The topic of climate change and environmentalism has rightfully been encouraged at Covenant College with the creation of the Campus Stewardship Committee and the lecture in chapel by Dr. Fred Van Dyk of the Au Sable Institute. There is definite interest in urging students to help “save the earth.” However, there seems to be a lack of concern, and even disregard, toward environmentalism in the larger Christian community.
Caring for the environment is caring for people. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus says ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Loving your neighbor includes caring about their well-being, and their well-being can be seriously affected by climate change.
We have been given dominion over the earth. I propose that God didn’t mean for our dominion to be harmful. According to NASA Climate, the global temperature is rising, oceans are warming, ice sheets are shrinking, glaciers are retreating, snow coverage is decreasing, sea levels are rising, arctic sea ice is declining, extreme weather events are increasingly occurring, and the ocean is acidifying.
It can be difficult to care about each of these factors, especially if you don’t live in an area that is directly at risk. This pushes climate change into being classified as a social justice issue.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated, “Climate change may especially impact people who live in areas that are vulnerable to coastal storms, drought, and sea level rise or people who live in poverty, older adults, and immigrant communities.”
Caring about climate change includes being aware of the many groups of people who are going to suffer more than you as a result of changing environment.
The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe from the very small island of Isle de Jean Charles off the coast of Louisiana is one group of people being severely affected by climate change. The island has lost approximately 98% of its land since 1955 due to rising sea levels.
“The loss of once vast tracts of marshland and trees has left the island exposed to hurricanes, and frequent flooding has stripped the land, made farming impossible, and forced residents into an annual ritual of rebuilding,” said an article from The Guardian.
Federal funding has helped the people of this tribe relocate. Relocation sounds like an obvious option, given that many groups of people have adapted to new environments since the beginning of time.
However, no one should have to relocate due to environmental dangers. Relocation is extremely difficult for lower income populations.
The EPA said, “People who live in poverty may have a difficult time coping with changes. These people have limited financial resources to cope with heat, relocate or evacuate, or respond to increases in the cost of food.”
Many people do not have the resources to relocate, which is why federal funding may need to be used, but even that is not an option for many.
More people are being displaced, like the aforementioned tribe, as well as the people of southern Africa who were affected by tropical cyclones in March and April of 2019, and the recent damage done in the Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian.
According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, climate change is continually expected to intensify the impacts of extreme weather storms.
Greenhouse gas emissions are more well-known factors of climate change, and are thus important to pay attention to. Specifically, being mindful of one’s carbon footprint is a critical first step.
The EPA considers electricity and heat production to be the top contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions (with a 25% contribution). Agriculture, forestry, and other land use follow at 24%. Livestock production alone is confirmed to be directly responsible for 14.5% of global emissions each year. Industry, transportation, buildings, and other forms of energy make up the remainder of emissions. Living in a developed country typically means that we consume a lot of these types of energy daily, making it hard to change.
Many Christians lack an understanding of why it’s important to steward the earth. Once people are interested and understand why Christians should be on the frontlines of the climate movement, changes can be introduced.
The earth belongs to God. We have been given dominion of the earth, which means we are responsible for being stewards and caretakers of the environment, seeking to heal areas that need our help, and to prevent further damage from occurring. Humans, animals, and plants world-wide are affected by the unsustainable decisions of larger countries. Caring for the environment is caring for people.