• Creation Care Podcast, A Faith of Our Own

    June 29,2012, 12:12 PM

    Every day, major headlines tell the story of how Christianity is attempting to influence American culture and politics. But statistics show that young Americans  are disenchanted with a faith that has become culturally antagonistic and too closely aligned with partisan politics. In this personal yet practical work, Jonathan Merritt uncovers the changing face of American Christianity by uniquely examining the coming of age of a new generation of Christians.

    Listen in as Alexei talks with Jonathan about growing up the son of a Southern Baptist President, a graduate of Liberty University, and his own process of taking hold of the heritage of faith. You won't want to miss this personal and insightful conversation.

    You can learn more about Jonathan and read more of his writing at http://jonathanmerritt.com/.

  • Doxology and Desire: Making Small Things New

    June 29,2012, 10:11 AM

    This article was originally published on the Art House America Blog.

    by Sandra McCracken


    Photo: Betty McCracken
    Photo: Betty McCracken

    My father is a brilliant biology teacher, now retired. My mother is a thoughtful student of the Bible. They will have been married for 50 years this August. They have made records of their years of bird-watching in a worn Peterson Field Guide, plotting their dates and sightings together in the margins. They took me on nature walks as a child and we talked about the names of Missouri birds and trees and flowers.

    Maybe that's one of the reasons that I love Maltbie Babcock's "This is My Father's World." I love the line "He shines in all that's fair" because this poetry has given me license to make art about all aspects of life. I have been shaped by the same kind of experience that Babcock describes in being able to taste and hear and see the glory of God in the skies, the flowers, and the birds singing their melodies like hymns.

    In recent months, I've been reading John Muir's memoir and writing poetry and melodies about what it means to posture myself in such a way that is more mindful of my place in the world. Water. Electricity. Oil. Pesticides. Organic foods. As Muir wrote, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." We are all pulled and affected by our place and by each other. Our little choices do have consequences. And there is so much to consider " just reading labels at the grocery store can be a precarious business.

    The more I learn, the more I find that unfortunately America has not had a stellar reputation for stewardship throughout history " logging, strip mining, and crop dusting, just to name a few problems. Nor has this been a pressing concern for most of the American church, whom you might think would be at the front lines ready to care for God's creation. All too often, the topic of conservation quickly becomes political and we run to the safety of our pat answers. There have been some confusing lines drawn by both parties that do not add up to a consistent theology. The only way to get past these political blockades is to go up and over, elevating the conversation, speaking in nuances instead of sound bites, truly listening to each other, and looking for points of unity in spite of our differences. In fact, our diversity may be our best asset when it comes to seeking solutions for our environmental challenges.

    One of the biggest hurdles for me personally in caring for the earth is that the problems feel so overwhelming. I cannot easily read National Geographic without feeling heavy-hearted about the realities of our condition, both within our own insatiably selfish hearts and in my sadness over the many species and habitats that we are losing along the way. And deeper still, if we are attentive to the words of Jesus and His care for the poor, the choices we make in the way of stewardship deeply cut into the survival of the people most desperate for these natural, sustaining resources. The poor are the first and hardest hit by these ecological losses and irregularities.

    Photo: Sandra McCracken
    Photo: Sandra McCracken

    So with each passing day, I am becoming more attuned to the particular DNA I have from each of my parents " biology and theology " pushing me forward on the journey of conservation. I might be unqualified, but everybody has to start somewhere. Rather than burying my head in the sand like I am inclined to do, I have to lean into my discomfort. I'd rather deepen my longing, not assuage it. And I look to the great hope that all things will one day be restored and renewed. I want to honor and care for God's creation not because of a marketing team pulling on my checkbook, but because of a doxological pull that tugs on my conscience.

    As a songwriter by vocation, all of this comes out of me more as poetry than as politics. The wonder of the great outdoors creeps into the songs I write. My favorite time with my children is when we walk in the woods or explore the creek. We visited the Redwoods together in January and stood at the base of those 2,000-year-old trees in wonder. I can't help myself from whistling back at the Towhee birds in Shelby Park. I am giddy when I hear or glimpse the Barred Owl that shares the beautiful old trees in our urban neighborhood. I wake the kids up some nights to see a particularly bright moon in the sky. And I will never get over the thrill of an airplane window seat view " seeing the horizon, the landscapes, the contours of the countryside, and the rivers carving spaces in between.

    Recently, I had the great pleasure of hearing Peter and Miranda Harris, the founding members of A Rocha, a global conservation organization. They shared the story of their journey from a humble small group in Liverpool, to the Alvor estuary in Portugal, and now it has become an international network of conservationists in 16 countries. I had never before heard anybody speak with their particular blend of hope, ethics, and spirituality. It was a rare and powerful combination. As I sat in the room that evening, it confirmed in my own spirit that I'm on some sort of old-yet-new journey through these themes.

    L to R: Jill Phillips, Sandra McCracken, Miranda and Peter Harris, and Jenna Henderson
    L to R: Jill Phillips, Sandra McCracken, Miranda and Peter Harris, and Jenna Henderson

    Miranda wisely confessed, "We cannot save the world " that's God's business. If we stop being in-process, we've lost the battle." Knowing that we cannot control the outcome is really the beginning of the path, not the end. It is a small but real thing that each of us can enter into this practice of conservation believing that we can be part of tangible renewal. For some, it might take the shape of educating or gardening. For others it might look like banking or engineering, a public office or scientific research. It takes all kinds to accomplish the greater good. And it matters for us to practice renewal. It matters because God loves what He made, and when you love someone, you are drawn to love what they love.

    At this invitation, we see that the earth is full of remarkable displays of God's glory (Psalm 104). As we join together in earth-enjoyment, we come not just as individuals, but as a diverse family of people. This co-laboring to bring healing and wholeness is a simple call and yet a difficult one to abide.

    This kind of unity is a challenge every day right under my own roof. In our family of four, from morning until night, we shift our weight back and forth to try our best to respond to the will and desires of each person. And therein is the conflict. My youngest child is three years old and she shows her will in full color. I, too, have a strong will, but a more grown-up version. The same goes for the other two. We each want things our own way. Sometimes we want to be left alone to have it our own way, but we need each other. We get frustrated. We want things to work but they don't always work. And if Mick Jagger is right, that "you can't always get what you want," then could there be a higher objective for our desire?

    The result of how we go about getting what we want extends out from individual families to neighborhoods, then cities, countries, and even out into the atmosphere surrounding our planet. Together we multiply our potential for sustainability, and together we multiply our potential for destruction. We react to each other with changing shades of conflict and complacency because we desire to have things our own way. Meanwhile, the honeybees in the clover fields, the fish in the ocean, and the polar bears on the ice caps go about their day-to-day lives. Their health and wholeness is directly and profoundly affected by how we work out our desires.

    Jonathan Edwards, the great intellectual and theologian, made the case that we have free will, but that at any given moment we are slaves to our greatest desire. And our desires will function to guide our behavior whether we acknowledge them or not. James K.A. Smith, philosophy professor and author, puts it this way in his book Desiring the Kingdom: "Our love is aimed from the fulcrum of our desire " the habits that constitute our character, or core identity. And the way our love or desire gets aimed in specific directions is through practices that shape, mold, and direct our love."

    I confess that I am more than a little weary of my same old practices. I want to wake up and name my desires, to bring them out into the light. I want to see things as they are so that I can change and be changed. This is the beginning of care and conversation, whether it's about protecting dolphins, or about the community garden, or about policy making on Capitol Hill.

    No matter your life station, there is still some small good to be done. Maybe we can't change the world, but we can do something. This summer, as we celebrate my parents' 50 years of marriage, I realize that they have built 50 years of good things, pouring themselves into their family. They taught me to love the things that they love, shaping my desire for beauty and biology, and now I am able to spend some of that inheritance on my own little ones. No one may notice whether or not you recycle that cup when nobody is looking, or if you ride your bike to work, or if you teach your young nephew the difference between maple and oak trees. But a few small habits aligned for the greater good can add up to a whole garden of hope. And hope, like an eager seed, points us to a day coming when God's green earth will be made new.

    Sandra McCracken is an independent singer-songwriter whose smart, soulful blend of folk and gospel is as progressive as it is timeless. In the past 13 years, McCracken has released seven studio albums and two duo EPs with her husband Derek Webb; most recently, she has teamed up with a side band, Rain for Roots, to record and produce an album of children's songs. She is a founding contributor of the Indelible Grace hymn project, and her re-tuned hymns are sung in congregations across the country. McCracken currently lives, writes, and records at her home in East Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Derek Webb, and their two children.

  • Being a Good Steward of the Ocean

    June 29,2012, 09:31 AM

    Mitch Hescox discusses the need to be good stewards of our ocean. Check out the interview. Learn more about oceans at http://oneworldoneocean.org.

  • 50,000 Pro-Life Christians Support EPA on Climate Change Action

    June 29,2012, 09:18 AM

    This past Sunday morning the organization I work for, the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), ran TV spots in key states -- Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri and in D.C. -- asking viewers to tell their Senators "that defending the EPA's ability to reduce carbon pollution is the right thing to do."

    On Monday, EEN's President, the Rev. Mitch Hescox, and I met with the Environmental Protection Agency's Assistant Administrator for air pollution issues, Gina McCarthy, played the TV spot for her, and hand-deliver more than 50,000 messages of support from pro-life Christians.

    Here is what that message said:

    Dear EPA Administrator Jackson:

    As a pro-Life Christian, I urge you and the EPA to remain strong in your efforts to address carbon pollution through the authority of the Clean Air Act.

    The reality of climate change is already being felt here in the U.S. and around the world in the form of extreme weather and health impacts, which most affect the unborn, poor, and powerless. It is time for America to tackle this great moral challenge. Doing so protects life and abides by Christ's teaching to love one care for the least of these who will be hit hardest by climate change.

    Thank you.

    As we told Gina, we're happy to stand side by side with the EPA as it leads our country in reducing carbon pollution.

    The TV spots highlight the extreme weather that has been plaguing the United States and point out that the poor in poor countries are and will continue to experience more frequent and intense heatwaves, droughts, floods and other harmful impacts due to climate change.

    "You do whatever it takes to protect someone you love," the video narrator says. "What about the less fortunate in poorer countries? Climate change is threatening their lives. Jesus taught us to care for 'the least of these,' and today this means working to overcome climate change."

    I'm sure it will surprise some to know that over 50,000 pro-life Christians are supporting the EPA's efforts to overcome global warming. Support for climate action has been quietly growing, despite our economic troubles and the disavowal of climate change by prominent political leaders. Christians are seeing that climate action is part of Christ's lordship in our lives, even in the midst of hardship and opposition.

    Support for climate action within the evangelical community began in February 2006 when more than 80 senior evangelical leaders, including Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, formed the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) and issued a statement calling for strong action on climate change, including federal legislation to put a price on carbon. Since then evangelicals have authored numerous books climate change and creation care, including Katharine Hayhoe and Andrew Farley's "A Climate of Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions," Jonathan Merritt's "Green Like God," Ben Lowe's "Green Revolution" and my own "Global Warming and the Risen LORD."

    In addition, for the first time an evangelical denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, recently adopted a special report on creation care and climate change, which included the following statement:

    "Urgent action is required to address climate change. Action is needed at the personal, community, and political levels toward reducing human causes of climate change and mobilizing ourselves in urgent assistance to those who are forced to adapt to its negative effects. We have an opportunity now to reduce the future impact of climate change by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. These emissions are increasing at an exponential rate. Waiting to act until more data accumulate limits our ability to reduce future impacts and ensures that future climate change will be greater rather than smaller" (p. 57).

    Christ's Lordship over climate action is reaching more and more evangelicals, and support for the EPA's climate regulations will continue to grow.

    As my colleague and EEN's President, the Rev. Mitch Hescox, says: "So goes our community on this issue, so goes the country."

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD. This article originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

  • Evangelicals Praise Senate For Protecting the Unborn from Mercury Pollution

    June 20,2012, 09:17 AM

    WASHINGTON, DC - In a full vote Wednesday morning the Senate rejected a measure intended to roll back the EPA's implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), a rule that would limit mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants.

    "Today is a great day for our kids and the unborn. The U.S. Senate did the right thing by rejecting efforts to kill mercury regulations at the expense of our children's health," said the Rev. Mitch Hescox President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN). "20 years was too long to wait but we've finally done the right thing by regulating mercury from power plants for the first time."

    Since 2005, EEN has worked to overcome the mercury poisoning of the unborn. In the last year EEN has run a media campaign featuring radio, TV, and billboard ads, as well as emails to over 10 million evangelicals and Catholics, in key states to raise public awareness of the dangers of mercury and urging Christians to contact their elected officials to protect the unborn from this poison.

    "I'm especially thankful for the bi-partisan leadership of Senators Alexander (R-TN), Casey (D-PA), and Pryor (D-AR) for voting for life" said Rev. Hescox.

    EEN has worked with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and over 100 senior evangelical leaders to lift up the impacts of mercury on the unborn. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 1 in 6 children in the United States are born with harmful levels of mercury.

  • EEN Op-Ed in the Hill Today

    June 18,2012, 20:12 PM

    EEN's President, Mitch Hescox, shares thoughts on mercury poisoning of our unborn babies and infants in the Hill newspaper today. Click here for the full piece.

  • Sing Allelu

    June 17,2012, 20:21 PM

    The delight of God's people and God's creation in the steadfast love of the Father!

  • Evangelical Denomination Affirms Creation-care and Climate Action

    June 15,2012, 15:00 PM

    by Jim Ball

    Yesterday the Christian Reformed Church made history, becoming the first evangelical denomination located in the United States to affirm the need for climate action as contained in the report it adopted by their Creation Stewardship Task Force -- which was chaired by the "dean" or elder statesman of the evangelical creation-care movement, Dr. Cal DeWitt (pictured above).

    The CRC's newly adopted position on climate change begins on page 56 of the Task Force's report. (Yes, you read that right -- page 56! This is a very thorough report, containing much biblical, theological, and scientific material that will serve as a resource for years to come.) As they themselves acknowledge, their position follows closely that of the Oxford Declaration on Global Warming, adopted in 2002, and the Evangelical Climate Initiative's statement, released in 2006.

    Their fifth point states:

    "Urgent action is required to address climate change. Action is needed at the personal, community, and political levels toward reducing human causes of climate change and mobilizing ourselves in urgent assistance to those who are forced to adapt to its negative effects. We have an opportunity now to reduce the future impact of climate change by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. These emissions are increasing at an exponential rate. Waiting to act until more data accumulate limits our ability to reduce future impacts and ensures that future climate change will be greater rather than smaller" (p. 57).

    We couldn't agree more. We urge all to read and ponder this important report.

  • [Action Alert Mercury and the Unborn]

    June 13,2012, 06:11 AM

    Next week the U.S. Senate is likely to vote on a resolution which would strike down EPA's Mercury Air Toxics Standard for Utilities (Utility MACT). The resolution of disapproval is being sponsored by Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma. These resolutions have the ability to nullify any similar rule making on pollution covered by the Utility MACT (for background on these sorts of resolutions click here).

    In our view the Utility MACT is 20 years too late. While the EPA has waited to implement this rule up to one in six children are born exposed to toxic mercury. The unborn child is exposed to mercury when their mothers eat fish with doses of mythlmercury that can be harmful causing brain damage, lowered intelligence, and other neurological disorders. The level of mercury exposure for the unborn child is twice that of the mother as there is no easy way for the unborn child to rid itself of mercury. This sort of mercury is emitted by coal-fired power plants. Utility MACT would reduce the mercury emitted by over 90%.

    Won't you take a moment to contact your Senator? Urge your Senator to vote no on Senator Inhofe's CRA on Utility MACT.

    Click here to find out who your Senators are and how to contact them

    If you contact an office please let us know at support@creationcare.org.

    .For more information about mercury and the unborn click here.

  • Responding to an Important Address by Sen. Lugar

    June 12,2012, 17:13 PM

    by Jim Ball

    Yesterday morning, June 11th, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave a very substantive keynote address at a conference of US Agency for International Development (USAID). I think it deserves to be read widely and encourage each of you to read and reflect upon the wisdom it contains.

    Sen. Lugar provides a strong defense for funding that helps poor countries. Near the beginning he asserts that:

    "development assistance, when properly administered, remains a bargain for U.S. national security and for our own economic and moral standing in the world."

    I couldn't agree more. The rest of the address fleshes out this proposition.

    At one point Sen. Lugar states:

    "I would assert that as a moral nation, founded on moral principles, we diminish ourselves and our national reputation if we turn our backs on the obvious plight of hundreds of millions of people who are living on less than a dollar a day and facing severe risk from hunger and disease."

    Many would argue with one or more of the assertions made in this remarkable sentence -- and that's part of my point. This address deserves to be studied and argued over.

    I myself have certain parts of the address I would like to comment on, and I'm sure those of you who know me will be shocked to find that it has to do with climate change.

    Sen. Lugar has some legitimate concerns about funding designated to help the poor in poor countries address climate change. I and other colleagues in the religious community have been involved in advocating for such funding on the Hill for nearly a decade now. And I have several chapters in my book devoted to this issue. I very much appreciate Sen. Lugar's careful attention to climate change and foreign assistance.

    He states:

    "While foreign assistance investments often require significant time before demonstrating impacts, funding should flow to programs that demonstrate results. Our programs can only produce results when they are developed with results in mind. I raise this point, because a percentage of foreign assistance funding to some countries is moving away from traditional purposes -- including education, food security, and disease prevention -- toward climate change."

    Several things to comment on here.

    First, I'm grateful that Sen. Lugar counsels patience in waiting for results from foreign assistance.

    Second, those of us in the religious community who have been advocating for increased funding to help the poor cope with climate change would agree strongly with Sen. Lugar that "funding should flow to programs that demonstrate results."

    We ourselves have told this to senior officials at USAID.

    But when thinking about results, two things must be kept in mind.

    1. We must not forget those least developed countries whose level of societal infrastructure and/or stability require additional efforts towards capacity building even before specific climate programs can be implemented. In other words, we can't just go for the easy wins while never addressing the tougher cases.

    In comparing development and diplomacy, Sen. Lugar made the following point:

    "In a development context, we are willing to take a much longer view of the world and devote resources to countries of less, or even minimal, strategic significance. We are willing to allow the diplomatic and national security benefits of development work to accrue over time. And we are willing to engage in missions for purely altruistic reasons."

    I and my religious community colleagues have argued that this same rationale applies to poor countries and climate change. Indeed, for our long-term development goals to be successful, it must apply. If we foolishly neglect adapting to climate change, much if not all of our development work will be undermined, even reversed. All development work must now be done taking present and future climate impacts into consideration.

    2. What do you measure and what is the standard by which you judge? Climate adaptation --enhancing resilence and reducing vulnerability to climate impacts -- is planning for hard times to come, like the Patriarch Joseph did in Egypt. It is prevention, which, as the old say goes, is worth a pound of cure. Just like Sen. Lugar has argued for development, it's a bargain for our country.

    Sen. Lugar has called for measureable results, as have we. How do you measure prevention? Lives saved, disasters curtailed or avoided, hunger and thirst averted.

    Development seeks to help folks climb out of poverty so they can travel the road of economic freedom and have the capacity to make their lives better. Have we helped to improve a person's economic situation? That's measurable.

    Unfortunately, climate impacts will help push them back into poverty. Successful adaptation includes both development and ensuring folks don't fall back into poverty. Let's keep this in mind as we are seeking to measure results, what Sen. Lugar rightly encourages us to do. Bad stuff curtailed or avoided, making sure things didn't get worse because of climate impacts -- that must count, too. It could be that in situations with significant climate impacts, maintaining an economic status quo can be counted as a major success.

    Climate adaptation and development are related but distinct goals that must be pursued simultaneously if both are to be achieved; in fact, they can often be achieved by the same solutions if done in a climate sensitive fashion. (See my book for numerous examples, such as a local business in Tanzania, Katani, Inc. They use sisal, a drought-resistant, year-round cash crop to make numerous profitable products and then burn the remainder in a biomass gasifier creating electricity for the community.)

    For this reason, distinguishing them to the point of pitting them against one another in a funding context is counterproductive. The religious community has always argued that adaptation funding must be additional to funding for relief and development or "ODA." We must not rob Peter to pay Paul.

    This leads to my third comment on the quote above from Sen. Lugar. He brings up the need for measurable results "because a percentage of foreign assistance funding to some countries is moving away from traditional purposes -- including education, food security, and disease prevention -- toward climate change."

    This is the robbing Peter to pay Paul problem that I just highlighted. We don't want the poor to be short-changed in terms of the total level of funding, which needs to go up to deal with climate impacts. Again, climate funding must be additional. Indeed, from the climate adaptation perspective, this must be the case because successful development is adaptation. Having success in the three areas Sen. Lugar highlights -- education, food security, disease prevention -- helps to enhance resilence and reduce vulnerability to climate impacts. So when Sen. Lugar sees funding for these "moving away from [these] traditional purposes," and that means they are getting less funding, that's a problem. (Sen. Lugar is addressing USAID and saying he's concerned about such shifts. What really needs to happen is for Congress to increase the funding for both. Hopefully Sen. Luger can help with that!)

    But I'm left wondering whether deep down Sen. Lugar's comment still reflects the idea that substantively climate adaptation and development are distinct and separate and competitive. I hope not.

    Part of the confusion about the relationship between development and adaptation stems, I believe, from a truncated understanding of adaptation. Most of the time when people are saying "adaptation," what they are referring to is what I call "targeted adaptation." As I have just discussed, adaptation more broadly includes development (or my preferred term, sustainable economic progress). But there are also projects specifically designed to address projected climate impacts in a particular place. Knowing, for example, that a certain area will experience more drought and water scarcity could have you move towards drought-resistant crops. That's targeted adaptation. It is very much needed, but, again, it must not be pitted against adaptation via development or sustainable economic progress.

    Sen. Lugar's main concern is that targeted adaption projects "are among the least likely to offer measurable development results and the most likely to be politically motivated."

    To the concern to see targeted adaptation produce "measurable development results," as my previous comments suggest, I would contend that a development metric, or a make-things-better metric, is an unfair one for many such projects. Again, we must recognize that preventing worse things from happening is a success.

    What we need now is increased funding for both climate-sensitive development and targeted adaptation, so that we're working hard to make sure climate impacts don't make things worse while we are helping folks create sustainable economic progress, thereby making things better.

    I'll sum my perspective up this way: prevent things from getting worse while helping things get better.

    Finally, let me highlight how Sen. Lugar closes out his climate change discussion:

    "If ten million dollars are spent on a climate change project in a country suffering from malnutrition and uncontrolled disease, we must be able to demonstrate that those dollars will produce a better result than what could be produced through alternative initiatives related to agriculture development and disease prevention."

    I think this is fair, assuming such "alternative initiatives" would not have taken climate change into account. If that is the case, then climate-sensitive development and targeted adaptation will easily provide a greater rate of return. Honestly, I wish it were not true. But the reality is that climate impacts are already occuring, and are going to get worse, unfortunately.

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • King of Glory

    June 08,2012, 08:19 AM

    by Third Day

  • Reason 7: Essential to Create Public Support to Pass Climate Legislation

    June 06,2012, 08:12 AM

    by Jim Ball

    This post is the last in my 7 Reasons Why series making the case for why the President must talk now about climate change being a top priority.

    To begin to make my final point, let me summarize much of what I've said thus far:

    • global emissions must peak during the next Presidential term to overcome global warming and ocean acidification,
    • the rate of change to achieve this is daunting but doable,
    • forestry and agriculture must be part of the solution, and
    • we must make major preparations to adapt and help the poor adapt.

    All of this requires comprehensive climate legislation with the following characteristics:

    1. Puts a price on carbon in a way that avoids economic harm to the poor and doesn't disproportionately impact any region or major sector of the economy.
    2. Provides significant long-term funding for climate-friendly R&D.
    3. Has specially designed programs to incentivize climate-friendly activities in forestry and agriculture.
    4. Creates and funds comprehensive adaptation programs for both the U.S. and poor countries.

    Clearly whoever is the President cannot do this alone. He needs support. And those of us who have accepted the climate challenge must play our part and help create a movement for climate action.

    But the President also needs to help build support for action. The nature of the threat requires it, given that we only have a few years to launch a revolutionary, society-wide transformation. So too does the creation of public concern and support.

    The work of social scientist Robert Brulle and his colleagues shows that public concern for climate change goes up when senior political leaders talk about the need for action. It goes down when they don't, or when they speak against action.

    As one of Brulle's colleagues, Craig Jenkins, put it:

    "It is the political leaders in Washington who are really driving public opinion about the threat of climate change "The politics overwhelms the science."

    In addition, their study found that the level of public concern also tracked with the amount of media coverage there was, which itself was driven to a large extent by what political leaders were saying.

    In an interview Brulle got right to the point: "The fact that Obama isn't talking about the issue or even using the word matters very much."

    What's normally the case for politicians is that they respond to what the public considers to be an urgent concern. This mentality was captured in a recent interview on climate change with John Huntsman, former Republican candidate for President and former Governor of Utah. According to Gov. Huntsman, who continues to believe in global warming, the climate challenge

    "hasn't translated into any kind of action within the political community because you don't have people on a broad basis who are pushing us because they " just don't see the urgency. The political policy agenda does not move unless it has people who are moving it."

    He went on to observe that the lack of leadership is bipartisan:

    "I don't hear Democrats talking about it either. I don't see it on the agenda anywhere."

    Sad, but true.

    Here's the bottom line. The nature of this challenge, both the threat itself and the public support for action, demands Presidential leadership. He can't be the Facilitator-in-Chief on this one. He has to be the Leader-in-Chief. He can't lay back and wait for support to materialize. He must help create it.

    In his interview Gov. Huntsman reminded us that "Politics is the art of the possible." But in the case of overcoming global warming we need the President to help make it possible.

    Right now, unfortunately, the President is close to being the Neville Chamberlin of the climate challenge, with an apparent strategy of appeasement when it comes to this terrible threat. But President Obama has within him the courage to be the Winston Churchill of overcoming global warming. He must bring forth this God-given courage now and let the country know that it is a top priority. Doing so will give him the moral and political authority to say to the country and Congress that we must do what needs to be done to overcome global warming and create a better future for ourselves, future generations, and those most vulnerable, the world's poor.

    The Rev. Jim Ball is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Reason 6: The Need to Adapt

    June 05,2012, 06:08 AM

    by Jim Ball

    The world is already experiencing the effects of climate change. Even if the world puts into place a strong program to reduce global warming pollution we will still experience major impacts. And most of these consequences will fall on the poor.

    We are all going to have to adapt, and the rich are going to have to help the poor adapt.

    Climate adaptation is basically planning for hard times to come, like the Patriarch Joseph did in Egypt when he led the country to store up grain for the coming famine (Gen. 41).

    But just like Egypt needed the leadership of Joseph, so too our country needs the President to explain that we must invest in preparations for climate impacts here in the U.S., and that it is in our nation's interest to help the poor in poor countries do the same.

    It's pretty simple. The President can't make the case for climate adaptation if he isn't willing to talk seriously about climate change.

    Next Up: Essential to Create Public Support

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

  • Rev. Mitch Hescox Testimony on Carbon Pollution (May 2012)

    June 04,2012, 08:30 AM

    A video of Mitch's testimony. You can view the text of the submitted testimony below.

    On March 27, 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first national carbon pollution standards for power plants. This is an historic step in the right direction to overcome global warming and protecting public health.

    "The simple fact is that if man is not able to solve his ecological problems, then man's resources are going to die."(1) Noted evangelical, Francis Schaeffer correctly stated those words in 1970 and they remain true today. The earth has a fever, (2) and the fever's impacts have reached epidemic proportions, threatening 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 Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2012 (3) displayed on the left graphically indicates the great difficulty in scrapping out life for the world's poorest people. The darker the color on the map indicates those already impacted. 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(4) issued by the Lausanne Movement (founded by Billy Graham and John Stott, another internationally respected evangelical leader) recognizes the need for climate change action, as does as does the global evangelical network Micah Challenge. (5)

    The changing climate kills hundreds of 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 Warming Increases the Risk of Civil War in Africa. The authors' model the impacts just described and their influence by temperature rise. They conclude for each 1 degree Celsius warming will result in a 49% increase in African civil wars, a 54% increase in conflict, and an additional 393,000 battle deaths within the next 20 years. (6) They are not alone in predicting increased instability. The 2010 United States Department of Defense Quadrennial Review states:

    Climate change will affect DoD in two broad ways. First, climate change will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions that we undertake. The U.S. Global Change Research Program, composed of 13 federal agencies, reported in 2009 that climate-related changes are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters. Among these physical changes are increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the oceans and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows. 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 an accelerant 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. (7)

    These facts represent people. Victor Mughogho, the Executive Director of Eagles Relief and Development "Malawi, recently visited the United States for my organization's Global Day of Prayer For Creation Care and the Poor. During his presentation, Victor shared exactly what climate scientists' have predicted for years.

    Victor told us how for their parents the rainy season was so predictable they knew to plant on October 15 every year. They planted and the rains fell --predictable --stable --reliable. They grew so much food they had an overabundance. In their parents' lives, they experienced one major drought.

    Since 1970, droughts, floods, and unpredictable rains have become the new normal, exactly what the scientists said climate change would do,(8) wreaking havoc for poor farmers.

    2011 was the fourth consecutive year drought has plagued Malawi. Moreover, when the rains come they are unpredictable. Victor told us that last year the farmers planted and the crops failed; planted again, failed again; planted a third time and they failed a third time. Hunger, malnutrition, the stunting of children are the results. Victor reminded us that such stunting harms a person's brain development, further jeopardizing their future and that of Malawi. Further, women who were stunted as children are at greater risk of having complications giving birth, delivering lower birth weight infants, and higher birth morality for both mother and child.

    Another example stems from the work of Dr. Val Shean, a veterinarian and missionary in Uganda. For nearly 20 years, Val has shared Christ's love in both word and deed among the seven sub-tribes of the Karamojong, who live in most arid region of Uganda (watch a clip of Val Shean sharing about here experiences here). During a recent visit to the United States Dr. Shean shared the following story with us, about a baby named Muya Val who was orphaned because of climate change.

    For the last three years Val's friend Aleachae's ability to grow crops to help feed her family had been thwarted by the changing climate. For two of these years the rains came at the wrong time for planting and when they did come, it was not enough to stem the drought. Then in the third year, the community experienced "a horrible flood," all the more remarkable since they have never had flooding. For three straight years, Aleachae's family did not have enough food. Her husband became so enraged that he threw her out of the home for being a bad wife and mother, as she could not grow a garden. Of course, it was not Aleachae's fault. It was because of global warming. Yet she was blamed.
    Once her husband threw her out, Aleachae went to another village, lived with another man, and became pregnant. Aleachae was tossed away --again, and attempted a return to her original village. However, she died after childbirth, and named her child, Muya. Muya was then brought to the local church, who asked Val to be her guardian, and gave Muya Val's last name because the father was unknown.

    Unfortunately, in the years to come there will be many more climate change orphans like Muya Val. Indeed, in our lifetime billions of the world's poor will be impacted by climate change resulting from carbon pollution.

    The United States does not escape either. 2011 was the wildest year on record for extreme weather in the US with 99 major events. Insurance losses in 2011 were the second costliest on record, only 2005 with hurricane Katrina were higher. The trend continues in 2012 being the year without winter, extreme weather appears to be drawing attention to a changing climate. Science now affirms that North America's summer heat waves and changing precipitation are very likely resulting from anthropogenic climate change. In other words, the extreme weather events of the past several years are typical of climate change and very likely will continue.

    Others present today will testify to coal-produced electricity (the largest source of carbon pollution) adding $0.0972 - 0.2689 per kWh in hidden health and other costs not currently realized by the utility.(9) Others may testify to jobs created by clean energy, or the American public's desire for clean air. All true. However, my testimony is a moral cause for the poor. Someone must stand and speak for those without a voice and those who are most impacted by carbon pollution, yet the least responsible for its toxic emissions. And there are many Christians in the U.S. who are concerned about what happens to poor people in poor countries.

    The New Source Standard for Carbon Pollution remains a first step, but only a first step. We need a clean energy revolution whose rate of change must be incredibly fast. A gradual transition will not provide an adequate means to protect public health from the well-documented fossil fuel consequences of carbon, mercury, lead, and other heavy metals, particulate pollution.

    Our nation must empower a second "Greatest Generation" who similar to the mobilization required for overcoming fascism, provide the leadership for a clean energy revolution. Clean energy and reducing carbon pollution, according to the respected business-consulting firm McKinsey & Co., will require a 10-fold increase in carbon productivity.(10) This will require a united effort of government, business, and all society working together, including comprehensive energy/climate legislation.

    A national clean energy policy, including comprehensive climate change legislation that includes a price on carbon, must be a national priority. Our nation must lead in driving innovation throughout the economy, and success for market-based solutions will occur only as a carbon fuel's true cost becomes realized.

    A clean energy future provides a healthy new economy for America and our success at home can then be exported to other parts of the world. American innovation and businesses stand to gain if we can come up with the next efficient clean energy production.

    The New Source Performance Standard for Carbon Pollution is an historic first step in the right direction and we strongly recommend its finalization and promulgation in its current form. However, it's only a beginning, a springboard. We urge the Administration, Congress, industry, and the American people to work toward a market based solution to reduce current carbon pollution and insure a safer and healthier world for all God's children.


    cited references

    1 Francis A, Schaeffer, Pollution and the Death of Man, Tyndale House, Wheaton, IL, 1970, reprinted 2011, pg. 9.
    2 Jim Ball, Global Warming and the Risen Lord, The Evangelical Environmental Network, Washington, DC, 2010, pg. 39.
    3 http://maplecroft.com/about/news/ccvi_2012.html
    4 http://www.lausanne.org/en/documents/ctcommitment.html
    5 http://www.micahnetwork.org/sites/default/files/doc/library/micahnetwork_statementtoworldleaders.pdf
    6 Warming increases the risk of civil war in Africa (October 2009); Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
    7 United States Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review Report (February 2010).
    8 http://www.actionaid.org.uk/doc_lib/malawi_climate_change_report.pdf
    9 Paul R. Epstein, et.al., Full Cost Accounting For The Life Cycle of Coal, Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences, 1219, (2011), 73-98.
    10 http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/MGI/Research/Natural_Resources/The_carbon_productivity_challenge.

  • Reason 5: Ocean Acidification

    June 04,2012, 05:39 AM

    by Jim Ball

    Reason 5 in this 7 Reasons Why blog series is not about the consequences of global warming per se, but rather about another consequence of our carbon pollution called ocean acidification.

    God's oceans are a tremendous benefit to humanity. For example, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), "more than a billion people rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein."

    Unfortunately, humanity's poor stewardship -- including overharvesting, water pollution, bad development and fishing practices, and the rise of ocean temperatures from global warming -- is stealing God's blessing from the creatures of the sea (Gen. 1:20-22).

    Another major impact that has recently come to light is called ocean acidification, which is being caused mostly by the same carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) that is also the major cause of global warming.

    Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, anthropogenic or human-caused CO2 has made the ocean 30% more acidic. A just-published study in Science concluded the following concerning the current rate of acidification:

    • it is happening faster than any time in the last 300 million years, and;
    • it is 10 times faster than the last time the oceans were this acidic some 56 million years ago " and that episode was accompanied by a massive extinction.

    In other words, what we are doing to God's oceans through ocean acidification is unprecedented in the history of the earth.

    Anything with a shell or skeleton made from calcium carbonate -- from oysters, clams and shrimp, to coral reefs, to tiny creatures like Pteropods that help create the foundation of oceanic food webs -- is in serious danger from ocean acidification. As NOAA states, "When shelled organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk."


    Let me briefly highlight two examples. First, coral reefs have been called the rainforests of the oceans for their ability to support so much life " approximately 25 percent of the living creatures of the oceans. They also generate billions of dollars in benefits to humanity. Coral reefs are a focal point of God's blessing of the seas: "God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas'" (Gen. 1:22).

    Ocean acidification on its own puts coral reefs at risk. In our lifetimes -- on our watch as God's stewards -- we could literally destroy the capacity of many coral reefs to sustain life through ocean acidification and other harmful activities.

    Second, oysters are a major industry, with the West Coast bringing in over $270 million a year. As NOAA reports, "In recent years, there have been near total failures of developing oysters in both aquaculture facilities and natural ecosystems on the West Coast." They consider ocean acidification a "potential factor" in this collapse." A just-published study of a commercial oyster hatching facility in Oregon goes further, concluding that ocean acidification was responsible for a decline to a level that was not economically sustainable.

    Just as with climate change, it is ocean acidification's unprecedented rate of change that requires us not simply to have a gradual transition towards clean energy. The President must help the country understand that we need a revolution, not just a transition. We need a great transformation to overcome these twin challenges of climate change and ocean acidification. But time is running short to bring about this great transformation. The country cannot accomplish this without strong leadership from the President.

    Next Up: The Need to Adapt

    The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is EEN's Executive Vice President for Policy and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.

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