have confirmed once again what we've seen on the news and experienced in our own backyards -- the weather is getting more extreme:
Unfortunately, things are going to get worse and we must prepare for that; and if we don't do the right thing, even more dire consequences will result. This leads to my next point ...
3. We're The Solution -- But Time Is Running Out
If we're the problem, then we're also the solution. A scary thought? Yes. But also a hopeful one. The worst consequences are not inevitable. We can do things to avoid them, things that are good to do for lots of reasons.
And Christian faith reminds us of the most important thing to remember: we are not alone! God is with us, and He will help and guide us in overcoming climate change as He does with everything else.
It has long been recognized that a dangerous threshold we wouldn't want to cross is raising the temperature more than 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees F) above what it was before the start of the Industrial Revolution, or 2C for short.
Now, for the first time, the IPCC has given us a "carbon budget"; they have quantified how much global warming pollution we can emit to have a reasonable chance of staying below 2C. To do so, we must not emit more than 1000 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC) since preindustrial times. As of 2011, we have used up over half of that budget, or 531 GtC. Unfortunately, our current rate of pollution would have us exceeding this budget in about 30 years.
Now you might be thinking, "What's the rush? When year 29 rolls around we'll get serious." Perfectly understandable.
Unfortunately, it can't work that way (and highlights a shortcoming of the "carbon budget" framing).
First off, this is a budget to stave off unprecedented damage; even the amount of pollution we have already emitted is causing harm, and the more we add, the more harm there will be. So the loving thing to do is start reducing as much as we can right now.
Second, how is it that we emit the pollution? We do so through power plants that last 50-plus years, vehicles that last 10 to 20 years, buildings that last 100-plus years. In other words, each time we invest in something that has a by-product of global warming pollution, we lock in those emissions for 10, 20, 50, 100-plus years. (That's unless we want to prematurely tear such investments down, which of course no one wants).
For several years now the International Energy Agency (IEA) has done a similar analysis to determine what needs to be done to avoid 2C and by when. Their conclusion is that worldwide carbon pollution needs to peak by 2017.
So, it may take us 30 years to blow through our budget before unprecedented damage occurs, but we will have exceeded our "carbon pollution investment budget," if you will, by around 2017.
Thus, by the end of this decade, if not sooner, we will have set our course and put ourselves on autopilot that in 30 year's time leads to a 2C world and beyond.
That is why the next several years are so crucial, why the loving and righteous path is the creation of sustainable economic progress via a clean energy revolution that creates jobs, cuts air and water pollution that hurts our kids and the unborn, and enhances both our economic and national security.
A better and safer world, free from the scourge of unprecedented climate change, is indeed possible, and God is leading the way and giving us the spiritual power necessary to prevail.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
[Editor's Note: This was slightly adapted from a Huffington Post blog by Jim Ball.]
"Our care of creation makes us more attentive to God and each other. We can't do that if we are on the run all the time. We need space to recover a sense of ourselves."
While we do not agree with President Obama on all issues, we agree on the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change's threat to America, our children, both unborn and born, and all God's children across God's creation.
If science shows that life begins at conception, then we cannot deny the threats of air pollution, water pollution, toxin exposure, and carbon pollution are also threats to our children, unborn and born. As pro-life Republicans, we must set aside partisanship and come together to protect God's creation from climate change. We need solutions that engage all of America. American ingenuity can help us cut down on pollution, champion energy efficiency and create the next generation of jobs, while protecting our kids from harm.
According to the American Lung Association, over 32.3 million U.S. children are at risk from air pollution that our increased temperatures will only exacerbate. This does not include the additional threats from extreme weather, droughts, or raising sea levels. Nor does this include the millions of children already impacted in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the South Pacific. The poorest of the poor, who bear the least responsibility for carbon pollution, already pay the cost.
Today, EPA Administrator McCarthy unveiled the proposed New Source Standard for Carbon Pollution for Power Plants. We are pleased at the revised proposed standard considered the views of all stakeholders, including over 52,000 pro-life Christians who wrote positive comments in support of the original proposed rule last year.
We are encouraged that the road map shared for the upcoming existing source guidelines will provide individual state-by-state flexibility. Once side benefit after promulgation, the carbon standards will provide each individual a choice selecting energy sources based on real costs, not the hidden burden of our children's health.
"For people like me who are pro-life evangelical Christians and life-long Republicans, the protection of children, the unborn, and those yet to be born is at the heart of who we are. It's time to stop playing games with our children lives, accept the reality of our changing climate, and act as one nation under God and work for solutions. Evangelical theologian, Francis Schaeffer, wrote in 1970, 'The simple fact is that if man [sic] is not able to solve his ecological problems, then man's resources are going to die,'" stated EEN's President Rev. Mitch Hescox.
A group of evangelicals leaders went to Malawi this past May to hear about some of the current and future impacts of climate change on Malawi. On our trip we learned that economic growth is a key factor in growing climate resiliency. That is why we believe that decentralized power can be a part of the solution for rural Malawians. When folks have access to clean air, clean water, abundant and reliable clean energy, the internet, and a stable food supply they can really begin to flourish and thrive. We don't want give more hand-outs in foreign aid, but we want to work with their God given talent so that they can move forward in a way that builds their capacity to thrive.
With governance issues in Africa and the overwhelming cost of building centralized power, we do not see centralized power as being the only solution to the challenges of Africa.There is a place for centralized power, but if Africans have to wait on their government or our government to act they will never move forward. Far better for local folks to be empowered and equipped with market based local solutions. Mini-grids and other local energy solutions can be a real part of the future.
Here's what one of our partners Victor Mughogho Executive Director of Eagles Relief and Development in Malawi said about climate change and the need for action:
"It's one globe only and the word of God tells us that we are to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and that we are to mourn with those who are mourning. If part of humanity is in pain, it calls on others to join with them, to be part of the solution. There are millions of children impacted by climate related hardships. These are brothers and sisters that are part of the body of Christ, and God calls all of us to respond."
Another one of our partners John Kanthungo the Executive Director of the Assemblies of God Relief and Development Malawi had this to say to the American Chruch:
"The issues of climate change is real and the impact is being felt and people are being affected. The message that I have to the Assemblies of God Church or other Christians, we need your help through innovative initiatives like irrigation. On our own the church here is doing something but on a small scale, but if we have more assistance more communities could be reached out to."
This is not an either/or proposition. It's a both/and that God is calling us to. We have to all move forward in such a way where we do better by the health of our children, and we help to inspire real long lasting solutions. This is about looking for common sense steps to be good stewards of God's creation. Let's work together.
Blessings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
As a lifelong Republican and an evangelical pro-life clergyman who pastored a local congregation for almost 20 years, spent fourteen years working in the coal industry, and now leads one of the oldest creation care ministries, I ask you to refrain from your harmful rhetoric on climate change. It is simply wrong.
Recently, you stated that "If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in man-made global warming." Nothing could be further from truth.
You made this false claim as part of a rhetorical sleight of hand wherein you posited a straw-man position, which you then defeated, saying that only God has the power to destroy his creation. But in "winning" such a false argument, you take people further from the truth. I am aware of no one who is saying that human-induced climate change will completely destroy the earth.
From the beginning we were created to be God's stewards or caretakers of His creation; we were given the freedom to care for it and for each other, or go our own way and selfishly look to our own interests and desires. Sadly, human history shows us that too often we have chosen the latter.
Today, human-induced climate change works against our call to love others and care for God's creation. Its impacts on creation are already a threat to our children and therefore a pro-life concern. Over coming climate change is an act of discipleship, stewarding what was created for and through Jesus, the Christ.
We could not agree more for your concern for unborn children. However, pro-life is much more than preventing abortion; it's a concern for all life from conception until natural death. Focus On The Family produced an excellent video on pro-life as respect for all life from "the womb to the tomb" as many of my evangelical friends state. Putting it simply, pro-life is greater than preventing abortion; it is also concerned with the quality of life or the abundant life promised by Jesus.
Three recent major medical studies link air pollution to birth defects. Currently 1 in 3 American children suffer from Asthma, ADHD, Autism, or Allergies all with connection to pollution, pollution directly linked to fossil fuel energy and petrochemicals.
As Scripture teaches, God created a sustainable earth to provide our physical needs; however, Scripture also teaches us that humanity harms God's creation by not following His commandments.
Isaiah 24:5 (NCV)
5 The people of the earth have ruined it,
because they do not follow God's teachings
or obey God's laws
or keep their agreement with God that was to last forever.
John Calvin recognized our failure to steward God's creation centuries ago, and our continued spewing of carbon pollution already has given the earth a fever, and we keep adding a blanket atop God's creation.
Of course,you don't have to believe me, but the Lausanne Movement founded by Billy Graham and John Stott in their Cape Town Commitment state the dangers of climate change:
We lament over the widespread abuse and destruction of the earth's resources, including its bio-diversity. Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together and with equal urgency.
Recently over 200 evangelical Christian scientists wrote a letter to Congress asking for climate change action, Young Evangelicals For Climate Action demand American Leadership, and over 350 evangelical leaders signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative. All of us recognize along with the National Academy of Sciences, American Medical Association, American Meteorological Association, the US Department of Defense, plus every major scientific body in the United States, that climate change is real; it won't completely destroy God's creation, which no one to my knowledge is claiming; but it has and will do serious harm to God's children.
Believing in God and understanding climate change as one of the greatest threats to our children's health and well-being both now and in the future is an act of following our Risen Lord.
Actually, a proper understanding of climate change perhaps is not the real issue of your comments. Love is. The Apostle John wrote:
1 John 3:11-18 (NCV)
11 This is the teaching you have heard from the beginning: We must love each other. 12 Do not be like Cain who belonged to the Evil One and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because the things Cain did were evil, and the things his brother did were good.
13 Brothers and sisters, do not be surprised when the people of the world hate you. 14 We know we have left death and have come into life because we love each other. Whoever does not love is still dead. 15 Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderers have eternal life in them. 16 This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave his life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 Suppose someone has enough to live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God's love is not living in that person.18 My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring.
Being a Christian is loving as Christ loves. Your recent claim doesn't reveal love and therein is the problem.
So in closing:
Romans 15:13 (NCV)
13 I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace while you trust in him. Then your hope will overflow by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox
by Rick Herron
Stewardship is often mishandled or under-utilized by environmental communicators, whether they are advocates or public officials. It is abstracted, stripped of its deep moral resonance, and is thus reduced to a staid, soporific, managerial watchword, the very opposite of a rallying cry.
And yet stewardship was a theme to which Administrator McCarthy returned to time and again over the course of her first public address as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But even more important than the frequency was the specific framing of the stewardship ethic which she used. She brought it home as directly as possible through her own children, two of whom were in the audience and one of whom, her eldest daughter Maggie, introduced her. She repeated time and again why she chose to work on environmental issues, and how all the work she had done and hopes to do, is for the sake of her own children. I had no doubt after listening to her speak that this was the way in which she felt. She has stewardship deep in her bones. Mrs. McCarthy's address was thus a prime example of the way that Christian communicators need to talk about stewardship as well; not just in terms of protecting God's sacred creation (which is still, of course, essential) but also in terms of protecting our children, protecting those who are most dear and precious to us.
Another important section of McCarthy's address is how directly and vigorously she attempted to break climate change free from the constraints imposed by its traditional framing as an environmental issue. She stated point-blank that she doesn't consider climate change to be an 'environmental issue', and that anyone looking on in the wake of major weather events would realize that it is a "fundamental economic challenge." Again, protecting the beauty of the natural world for its own sake is undeniably a core component of a Christian stewardship ethic. But breaking the false dichotomy between the economy and the environment, as Mrs. McCarthy emphasized again and again in her address, is essential for building the public will necessary for action and for unlocking the potential of a can do American economy.
Mrs. McCarthy is an incredibly experienced public servant who has spent decades working on the state and federal level fighting for environmental protections, for the future of her children. And while she arguably has more influence and ability to protect our children than she's ever had as head of the EPA, she will still face enormous challenges and obstacles. Even with a supportive president, a climate action plan in hand, and an entire agency behind her, all the expertise in the world will be for nothing if she is undermined by deep funding cuts or overruled by Congress, a body filled with far too many members who deny the reality of climate change. We and we alone, as citizens, have the power to ultimately ensure this does not happen, by making our voices heard, by speaking out on behalf of our children, grandchildren, and generations yet unborn.
I went up to Mrs. McCarthy after her speech, because she was gracious enough to stick around to greet and speak to the attendees. I shook her hand, thanked her for everything that she had done, and told her I was hoping to be an environmental advocate both for my career and for my vocation, as my calling in life. "That's great!" she exclaimed. "We need more boots on the ground."
Her response reminded me of an old saying I'd heard before: that activism fails if left to the activists. Many who care deeply about issues of social justice are reluctant to wade into the messy world of politics because they don't self-identify as 'activists.' But all activists really means, at its core, is participating in our democracy and communities to effect positive change. I don't participate in what some would call 'activism' because I'm an activist, per se. I participate because I am a concerned citizen, and because I'm a Christian. And I would call on those older than me to participate, like Mrs. McCarthy does, simply because they are parents, parents who simply cannot and must stand by and allow a devastated environment to imperil the lives and future happiness of their children.
Rick Herron is a committed Christian who grew up in Tennessee. He is supportive of groups like Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.
The President is Right " Let's Defend Our Children's Health
The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox
President and CEO " The Evangelical EnvironmentalNetwork, New Freedom, PA
This week the President of the United States offered the first comprehensive national plan to combat in a serious way the greatest moralchallenge of our time " climate disruption and carbon pollution. It calls on all Americans to unite and fightthis threat to our children's health and well-being. I believe in no greater cause than protectingour children. This most fundamental task of parents and adults remains central to who we are as Americans.
For people like me who are pro-life evangelical Christians and life-long Republicans, the protection of children, the unborn,and those yet to be born is at the heart of who we are. As such, climate change should be anon-partisan issue. It simply makes sense to protect our children from all harm, including environmental degradation.
Recently, Harvard University issued a new study linkingi ncreased mercury and other toxins to birth defects, including autism; this is thethird major medical study connecting birth defects to pollution. According to the American Lung Association, Central Pennsylvania, including the Harrisburg and York areas, already receives failing marks for high ozone and particulates, leading to over 27,000 cases of pediatric asthma and over 270,000 at risk children. Higher temperatures caused by changing climates simply multiply the harm.
Our climate is changing. Just a few weeks ago, my Dad, an 86-year-old former coal miner, and I were sitting at his kitchen table and having a discussion. "We just don't have the winters we used to have," he said, "Snow used to stay around all winter, and we had a lot more of it. I think it's time to do something about this climate change stuff before it's too late." My Dad gets it, and most of us feel it inside. In 2012, Pennsylvania experienced a total of 24 broken heat records, 5 broken snow records, 40 broken precipitation records, and 5 large wildfires. Our climate in South Central Pennsylvania has changed to equal that of Richmond, VA twenty years ago. Our weather is more extreme and getting worse.
Carbon pollution is the major cause of our changing world. We have thrown another blanket on God's creation. Without the natural carbon blanket, our earth would be 70 degrees colder and life couldn't exist,much like Mars, but our continuing pumping out more carbon pollution heats the earth to look more like Venus. We are giving the Earth a fever.
Of course, some in the coal industry immediately cried foul. While I have considerable empathy for coal industry workers, the industry itself is another story. Since its beginning, the coal industry's reputation as a good neighbor has been lacking. I know first hand stories of company towns, poor working conditions, and maximizing profits at the sake of others. In addition to my Dad, most of my family worked in coal; and before becoming a pastor, I worked fourteen years designing and supplying equipment to both the coal mining and utility industries around the world. While businesses like Dow Chemical, M&MMars, and even Wal-Mart spent billions for energy efficiency, big coal spendshardly anything to study how to clean up their act. Only when forced by regulations did the coal industry address mine safety, acid rain, mercury pollution, and all forms of water pollution and land reclamation. My childhood playgrounds near my Cambria County home were un-reclaimed strip mines that spewed sulfur and heavy metal contaminated water into the remaining forests and streams.
Some say coal produces the cheapest electricity. But when you factor in all the external costsf rom coal like medical bills, lost lives, property damage, and the like, coal electricityis triple what you pay at the meter, according to one study. It may appear cheap, but each of us pays the price in our children's health, insurance premiums, and polluted water and air. They are hiding their costs in the bodies of our children and in the changing climate.
Defending our children's health now and in the futuremust be our national priority. It's the greatest moral challenge of our time, one we are all called to do something. The President calls us to come together as a nation and act. We need creative minds making new energy discoveries, energy efficient cars,appliances, homes, and buildings. We also need to be prepared. Climate changeal ready intensifies our weather, impacts our food supply, and multiplies extreme heat. In short, all of us are threatened, especially the most vulnerable our children. Let's work together as one nation under God; make the President's plan better; and defend our children. It's the American thing to do.
This post first appeared in Harrisburg (PA) Patriot News on June 30, 2013
EEN was pleased with yesterday's 59-40 vote to confirm Gina McCarthy as the next head of the Environmentla Protection Agency. Gina is well positioned for success at EPA during some of the most crucial years to clean up pollution that harms our kids, the unborn, and those yet to be born. As pro-life evangelicals we believe that human life needs to be protected. As such, it's time for all of America to come together to champion energy efficiency, the next generation of clean energy, while we take steps to reduce carbon pollution for the sake of our children and future generations.
We are especially thankful for the bipartisian leadership from Senators Alexander, Pryor, Corker, McCaskill, McCain, Hagan, Brown, Casey, Landrieu, Ayotte, Kirk, Collins, Donnelly, Flake, Warner, Kaine, and Heitkamp. Yesterday's vote sends a signal that Republicans and Democrats are willing to work together for the sake of our kids.
When you have groups as diverse as the American Public Health Association, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, and the American Sustainable Business Council you now that you have a very capable civil servant.
by Dr. Andy Bannister
The path through the trees was narrow and overgrown, meandering its way through birch, oak and elm, climbing gently as it wound its way up from the valley. A few minutes walking brought me to the ancient moss-laden wall that surrounded the forest, from which a wooden gate led out on the hillside.
From there the track quickly steepened as it wound sinuously up toward the mountaintop. I paused every so often to catch my breath, turning to watch the cloud shadows chase one another across the flanks of the hills on the farside of the valley.
Onwards and upwards I climbed, as the first hints of dusk began to take hold and the shadows grew longer. I gained the summit ridge just as the westering sun was beginning to sink behind a bank of clouds hanging over the distant Langdale Pikes, among the most well known of Lakeland's hills and loved by the poets, by Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey.
Suddenly, as the sun dropped completely behind the cloudbank, the whole sky turned the colour of burnished gold and the clouds themselves lit up as if on fire, a maelstrom of red, orange and ochre, with the occasional flash of silver. At that moment, through a gap in the clouds poured a great ray of sunshine, streaming into the valley below like a searchlight and throwing into stark relief the lines of fields, lanes and hedgerows.
All of this took place in utter silence: not a breath of wind, nor the cry of a bird, nor the plaintive bleat of a sheep. For a moment, it seemed as if the whole of creation had paused and taken a deep breath. I watched, transfixed, hearing just my heartbeat in my own ears from the exertion of the climb. The lightshow continued as colours mixed and mingled and shifted. I was awestruck with wonder, unsure what the right reaction was before such beauty " one wanted to cry, to dance, to shout for joy. I was reminded of Mark Twain's line:
The summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every
heart; and if the heart was young the music issued at the lips.2
For many of us, our instinctive reaction when faced with such beauty is to try to capture it on camera: perhaps we can somehow bottle the experience, pin it down, capture it in megapixels. But digital renderings are flat, lifeless things, capturing the colour, but not the sounds, smells, textures, emotions "the being-there-ness, what philosophers call qualia.
Reflecting on our reaction to beauty, two philosophies present themselves. The first is naturalism, the worldview of many of my atheist friends, which says that only material things exist: atoms, particles, stuff. There is no soul, no spirit, no transcendent reality and certainly no God. However, for those of ustruly love the outdoors, especially the wild places, naturalism patently fails; for it would claim that all I saw from the mountaintop that evening were atoms and photons whilst my experience " well, that was only the motion of chemicals in my brain. Anthony Esolen playfully parodies this philosophy:
[For the philosophical naturalist] it is best to keep the word "only" ready in the arsenal at all times. The flame of the sky at sunset is "only" the part of spectrum that penetrates the atmosphere at that angle " it is "only" something or other material that scientists know about " or at least somebody knows all them in some Important Places. Beauty is "only" a neurological tic, or a personal opinion.3
Yet this does not come close, not even remotely, to my actual experience on the mountain that evening. Reminiscent of the "flat" digital photograph, naturalism represents a fumbling attempt to simplify and reduce an experience that is rich, deep, three-dimensional, to a caricature. It is not that the naturalistic explanation is entirely false, it is simply that it falls considerably short, just as describing Paradise Lostas a "a poem", Chartres Cathedral as "a building", or love an "emotion" equally does not do justice to their entire reality.
Beauty is one of many such experiences that strips away our pretensions, exposes the frailties of our philosophy and points us beyond ourselves. The instinctive reaction to natural beauty is that it causes us to yearn, to desire, to sing with joy. As Wordsworth, who loved the English Lake District with a passion wrote: "My heart leaps up when I behold " the sky".4
But there's more. I sensed that evening as I watched the fiery sunset a feeling almost akin to homesickness, to a desire for something or somewhere more beautiful, more radiant, more real. Whereas naturalism struggles to begin to even to describe such emotions and the experience of seeing real beauty, a second philosophy, the Christian worldview offers a more compelling explanation. Consider these words of the Bible:
The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Why do we respond the way we do to beauty? Simply because it points beyond itself to something else, to the God who is the very source of all wonder, all goodness, all beauty, the God who is creator and artist and has painted and sculpted in creation a myriad masterpieces. This understanding of beauty also helps explain that sense of "homesickness" I described; beauty reminds us, tells us, shouts at us that we are made for something more than just this world.
Atheist and existentialist Albert Camus, wrestling with these ideas, wrote: "Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time."5
Tragically, I think that on naturalism this hold trues, because beauty points beyond itself and sets the heart yearning for something that molecules, atoms and particles alone can never ultimately satisfy.
In the Bible, we read these words: "God has made everything beautiful in its time; He has also set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Eternity in our hearts. I might also add "and our eyes".
Plato once said, through the mouth of Socrates,6 that "wonder is the beginning of philosophy" and whilst that is true, it begs a question: where is its end? The answer, if we are to live authentically, is only in the fulfilment of wonder in the God who is the source of all beauty. Once again, I think it is often the poets who see this most clearly. Dante opens the third and final canticle of his epic poem, The Divine Comedy,with these words:7
The glory of the One who moves all things
penetrates the universe with light,
more radiant in one part and elsewhere less:
I have been in that heaven He makes most bright
and seen things neither mind can hold nor tongue
utter, when one descends from such great height;
But as we near the One for whom we long,
our intellects so plunge into the deep,
memory cannot follow where we go.
Nevertheless what small part I can keep
of that holy kingdom treasured in my heart
will now become the matter of my song.
1 Thomas De Quincey, Recollections of the Lake Poets, Edited with an Introduction by David Wright (New York: Penguin, 1970 ).
2 Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer(New York: Dover Publications, 1998) 8.2
3 Anthony Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books) 236.
4 Wordsworth, 'My heart leaps up when I behold' in Stephen Gill (ed.), William Wordsworth: The Major Works(Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2008 ) 246.3
5 Albert Camus, Notebooks 1935-1951 (New York: Marlow & Company, 1963) 6.
6 Plato, Theaeteus.
7 Dante, The Divine Comedy, Paradiso Canto I.
by Jim Ball
We want you to know about an important effort by evangelical scientists urging climate action. Over 200 evangelical scientists sent a letter to all Members of Congress asking them "to pass meaningful legislation during this Congress to reduce carbon emissions." (See the text of the letter and the names and affiliations of all signatories here. The text is also pasted in below for your convenience.)
If past history is any guide, the signatories could receive some criticism and pressure to remain silent in the future -- maybe even intimidating threats.
So (inspired by Rachel Lamb of Y.E.C.A.) here's a few suggestions as to how you can help:
1. Pray for this effort, including protection for its signatories and success for its cause. Look at the list of signatories and pick some individuals to pray for by name.
2. Make the effort to look at the list and see if you know any of the signatories or are familiar with the school where they teach. Then be in touch with them to thank them and let them know you support them and are praying for them.
July 10, 2013
Dear Speaker Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and Members of the United States Congress:
As evangelical scientists and academics, we understand climate change is real and action is urgently needed. All of God's Creation - humans and our environment -is groaning under the weight of our uncontrolled use of fossil fuels, bringing on a warming planet, melting ice, and rising seas. The negative consequences and burdens of a changing climate will fall disproportionately on those whom Jesus called "the least of these": the poor, vulnerable, and oppressed. Our nation has entrusted you with political power; we plead with you to lead on this issue and enact policies this year that will protect our climate and help us all to be better stewards of Creation.
Average global temperatures are at their highest level within the measurement record, and we are beginning to see indications of increasingly disturbed weather. For example, 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded for the contiguous United States, and it will go down as one of the most destructive and disruptive years in U.S. history: wildfires, drought, superstorms, and public health outbreaks. This past year is only one example of the patterns of change we expect to see as the climate warms globally. We're already spending billions in emergency aid for the victims of hurricanes and weather disasters, and these expenses will only increase as the "once in a lifetime" storms become the new normal.
The Bible tells us that "love does no harm to its neighbor" (Romans 13:10), yet the way we live now harms our neighbors, both locally and globally. For the world's poorest people, climate change means dried-up wells in Africa, floods in Asia that wash away crops and homes, wildfires in the U.S. and Russia, loss of villages and food species in the Arctic, environmental refugees, and disease. Our changing climate threatens the health, security, and well-being of millions of people who are made in God's image. The threat to future generations and global prosperity means we can no longer afford complacency and endless debate. We as a society risk being counted among "those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:18).
We call on you to pass meaningful legislation during this Congress to reduce carbon emissionsand protect our environment, thereby strengthening the long-term outlook for our economy and our children. As Christian scientists and educators, we offer our knowledge, experience, and prayerful witness to assist you and all of our nation's leaders who are willing to address this urgent challenge.
How often do you think about the air you breathe? If you have a child with Asthma probably a lot. This week almost 8,300 pro-life evangelicals joined the drive to make our air that much cleaner for our children.Given the increase in Asthma rates and birth defects with at least some linked to environmental toxins, it just makes sense to clean up our air and to do everything we can to protect our kids.
This week we delivered those 8,300 comments in person to Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe and urged him to act on cleaner fuel standards (Tier 3).
Thanks to a number of environmental standards and protections we have here in the United States, we are far less worried about illnesses caused by pollution we breathe in than other parts of the world. That doesn't mean more can't be done.
Currently the U.S. ranks 47th in the world for reducing sulfur emissions, which impacts the health of thousands of Americans, especially children and the elderly. The EPA has the power to protect our citizens' health by implementing "Tier 3 standards" that would reduce the amount of sulfur in our gasoline.
Cleaner gas in, less pollution out. It's that simple. And all without really changing what you pay at the pump. That's why pro-life Christians are urging the EPA to implement these standards.
This week the President talked about our responsibility to our children and future generations to address climate change. At Esperanza we believe America needs to come together and find a solution that reduces carbon pollution and helps us be good stewards of God's earth.
In light of the impacts we are already facing from more intense storms like Hurricane Sandy, our communities can't be subject to inaction.
"The President's focus on energy efficiency, clean energy development and support of other nations in places like Latin America to do the same, puts the appropriate emphasis on the need for all people to address climate change together," said the Rev. Luis Cortes, President of Esperanza.
While Esperanza is still studying the details of the plan, we believe that the President's Action Plan is the first step in our nation joining together to provide leadership in an area that is of critical importance.
Today President Obama laid out a clear vision for comprehensive action on climate change. We believe that we have a moral responsibility to our children and future generations to do everything we can to reduce carbon pollution.
"We need solutions that engage all of America. I agree with the President, American ingenuity can help us cut down on pollution, champion energy efficiency, and create the next generation of jobs, while taking care of the poor," said the Rev. Mitch Hescox, President and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN).
While EEN is still studying the details of the plan, we believe that these investments and actions are the start of the gun on the race to overcome climate change. We especially appreciate President Obama's emphasis on helping the poor in poor countries adapt to the consequences and create energy prosperity via clean energy.
We ask that Members of Congress either support the President's leadership or come up with a better plan. Doing nothing is not an option.
"As the President said those who are dealing with the impacts of climate change don't have time to deny it," said Rev. Hescox.
In one of the most anticipated speeches of his second term, President Barack Obama will announce tomorrow afternoon at Georgetown University his plan for overcoming climate change.
In his video announcing the speech President Obama recognized we all have an obligation to protect God's creation.
"As a fellow Christian, we greatly appreciate President Obama's acknowledgement that all Americans must do our part 'to preserve God's creation for future generations' by helping to overcome climate change," said the Rev. Mitch Hescox, President and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN).
Bold action is needed to both protect ourselves from current and future impacts and ensure that we reduce climate pollution to levels that avoid dangerous and destabilizing consequences (or keeping the world's temperature from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels).
Unfortunately, without bold action, the U.S. will not meet its commitments to help keep the world safe from destabilizing impacts and help the poor in poor countries deal with the climate disruption that has and will occur.
"Having just returned from a fact-finding trip to Malawi, I have seen first-hand the devastating consequences the poor are already experiencing from the climate crisis," said Ben Lowe, national spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (Y.E.C.A.). "From the day we were born my generation has never experienced a world unaltered by climate change. We need bold leadership from the President and Congress to ensure our future remains bright, unhindered by dangerous climate impacts. We stand ready to support the President and leaders in Congress in efforts to protect our future from climate change," said Lowe.
"With God's help, our country has faced big moral challenges before like World War II and the Civil Rights struggle and come out better on the other side," said Rev. Hescox. "We agree with President Obama that overcoming climate change will require all Americans to play our part in this great cause of freedom. There is no time to delay, as the health and well-being of our children is already being affected. As a pro-life Republican, let me add that we must set aside partisanship and come together to protect God's creation from climate change."
by Mitch Hescox
When it comes to protecting human health, especially vulnerable populations like kids and the elderly, who are you going to believe, the American Lung Association (ALA), or the American Petroleum Institute (API)? Are you going to believe those who have a vested, financial interest in maintaining the status quo like the oil corporations? Or folks who are fighting to protect human health?
We at the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) are proud once again to stand with our friends and colleagues at the American Lung Association (ALA) to demand that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fulfill its obligation to protect our kids and the vulnerable from dangerous, life-threatening pollution.
What we're talking about today is a proposed EPA regulation to get more sulfur out of gasoline, the so-called "Tier-3" standards.
Compared to other countries, we've fallen significantly behind in reducing sulfur, ranking 47th, just behind Thailand. No disrespect to Thailand, but we can do better.
It's well past time for the entire country to meet a standard that is already in place in California, the European Union, and Japan -- and that's what the EPA has proposed.
A recent report from the ALA concluded that cleaning up the gasoline we put in our tanks would cost us about a penny a gallon, and improving the ability of new vehicles to reduce such pollution would add about $150 to the sticker price.
Here's what health benefits we'll get for this investment:
This last point brings up one of the great things about making the gasoline cleaner: we don't have to put new emissions control equipment on our existing cars, or buy a new car, to get cleaner air. Cleaner gas in, less pollution out. From day one. Pretty simple.
As the car companies put it in their testimony in favor of EPA's proposed Tier 3 regulations:
While it will take a couple of decades for the current fleet to be replaced by vehicles with tighter emission controls, reducing sulfur at the pump will immediately reduce emissions from every gasoline-powered vehicle on our roads, no matter how old (p.2).
But that's not all.
As the car companies further pointed out, removing more of the sulfur from gasoline will help improve gas mileage in new vehicles, saving folks money at the pump and reducing global warming pollution to boot.
So what's not to love?
Well, as you can imagine, the oil companies are not happy with having to clean up their gasoline. Last spring during the run up to the elections when gas prices were high the American Petroleum Institute sponsored a study saying that doing so would cost 25 cents at the pump. Some politicians tried to make political hay out of this, but even at the time it was pointed out that this particular study wasn't modeling what EPA was planning to propose. Now that the EPA has put out their proposed Tier 3 rule, this industry-sponsored study has been revised.
What did it find? The cost of producing a gallon of gas would go up 6 to 9 cents.
Of course, this doesn't mean that you would necessarily pay that cost. Oil prices are set in a world market, so competition could mean that U.S. refineries would have to absorb such costs, meaning less profits for them.
As mentioned earlier, the American Lung Association found that the cost would be about a penny a gallon.
So what would this cost the average consumer? Let's err on the high side and say that it would cost 5 cents a gallon. The average consumer uses about 10.4 gallons a week. Let's make that a little higher and say 12 gallons. So 5 cents times 12 equals 60 cents.
So would you be willing to pay anywhere from 12 cents to 60 cents a week to protect our kids from dangerous air pollution? For us that's an absolute no-brainer.
And if that doesn't do it for you, think about this. Where's a place where there's lots of sulfur in the air? (Hint: fire and brimstone.) How about we make our air less like that of H-E-DOUBLE-TOOTH-PICS. Here at EEN, we're all for that!
The Rev. Mitch Hescox is President/CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.
by Mitch Hescox
What do the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council, the Christian Coalition, and the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) have in common?
We're all grateful for the leadership of Senators Portman (R-OH) and Shaheen (D-NH) on energy efficiency as found in their bill, The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. This bill has already attracted strong bi-partisan support, having passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 18-3 on May 8, 2013.
Energy efficiency is one of the cornerstones of EEN's Made-in-America Five-Point Action Plan, and so we are especially glad to see leadership in this area. According to analysis done by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), policies contained in this bill would create 80,000 jobs and save consumers $4 billion on their energy bills by 2020.
Promoting energy efficiency, such as is being done by Senators Portman and Shaheen in their Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, is good stewardship of our God-given resources: good for families; good for our country; good for God's creation. We hope this bill becomes law forthwith, because it's never too soon to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Through energy efficiency, let's end wasteful spending, create jobs, and cut pollution that harms our kids.
The Rev. Mitch Hescox is President/CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN).
by Jim Ball
My friend and colleague the Rev. Ed Brown, head of Care of Creation, asked me to briefly review his latest book, When Heaven & Nature Sing: Exploring God's Goals for His People and His World. So here we go.
Ed is good at a lot of things and has done a number of jobs over his career that formally were not that of a pastor. But fundamentally Ed is a teaching pastor. He can't help it. And that's a good thing for the rest of us. Because a good teaching pastor like Ed can communicate in ways that the average person can readily grasp. And by that I don't mean some type of pejorative "dumbing down," a phrase often employed by others to mask their own inadequacies of being able to communicate their ideas clearly. Ed can use big words like "Anthropocene," but he does so in a way that anyone can understand.
There's a phrase that pastor-types often use: "that book will preach." Strangely enough, it's a compliment. For if a book can be used easily to make a sermon or series of sermons good, well it's worth its weight in gold to a busy pastor who has to come up with a sermon every week.
Ed's book will preach.
But Ed's book will also teach. I think it would be a great discussion book for adult education classes or Youth Groups. Indeed, this may be its greatest contribution -- an excellent creation-care resource for Christian education. And the Church is in desperate need of such resources, those that don't just sit on the shelf but actually get people thinking and acting differently -- more aligned with God's will for our lives and for the whole of creation.
This last point needs to be emphasized. Ed's book is especially helpful when it comes to helping folks see things differently in order to act differently. And it includes some very practical help in achieving this. I think my favorite part of Ed's book is in Chapter 15 where both his teaching abilities and his management skills are merged; Ed brings it all together in two very practical Tables where he combines our "zones of influence" (e.g. home, work) with the five biblical principles he has articulated (e.g. "Kingdom Values"; "Balanced Life"), and then asks us to fill in actions steps for each of the principles in each of the zones. So we have in one place a very handy way to remember why, where, and how to bring our living in line with God's will. Not bad!
For all these reasons I highly recommend Ed's new book, When Heaven & Nature Sing.
by the Rev. Mitch Hescox
One of the latest examples of gridlock in Washington occurred this morning when my fellow Republicans on the Senate's Environment and PublicWorks (EPW) Committee boycotted a confirmation vote for Gina McCarthy to become the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Without the Republicans, the committee didn't have a quorum, and so no vote could be taken.
Across the nation, Christians are sick and tired of Washington's gridlock. We want decisions and not political games. To that end, in March I organized a group of Christian leaders to pray on the lawn of the US Capitol for an end to gridlock; around the country Christians joined us in prayer -- including the states from where these Republican senators on the EPW Committee come from. We prayed that our elected officials would seek common ground for the good of our nation.
I'm on record supporting Gina's nomination. She has excellent qualifications, has the record of listening to all sides, and even has the support of many in industry. I consider her a "good cop" in protecting the health of our children. Even a few weeks ago, not a single Republican during her EPW nomination hearing questioned Ms McCarthy's qualifications. Senator Sessions (AL) even stated she would be confirmed.
If a Senator, Democrat, or Republican, wishes to vote no on Ms McCarthy's nomination, that's their right. But cast a vote, and live by our American democracy and way of life. Too many of our service men and women put their lives on the line everyday (including my own son) to protect our way of life to have Senators play such games.
If Congress doesn't like the Clean Air or the Clean Water Act that protects our children's lives and health, then change the law -- that's part of their job. Just don't play games with the "top cop" for environmental health whose job is to enforce what Congress already passed.
Give Gina McCarthy the confirmation votes she deserves, and let's put in place the "top cop" to protect our children from pollution.
The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox is President/CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.