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Thursday, February 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Pat McCormick: What religion has to say about climate change

Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, and members of Indigenous religions disagree on a lot of things. A lot. But, curiously enough, these widely different faith communities do agree on the reality, causes and cures for Climate Change.

According to the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology and Interfaith Power and Light official statements on Climate Change have been issued by representatives of eleven global faith communities (from Baha’i to Unitarians) and thirteen Christian denominations; and (except for Southern Baptists) all these religious groups explicitly accept the global scientific consensus that Climate Change is real, ongoing, and human-caused, posing a catastrophic threat to millions of humans, countless other species, and the very foundations of modern civilization.

Across the board these religious and spiritual authorities also agree that the Climate Change crisis, brought about primarily through the burning of fossil fuels, represents a violation of humanity’s moral and religious obligations. Buddhists and Hindus describe the present destruction of the sacred harmony of creation as a violation of our duty to refrain from harming living things or taking what is not ours, while Jews, Christians, Muslims and Indigenous peoples see our contribution to the havoc of Climate Change as a betrayal of our sacred vocation to be care-takers and stewards of creation.

In addition, this same broad constellation of religious groups also decry the injustice that the majority of the millions of humans of humans now or soon to be threatened with hunger, exile or death are living in poor nations that have contributed little to the emission of greenhouse gases and have few resources to adapt to the impacts of Climate Change.

Across the religious spectrum these various faith communities share a common belief that the universe and all beings within it are sacred and that the Earth, described as our home or mother, is a holy, vibrant and harmonious community of life and beings into which human beings have been woven as an integral part. As the documents of these faith communities remind us, we humans depend on and benefit from the great health and harmony of our global community, and we have a special and sacred obligation to preserve and protect that holy and healing balance of beings and life, to tend and care for the Earth, other humans, and the rest of creation.

These same faith communities go on to diagnose the underlying spiritual causes beneath this human-caused Climate Change and our excessive and short-sighted burning of fossil fuels, as well as the continuing effort by energy corporations and wealthy nations to consume even more and more coal, gas and oil. Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews and Muslims speak of an insatiable or sinful appetite for wealth and power and a blatant disregard for the suffering of those harmed by this crisis, and call for spiritual and moral transformations on the personal and societal levels.

Still, the authors of these religious documents also share a common faith and hope in divine grace and compassion, and in humanity’s capacity to acknowledge its errors and come together to address the injustice and harms of Climate Change. And so they urge their members to collaborate with other believers and with all people of good will in local, national and global efforts to address Climate Change.

And one central step that nearly all of these religious documents explicitly call for is the phasing out of fossil fuels and the move beyond our carbon economy to a reliance upon 100% clean energy.

Here in Washington over half of the people in the state describe themselves as seriously or moderately religious, and in Spokane county nearly forty percent of us claim to attend religious services at one of over 400 places of worship. So, there is a good deal of religion being practiced here.

Meanwhile, our Washington Legislature is currently considering a 100% Clean Energy bill (SB5116) taking the very step called for by the wide chorus of religious voices described above. So, if you are a person of faith, you should probably contact Senator Andy Billig this week and ask him to fight for this bill phasing out our reliance on fossil fuels. It might just be the faith-filled thing to do.

Pat McCormick, Ph.D., of the Interfaith Climate Change Committee of 350 Spokane

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