Called to take care of Earth

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 2 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:00 am in
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By Rev. Susan Guy

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I was on my way back to the hotel following a meeting when my cabdriver asked me what I was doing in D.C. I told him that I was in town for business, and he asked me what I do. “I work on the issue of climate change with people of faith,” was my reply.

It is difficult to assess how people will respond to those words, and especially so with someone I never have met before. But this cabdriver did not miss a beat.

“You don’t take care of something, you lose it,” he said. “You don’t take care of your job, you lose it. You don’t take care of your health, you lose it. You don’t take care of your family, you lose it. You don’t take care of the earth, you lose it.”

He went on to say, “People usually want to take the easy way. Not to take care of something, that is the easy way. But we must work.”

Needless to say, those words have stuck with me in this calling that I have to work with the faith community on the issue of climate change. As people of faith, we are used to working hard on issues that we care about: hunger, clean water, disaster relief, immigration and refugees, and peace, to name a few. But the truth is that climate change affects all of these other issues. It is a threat multiplier. If we do not address climate change, then congregations will continue to have to ramp up their charity and social justice efforts as the effects of climate disruption intensify.

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said, “The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

Controlling our carbon emissions is a critical piece of addressing the issue of climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing the first-ever standards for carbon pollution from power plants, which will limit the amount of carbon dioxide that polluters can emit into our atmosphere.

Power plants are responsible for 40 percent of carbon emissions in the United States, and historically many power plants have been near low-income neighborhoods, near communities of color and in Midwest farm communities. These areas contribute much less to the problem, yet are being hit the hardest in terms of health and climate effects. This makes carbon pollution an environmental justice issue.

Climate change is one of the most pressing moral challenges facing our world. We already have seen climate disasters — including droughts, floods, wildfires and super storms — and we know that the effects of these disasters are felt disproportionately by the most vulnerable in our society. In addition, climate change is an issue of generational justice as we consider what kind of world we are leaving for our children, our grandchildren and future generations.

As people of faith, we are called to hope. By working together, taking practical action in our homes and places of worship to become more energy efficient, transitioning away from fossil fuels and to a clean energy future, and advocating for sustainable energy policies, we can solve the issue of climate change. Let’s do it for the future of our children, grandchildren and all who come after us.

Rev. Susan Guy of Des Moines is the executive director of Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, www.iowaipl.org. Comments: director@iowaipl.org

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