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Addressing climate change with faith and courage

Addressing climate change with faith and courage

by Ellen Clark-King

The large conference room at the Moscone Center where the Global Climate Action Summit was happening had almost emptied before my favourite speaker of the morning showed up. Not surprising – the event was running 45 minutes late, as these things do, and the lunch hour had begun 35 minutes ago. I stayed out of the not very noble reason that I wanted to see a film hero in person. But when the very hirsute Harrison Ford took the stage it was his message that made me glad I was there.


He spoke as an advocate for nature, but his most powerful words for me addressed the needs of the most marginalized in society. He called out one of the central tragedies of climate change, saying it was: “The greatest moral crisis of our time – those who are least responsible will feel the greatest cost.” He decried those who replaced science with self-interested denial and reminded us that the time to act was now.


The evening before he spoke we had heard other powerful voices at the Interfaith Service of Wonder and Commitment held at Grace Cathedral. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama were there virtually, 9ft walking trees were there in person, and Indigenous peoples, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Christians sang and lamented and hoped and committed together out of a shared care for our beloved and sacred home.


The service was long – it takes a while for passionate voices to speak their truths – but its very length spoke to the weight of this topic across faith traditions, and the strength of the need to address it now. This was worship with a very practical grounding in action – large-scale action as churches and faith communities committed to becoming carbon neutral within 5 or 10 years, small-scale action as individuals committed to restricting their eating of meat or to installing solar panels.


Like many of us, I usually feel overwhelmed by the scale of change needed to halt, let alone reverse, the human impact on our planet. I ended this week feeling less overwhelmed and more hopeful. There are signs that some of the exponential changes needed are already underway – driven not only by principle but also by profit as more and more companies find their finances as well as their ethics call them to make more climate friendly choices. I also saw again the breadth and depth of commitment to this change in individuals and in faith organisations. This is not only something we care about – this is something we are prepared to act on directly.


This is “the greatest moral crisis of our time“. We know “those who are least responsible will feel the greatest cost.” To finish with more words of Harrison Ford, global climate change is ‘a monster’ and we all need to “shut off our phones, roll up our sleeves, and kick this monster’s ass.”


The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King is Executive Pastor and Canon for Social Justice, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA


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Alvah Whealton

The greatest moral crisis of our time? Can you believe than someone has the audacity to disagree!

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