We have heard of the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro and
glaciers of Bolivia, from which come life-giving waters. We have
heard appeals from peoples of the Arctic, Asia and Pacific. We have
heard of forests cut down, seasons disrupted, wildlife dying, of land
hunger in Africa, of new diseases, droughts, floods, fires, famine
and desperate migrations. This climatic chaos is now worsening.
There are wars and rumors of war, job loss, inequality and violence.
We fear our neighbors. We waste our children's heritage.
All of these are driven by our dominant economic systems, by
greed not need, by worship of the market, by Mammon and Caesar.
Is this how Jesus showed us to live?
Thus begins the document, the Kabarak Call to Peace and Ecojustice
, prophetic fruit of a
once-in-a-generation world conference of Friends (Quakers) in Nkuru
Kenya this spring. Friends worldwide spent two years responding to a
query about the moral challenge of global change – not just
climate, but all dimensions. Responses were collected and a group of
Friends at the world gathering spent a week distilling them into a
text presented to almost 900 Friends for final discernment. Those
present included the gamut of Friends, from atheists to evangelicals.
Most delegates were from Africa; the largest number of Quakers –
primarily evangelical - live in Kenya. That this diverse group could
come to consensus on a document which powerfully unites the social
gospel of Jesus with environmental concerns is a testament to the
underlying unity of Spirit which rose to embrace this occasion to
salt the groaning world with the Light of Christ.
The Kabarak Call is as timely as it is
stirring, for our generation is the one that must act on climate
change, or face the consequence of being the species – ecosystem
managers whether we like it our not – that failed God, the earth,
and ourselves. Climate scientists
now agree that we have only about four years left to significantly
slow global carbon emissions, or face catastrophic climate change,
creating a radically different planet in which higher life - we
imagine ourselves its zenith – may not survive.
We are called to see what love can
do...to love our neighbor as ourselves
Friends General Conference held a gathering a few years ago entitled
“Who is my Neighbor?” where we clearly recognized that our
neighbors include all species, the whole web, not just 21st century
Samaritans. And it includes future generations. To love them, to
even give them a chance at the blessings of life in the Holocene era,
is to sever our dependence upon fossil fuels. Governments of the
world have done little to reverse the status quo, but 350.org is now
conducting a campaign which is leading students to challenge 192
American universities to divest from coal and oil investments.
called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the
afflict the comfortable is to
afflict ourselves. Though I have reduced my personal emissions from
near 20 tons of carbon annually- the US average - to 10 or 11, I am
still far from the 1-2 tones that would be my limit were I an average
consumer of the earth's annual biomass production in 2050 on a
crowded planet of 9 billion. My emissions are now average for a
European, but one huge variable makes me an Ugly American some years
– air travel. If I can limit such travel to one coast-to-coast
trip a year, with only one stop, then I can come in near 11 tons.
But I rather feebly resist family vacations that require huge outlays
of carbon for air travel. I must honestly admit that my present
enjoyment of family is more important to me than the survival of
civilization, including future generations of this family.
We are called to teach our children
right relationship, to live in harmony with each other and all living
beings... Who are we
to teach? At our current rate, by the time my oldest grandchild
finishes college, roughly 2030, we will have used up our carbon
budget to hold the temperature rise to 2 degrees C - the max for
stopping uncontrollably cascading climate change. And that represents
only one-fifth of known fossil reserves. If we don't leave that
carbon, and the profits it represents, in the ground, by the time my
grandchildren reach old age our planet will be 3.5-6 degrees C warmer
than it was in 1990. If you want to know what kind of world that
would be, review Mark Lynas' Six Degrees. If you can get past
the three degrees chapter, you are tougher than I.
We are called to do justice to all
and walk humbly with God, to cooperate lovingly with all who share
our hopes for the future of the earth.
To walk humbly with God evokes
the Quaker testimony of
simplicity. Voluntary simplicity in the modern world is a radical
act, requiring tremendous focus and the willingness to disrupt
patterns as pervasive as driving kids across town to soccer practice.
Some of us have tried. I know only one or two First World people
who have succeeded. Hopes for the future are linked of necessity to
living in a way that acknowledges that our neighbors include future
generations. What will we willingly sacrifice so that they might have
a future? And what joys await us if we do?
We are called to be patterns and
examples in a 21st century campaign for peace and ecojustice..Peace
on earth, the call of the season of Christ's Light, requires peace
with earth, ecojustice. We need to build the moral argument for
stopping our emissions in their tracks. And we need to proceed to
support governmental policies that will force, not encourage, us to
Personal acts have
helped a little, but living like a European, aided by expensive solar
panels and driving a Prius (do you really think a 21st century Jesus
would drive at all?), is not sufficient to the monumental task at
hand. Cap and trade has no future, for it failed within the Kyoto
Accord and is too subject to manipulation by greedy traders. Nor are
comprehensive international agreements likely to provide a tough,
enforceable framework that will slow emissions fast enough. We need
carbon taxes, especially in the biggest countries, and bilateral
“clubs” - trade agreements over carbon emissions discussed in my
November post - in order to stem the tide.
The deterrents to
progress in cutting carbon emissions are huge. The first is the
wealth of known reserves that fossil fuel companies hold. The second
is our addiction to the comforts that fossil fuels have made
available, enabling a non-sustainable lifestyle that is globally
emulated. A recent Pew poll showed that while over 70 percent of
Americans thought we should reduce our emissions, less than 3 per
cent of them had done anything to change their fossil habits. The
richest one billion of us, living far richer lifestyles than kings a
few centuries ago, use the entire annual biomass production of our
planet. Divestment along the lines of 350.org's campaign would
help, but we need a movement that pushes governments to put laws and
taxes in place that will make using fossil fuels prohibitively
expensive. We need our addiction redirected by mandate.
Even with that
mandate, the radical recast of the social gospel that the Kabarak
Call demands necessarily leads to a post-industrial world of
appropriate technology, restraint in resource use, and a rebirth of
live community, replacing a virtual world which uses real energy.