Shield of the Episcopal Church of the United States Episcopal Church in Minnesota Shield of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota
Environmental Stewardship Commission
(MEESC)
Environmental Stewardship Reports
The following report was provided by John G. Gibbs, PhD of the Environmental Stewardship Commission.  John attended as the commission's representative.

An Environmental Justice Conference
Sponsored by the NCCC Eco-Justice Working Group
Washington, DC - May 20-23, 2001


"On Earth as it is in Heaven: Witnessing to God's Healing of Creation"
 
Members of the conference numbered about 350, we were told, from 39-40 states.  Plenary sessions and workshops filled Sunday evening, all of Monday, and the first few hours of Tuesday.  Then on Tuesday conference members went to Capitol Hill to visit with their Senators, Representatives, and their respective staff people, about their opposing fossil fuels and nuclear power, and the urgent need of their linking energy policy to global warming.  [See the NCCC's news release about this on May 22, 2001.]

The clearest outline of most of our concerns came from an Episcopal diocese (which one?) "out East."  Their 4 points help to organize the wealth of information and objectives that feed ecologically sensitive communities:

The first 3 points summarize scientific evidence, hypotheses, and projections of future trends in climate change.  The 4th point is what the churches can uniquely contribute to public discourse.  That point is rooted in more than 30 centuries of religious traditions, texts, and liturgical practices.

For some folks this extensive inheritance of ecological commitment suffices to motivate the practices of environmental ethics.  Yet even those who know this tradition also want and need the best available evidence about the scope and depth of our current ecological crisis.  Furthermore, the public at large will more likely be moved to action by the first 3 points than by religious or humanistic values alone.  Accordingly, the conference stressed all 4 points rather equally.

Global warming is real.
The science is real.
The effects of global warming will be severe.

As it seems to me, the first and third assertions depend on the validity of that second claim.  Unless "the science is real," all claims about global warming and the severity of its effects can be dismissed as subjective speculation.

All we can do as non-scientists is bring to public attention, or recall for people, what scientists themselves report about their conclusions and their methods of working.  Accordingly, we need to be quite precise and accurate in reporting the sources of our information about scientific evidence that the climate is now experiencing unprecedented thermal change.

To help accomplish that objective we might well include not only more bibliographical references to books and other print material from scientists, but also provide on our website some links to scientific organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Various groups of scientists have appealed to the churches to help them mobilize public action to diminish as much as possible the effects of the climate change that is now underway.  They tell us that the effects of global warming cannot be averted altogether, since they have already begun, and thus their appeal that we at least diminish those effects carries palpable urgency.

Though there were many display booths that included scientific information (even including from the national EPA), our speakers did not assail us with documentation for their reports about scientific evidence.  So the following assertions are not documented, and need our research to "nail down:"

Bill McKibben ("The Environment as the Moral Crisis of Our Time") reports:

[Part of this address has been published by The Christian Century, May 16, 2001, pp. 5-7; Vol. 118, No. 16.]

The workshop on "The Politics of Global Warming" reported:

  1. wind power is cheaper per KWH than nuclear power.
  2. since the Rio conference in 1992 we have learned that voluntary measures do not work.  Only mandatory controls on greenhouse emissions have worked.
  3. only OPEC has oil reserves adequate to market demands in USA.  Consequently we cannot meet our needs by drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Natioanl Refuge.  Further, 2 years ago Congress lifted restrictions on exporting our oil, so any oil from the acrtic could easily be exported to Japan and China.
  4. President Bush has one team at work on global warming, but a different team at work on national energy policy.  Consequently our national energy policy is not framed within the realistic context of ecological crisis.  Bush's speech in late June on our energy policy will reflect that failure to coordinate policy.
  5. Sept. 2002 will be the 10th Anniversary of the Rio Conference.  That will be a good time for extra effort by all ecologically sensitive communities.
  6. "History of the Roadless Rule," a 2-page document from leaders of this workshop, details back to 1998 what efforts put that roadless rule into place, and what efforts by the Bush administration and by a US District Judge on May 11, 2001 have now rendered that rule to be illegal.
  7. Kalee Kreider (co-leader of the workshop) listed these as 4 top priorities for our efforts with the US Congress:
  8. *Reduce and eliminate use of coal (which cannot be made clean), and do this by developing alternative energy sources;
  9. *Eliminate SUVs [McKibben agrees, suggesting this bumper sticker for them: "I'm contributing to global change.  Ask me how."], and return to our goals for energy-efficient cars and trucks;
  10. *Eliminate nuclear power because of its problems of waste by-products, safety, and prohibitive costs;
  11. *Increase efficiency of fuel use within buildings and by all appliances.
Further, concerning the interface between scientific evidence and public policy-makers and democratic discourse, see:

The Bush-Cheney Energy Plan: How it Fares in the 21st Century, a 10-page paper from The Energy Foundation.  This is "A Joint Initiative of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation;  The McKnight Foundation;  The Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation;  The David and Lucile Packard Foundation;  The Pew Charitable Trusts; and The Rockefeller Foundation."  Refer to energyfund@ef.org.  This paper severely attacks the administration's energy plan.

Analysis of the Bush Energy Plan, a 12-page paper dated May 18, 2001 from Friends of the Earth, demonstrates the chasm between administration rhetoric and its performance, the latter constituting a frontal attack on the environment.

Scientific Community Roadless Letters - Excerpts, a 2-page document has been compiled by Suellen Lowry .  These are quotations from hundreds of scientists to our Presidents Clinton and Bush in the last 4 years.

Global warming is a religious issue.

The Christian Society of the Green Cross has compiled an 8-page collection of biblical texts under 21 thematic headings.  It is titled A Scriptural Call for Environmental Stewardship.

The NCCC has a 4-page list of Environmental Justice Resources that help with worship, learning and teaching, lifestyles both personal and congregational, and public involvement with ecological issues at both community and national levels.

The Eco-Justice Program of the Minnesota Council of Churches has produced a 2-page statement Climate Change: A Matter of Faith, that was signed by 15 Church judicatory leaders (including our Bishop Jelinek).

On May 18, 2001 the NCCC's Office of Environmental Justice and Economic Justice and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life jointly published An Interfaith Call for Energy Conservation and Climate Justice in the form of "An Open Letter to the President, the Congress, & the American People."  This 2-page document has appended to it 2 pages of signatures from leading pastors, administrators, rabbis, bishops, and Orthodox archbishops.

On April 20, 2001 a letter from our Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, was sent to President George W. Bush.

The Cosmic Christology of the Orthodox churches has been strong from the beginning of their tradition and theology.  There was an "Orthodox Summit on the Environment" in Baltimore, MD on Nov. 3-5, 1995.  For that meeting the Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada's Office of External Affairs produced an 8-page document, The Ecological Responsibility of the Orthodox Parish: A Guide to Parish Program Development.

The conference's plenary on Monday, 8:30 AM.was led by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson.  The task of providing "a theological anchor" was his, the function of the "anchor" not being to drag down but to provide a sure support.  He suggested 4 essential components in the Church's unique contribution to public discussion of eco-justice:

There is extensive relevance of this theological approach for the present context of the Bush administration's policy for the environment.  He gave 3 ideas:
  1. Since this world belongs to God, the objective of business and government and all of us cannot be how to use the creation to get what we want out of it.
  2. We need to get through guilt and Grace to gratitude.  "Sacrifice" is a word that we affirm.  A healthy marriage is preserved by sacrifice.  Our whole nation honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice on its behalf.  The whole creation also is upheld by sacrifice.
  3. The creation is one whole.  It is a gift not merely to us, but to all humanity.  The question before us is:  how do we keep it preserved "for all"?  Economic globalization at the expense of ecological globalization does not preserve the earth.  Psalm 104 lifts up the creation without reference to humanity-except to speak of the danger that humanity can bring to the creation.
More Resources

"Earth Ministry (Connecting People with the Creation)" in Seattle provided to all conference attendees 2 publications:
 

Alphabetical list of all 350 participants in the conference provides phone numbers, snail mail and email addresses.

List of display booths (4 pp.) provides names of responsible persons, also phone numbers, and both snail mail and email addresses.

"Web Resources!" on 1 page lists major websites from government, environmental groups, and churches

Union of Concerned Scientists or via e-mail.

Interfaith Coffee Program's "Equal Exchange: Fairly Traded Gourmet Coffee" at: 251 Revere St., Canton, MA 02021; Fax: 781-830-0282.



John Gibbs, a retired theologan, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN.   He originally wrote this report in 2001.  He and we welcome your comments.

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