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Bridging the Environmental Gap

When I first started sharing my convictions about the environment, I thought, If I can just make people understand that saving the planet is the most critical issue of our time, we might all be okay, not understanding how sheltered and lopsided that point of view appears to many people. Try telling a mother whose child is terminally ill that melting glaciers should matter to her. Try telling a breadwinner who fears losing his job about the plight of the polar bear. Try telling a fundamentalist Christian who sees the end times as imminent that she should care about preserving the planet.



One reason why all the scientific evidence isn't translating into widespread green change is that many Americans put more stock in their beliefs than in science. America is a religious country. Whether we choose to admit it or not, our thoughts and actions are shaped by the beliefs we hold dear. Politicians don't ignore this, considering the media coverage dedicated to candidates' responses to the Religious Right.

Our forefathers didn't ignore it either. They created a government that would give religious freedom to people of all faiths. These men knew their Bible. The immensity of its wisdom is felt in their writings, some of which form the basis for our country's political and legal system.

The merits of the Bible are not discussed so openly today. Some of us do not relish discussing its nuances outside of Sunday school. Many of us have never read the Bible cover to cover. And yet, in today's sound-bite culture, we can find an enormous number of Christians who boil down the whole of humanity's relationship with the natural world to a single (and often unnuanced) word: dominion.

On the flip side are the secular environmentalists. In the eyes of believers, these activists come off as walking billboards advertising an angry message. And when each side turns a deaf ear to the other, both sides end up preaching to the choir and wonder why they don't have more new converts.


An Eco-Care Theology


A saying goes, "Liberals are people who know about the Bible but not what's in it, and conservatives are people who know what's in the Bible but know nothing about it." This has been confirmed for me a number of times with secular-minded friends and family, some who know biblical history as thoroughly as any other subject. At the same time, I have some Christian friends who know next to nothing about science or, for that matter, biblical history. This lack of understanding of both the theological basis for creation care and well-documented scientific evidence has led many social conservatives to resist environmental stewardship. Sadly, it has also turned many well-educated people off of Christianity.

While exploring different belief systems in search of an eco-care ethos, I decided to start by confronting my own. What I discovered among some Christians was disheartening. Some assert that God's green earth is simply too big, too indestructible to be tampered with by mere humans. My response is that among all the wonderful things that God created, we humans have managed to destroy a number of them. We have tortured, raped, aborted, and murdered other humans throughout history. We have abused, neglected, and exploited animals. And if we look at the overwhelming scientific consensus, we are doing the same thing to our planet.

Although most Christians won't admit this, many of us do not know our Bible. I used to be one of them, and I still am to a large extent, though it's not for lack of trying. It just happens to be a very large book. In 2005, after having my daughter Jordan, I had an unquenchable urge to test out my own beliefs. Acting on my newfound convictions, I took that year to read the Bible in full for the first time.

It's been five years now since I began studying the Bible. Since that time, I've come to understand the importance of reading things in their historical context. Written over two thousand years ago, the Bible says a lot of things that aren't easily understood in today's world. Also, it is open to interpretation from dozens of denominations. For example, the Bible tells us that God created the earth for the benefit of humankind. One oft-cited passage reads, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground'" (Gen. 1:26).

We must ask ourselves if words such as rule (or dominion from the earlier King James Version) can mean the same thing as squander, exploit, and dominate. In the context of the kings in the Old Testament, rulers who exercised dominion in cruel ways were used as examples of how not to behave. Based on biblical teachings, a more appropriate interpretation of rule is "steward." Deciphering the meaning behind these nuances requires scholarship, prayer, and wisdom.

Even if we account for varying theological leanings, it is difficult to build any case against a clear biblical mandate to protect the planet when we read, "The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land" (Lev. 25:23-24), or, "The earth is the LORD'S, and everything in it" (Ps. 24:1).

An ancient Native American proverb says, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." As I read ancient passages, I am struck by the realization that as wonderful as modern living is, it has severed our bond with nature. Happily, people from all faith traditions are seeking to renew this bond. An eco-care ethos is as universal to humanity as is the search for God himself.

Excerpt taken from Green, American Style by Anna M. Clark. Copyright © 2010 by Anna M. Clark. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.




DHSkj commented…

Before we right of Christians as uneducated scientific idiots... lets look at the FACTs of global warming...
Myths / Facts


MYTH 1: Global temperatures are rising at a rapid, unprecedented rate.

FACT: Accurate satellite, balloon and mountain top observations made
over the last three decades have not shown any significant change in the
long term rate of increase in global temperatures. Average ground
station readings do show a mild warming of 0.6 to 0.8C over the last 100
years, which is well within the natural variations recorded in the last
millennium. The ground station network suffers from an uneven
distribution across the globe; the stations are preferentially located
in growing urban and industrial areas ("heat islands"), which show
substantially higher readings than adjacent rural areas ("land use
effects"). Two science teams have shown that correcting the surface
temperature record for the effects of urban development would reduce the
warming trend over land from 1980 by half.

There has been no catastrophic warming recorded.

MYTH 2: The "hockey stick" graph proves that the earth has
experienced a steady, very gradual temperature decrease for 1000 years,
then recently began a sudden increase.

FACT: Significant changes in climate have continually occurred
throughout geologic time. For instance, the Medieval Warm Period, from
around 1000 to1200 AD (when the Vikings farmed on Greenland) was
followed by a period known as the Little Ice Age. Since the end of the
17th Century the "average global temperature" has been rising
at the low steady rate mentioned above; although from 1940 1970
temperatures actually dropped, leading to a Global Cooling scare.

The "hockey stick", a poster boy of both the UN's IPCC and Canada's
Environment Department, ignores historical recorded climatic swings, and
has now also been proven to be flawed and statistically unreliable as
well. It is a computer construct and a faulty one at that.

MYTH 3: Human produced carbon dioxide has increased over the
last 100 years, adding to the Greenhouse effect, thus warming the earth.

FACT: Carbon dioxide levels have indeed changed for various reasons,
human and otherwise, just as they have throughout geologic time. Since
the beginning of the industrial revolution, the CO2 content
of the atmosphere has increased.The RATE ofgrowth during this period
has also increased fromabout 0.2% per year to the present rate of about
0.4% per year,which growth rate has now been constant for the past 25
years. However, there is no proof that CO2 is the main driver of global warming. As measured in ice cores dated over many thousands of years, CO2
levels move up and down AFTER the temperature has done so, and thus are
the RESULT OF, NOT THE CAUSE of warming. Geological field work in
recent sediments confirms this causal relationship. There is solid
evidence that, as temperatures move up and down naturally and cyclically
through solar radiation, orbital and galactic influences, the warming
surface layers of the earth's oceans expel more CO2 as a result.

MYTH 4: CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas.

FACT: Greenhouse gases form about 3% of the atmosphere by volume. They
consist of varying amounts, (about 97%) of water vapour and clouds, with
the remainder being gases like CO2, CH4, Ozone and N2O, of which carbon dioxide is the largest amount. Hence, CO2
constitutes about 0.039% of the atmosphere. While the minor gases are
more effective as "greenhouse agents" than water vapour and clouds, the
latter are overwhelming the effect by their sheer volume and in the
end are thought to be responsible for 75% of the "Greenhouse effect".
(See here) At current concentrations, a 3% change of water vapour in the atmosphere would have the same effect as a 100% change in CO2.

Those attributing climate change to CO2 rarely mention these important facts.

MYTH 5: Computer models verify that CO2 increases will cause significant global warming.

FACT: The computer models assume that CO2 is the primary climate
driver, and that the Sun has an insignificant effect on climate. You
cannot use the output of a model to verify or prove its initial
assumption - that is circular reasoning and is illogical. Computer
models can be made to roughly match the 20th century temperature rise by
adjusting many input parameters and using strong positive feedbacks.
They do not "prove" anything. Also, computer models predicting global
warming are incapable of properly including the effects of the sun,
cosmic rays and the clouds. The sun is a major cause of temperature
variation on the earth surface as its received radiation changes all the
time, This happens largely in cyclical fashion. The number and the
lengths in time of sunspots can be correlated very closely with average
temperatures on earth, e.g. the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm
Period. Varying intensity of solar heat radiation affects the surface
temperature of the oceans and the currents. Warmer ocean water expels
gases, some of which are CO2. Solar radiation interferes with the cosmic
ray flux, thus influencing the amount ionized nuclei which control
cloud cover.

MYTH 6: The UN proved that manmade CO2 causes global warming.

FACT: In a 1996 report by the UN on global warming, two statements were deleted from the final draft. Here they are:
1) None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we
can attributethe observed climate changes to increases in greenhouse
2) No study to date has positively attributed all or part of the climate change to manmade causes

To the present day there is still no scientific proof that man-made CO2 causes significant global warming.

MYTH 7: CO2 is a pollutant.

FACT:This is absolutely not true. Nitrogen forms 80% of our
atmosphere. We could not live in 100% nitrogen either. Carbon dioxide is
no more a pollutant than nitrogen is.CO2 is essential to life on
earth.It is necessary for plant growth since increased CO2 intake as a
result of increased atmospheric concentration causes many trees and
other plants to grow more vigorously. Unfortunately, the Canadian
Government has included CO2 with a number of truly toxic and noxious
substances listed by the Environmental Protection Act, only as their
means to politically control it.

MYTH 8: Global warming will cause more storms and other weather extremes.

FACT: There is no scientific or statistical evidence whatsoever that
supports such claims on a global scale. Regional variations may occur.
Growing insurance and infrastructure repair costs, particularly in
coastal areas, are sometimes claimed to be the result of increasing
frequency and severity of storms, whereas in reality they are a function
of increasing population density, escalating development value, and
ever more media reporting.

MYTH 9: Receding glaciers and the calving of ice shelves are proof of global warming.

FACT: Glaciers have beenreceding and growing cyclically for hundreds
of years. Recent glacier melting is a consequence of coming out of the
very cool period of the Little Ice Age. Ice shelves have been breaking
off for centuries. Scientists know of at least 33 periods of glaciers
growing and then retreating. Its normal. Besides, glacier's health is
dependent as much on precipitation as on temperature.

MYTH 10: The earths poles are warming; polar ice caps are breaking up and melting and the sea level rising.

FACT: The earth is variable. The western Arctic may be getting somewhat
warmer, due to cyclic events in the Pacific Ocean, but the Eastern
Arctic and Greenland are getting colder. The small Palmer Peninsula of
Antarctica is getting warmer, while the main Antarctic continent is
actually cooling. Ice thicknesses are increasing both on Greenland and
in Antarctica.

Sea level monitoring in the Pacific (Tuvalu) and Indian Oceans (Maldives) has shown no sign of any sea level rise.

Mason George


Mason George commented…

I agree that leaving a gap in your education makes it hard to understand different takes on creation, and sadly, the part we play in nature. We shouldn’t see ourselves as a race that nature will tend to no matter how we respond to it. And “respond” seems the right word here.

John Rader


John Rader commented…

Find photos of previous members of the family, and create a scrapbook that makes a fantastic party favor, or print these photos on a t-shirt, and circulate them as gifts.

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