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Katharine Hayhoe: the religious duty to act on climate change

I’m a Climate Scientist Who Believes in God. Hear Me Out.

Global warming will strike hardest against the very people we’re told to love: the poor and vulnerable. NYT, 3 Nov 19, By Katharine Hayhoe

Dr. Hayhoe is a professor and co-directs the Climate Center at Texas Tech University. I’m a climate scientist. I’m also an evangelical Christian.

And I’m Canadian, which is why it took me so long to realize the first two things were supposed to be entirely incompatible.

I grew up in a Christian family with a science-teacher dad who taught us that science is the study of God’s creation. If we truly believe that God created this amazing universe, bringing matter and energy to life out of a formless empty void of nothing, then how could studying his creation ever be in conflict with his written word?

I chose what to study precisely because of my faith, because climate change disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable, those already most at risk today. To me, caring about and acting on climate was a way to live out my calling to love others as we’ve been loved ourselves by God.

I realized, distantly, that there were people on both “sides” who fundamentally believed and were even dedicated to promoting the idea that faith and science were in conflict. But it wasn’t until after I’d moved to the United States for graduate school that it dawned on me, to my disbelief, that divisions within the science-faith arena, originally focused on questions of human origins and the age of the universe, were expanding to include climate change.

Now, this discrepancy is pointed out to me nearly every day: often by people with Bible verses in their social media profiles who accuse me of spreading Satan’s lies, or sometimes by others who share my concerns about climate change but wonder why I bother talking to “those people.” The attacks I receive come via email, Twitter, Facebook comments, phone calls and even handwritten letters.

I track them all, and I’ve noticed two common denominators in how most of the authors choose to identify themselves: first, as political conservatives, no matter what country they’re from; and second, in the United States, as conservative Christians, because the label “evangelical” has itself been co-opted as shorthand for a particular political ideology these days.

But I refuse to give it up, because I am a theological evangelical, one of those who can be simply defined as someone who takes the Bible seriously. This stands in stark contrast to today’s political evangelicals, whose statement of faith is written first by their politics and only a distant second by the Bible and who, if the two conflict, will prioritize their political ideology over theology.

I’m not a glutton for punishment and I don’t thrive on conflict. So why do I keep talking about climate change to people who are disengaged or doubtful? Because I believe that evangelicals who take the Bible seriously already care about climate change (although they might not realize it). Climate change will strike hard against the very people we’re told to care for and love, amplifying hunger and poverty, and increasing risks of resource scarcity that can exacerbate political instability, and even create or worsen refugee crises.

Then there’s pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat fragmentation, species extinction: climate change makes all those worse, too. In fact, if we truly believe we’ve been given responsibility for every living thing on this planet (including each other) as it says in Genesis 1, then it isn’t only a matter of caring about climate change: We should be at the front of the line demanding action………

I explained that climate change is not a belief system. We know that the earth’s climate is changing thanks to observations, facts and data about God’s creation that we can see with our eyes and test with the sound minds that God has given us. And still more fundamentally, I went on to explain why it matters: because real people are being affected today; and we believe that God’s love has been poured in our hearts to share with our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are suffering. ……https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/opinion/sunday/climate-change-evangelical-christian.html

November 4, 2019 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change

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