Making the argument for Earth Day in spiritual terms

Bishop Stephen T. Lane of Maine argues in the Bangor Daily News that climate change is the most important moral issue of our time:

As a Christian, I am called by my faith to do many things. Two of the most important are to love my neighbors and to care for the natural world. Over time I’ve come to realize that we no longer can consider these two responsibilities separately. The quality of our stewardship of the gift of creation has a direct impact on our brothers and sisters around the world. Climate change is the most important issue of our time.

Two summers ago I traveled from Maine to England to participate in the Lambeth Conference. Held every 10 years at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the conference gathers more than 800 Anglican bishops from countries all over the world. In conversation with fellow bishops from many developing countries and places where global warming is effecting rapid and dramatic change in the environment and in the fragile lives of citizens, I saw with new eyes the way we are contributing to the problem.

In my Bible study group was the Convener of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, the Archbishop of Canberra (Australia). He spoke of the growing and persistent drought in central Australia, drought that was drying up the rivers, killing the cattle industry and expanding the desert.

“For you in the temperate Northern Hemisphere,” he said, “global warming is an interesting scientific concept to be debated. For us, it’s life and death! And you just keep driving your SUVs.”

Meanwhile, The Harrisburg Patriot News looks at the emerging importance of environmentalism as a spiritual issue, and tips its cap to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral’s use of “green building principles”:

Religious leaders are uniquely qualified to talk about climate change on moral terms, said Donald Brown, an associate professor of environmental ethics, science and law Penn State University. “No politician is talking about it in those terms.” ….

Global action proponents have criticized the religious community for its lack of urgency. “I believe it’s strongly a moral and ethical question that is not often seen as a moral and ethical question and there’s a huge need to help people see why it is,” said Brown, who attended the global conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark.

For years he has urged the religious community to engage in the fight against global warming.

His moral argument seems tailored-made for the pulpit: The lifestyles of rich nations are harming poor people in other parts of the world; the harms are catastrophic (drought, floods, fresh water loss); and the victims have no recourse, Brown said. “We can’t think about it as a matter of self economic interest,” he said.

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