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Climate Change, Justice, Action

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Gary's Faith Walk

Time and again my faith walk circles back to a straightforward question and answer. “…O Mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6:8) With each return to this ancient text, I’m reminded that “do” is an action verb. Using this translation, the prophet suggests it’s not enough just to care about justice, or wish for justice, or to complain when it is absent.

I’ve complained and asserted a lot lately. Repeatedly I’ve stated in private conversations and public forums that climate change is the greatest threat to humankind and creation faced by the world today. I base my belief on the science that human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation have increased greenhouse gases to dangerous and still growing levels. The impacts are clear: Arctic and glacial melting, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, extreme weather events such as torrential rains and flooding, droughts, reduced farm output (especially in poor countries), and more. My task then is to move from my assertion about climate change to “doing” or acting on my belief.

In her recent book, “The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture,” author and clinical psychologist Mary Pipher holds my hand as I try to move forward with my climate change concerns. Dr. Pipher outlines a process of awareness, engagement, passion, and balance. Faced with the prospect of the Keystone XL pipeline moving Canadian tar sands oil through her Nebraska, she tells her story of shifting from a sense of personal trauma and inaction to widespread action opposing the pipeline and a growing sense of community among her fellow advocates.

At this stage of my life, I have the freedom to invest energy in the “do” part of justice as I see it and feel Spirit led. So, I invest in action with two vectors. One is addressing the anticipated impacts of expanded coal train shipments from the Powder River Basin through Bonner County and Sandpoint to proposed ports in Washington and Oregon with its further damage to the environment from coal fired power plants in China. The second is ongoing work to urge the Presbyterian Church at the national level to divest its substantial holdings in fossil fuel company stock and reinvest in sustainable energy sources. 

Mary Pipher inspires me. She reminds her readers of the psychological trauma associated with addressing seemingly insurmountable issues. For me the justice issue is climate change, for others it may be domestic violence, hunger, human trafficking, gun violence, discrimination in its many forms, etc. She offers balm by sharing “balance means that the pain of facing reality is not more than the joy of connecting to the beauty of the world.”

For me balance comes from building community with so many individuals locally and across the region who raise their voices and choose to oppose expanded coal shipments. For me balance comes from living and being in this place of mountains and rivers and the critters with which we share this planet. Balance keeps me going even as I contemplate the accelerating changes to our environment resulting for global warming. 

The prophet Micah lived his faith walk over 2,700 years ago. Across the millennia his wisdom still inspires today. The charge is direct—“love kindness,” “walk humbly” with God, and remember always that “do” is an action verb in issues of justice.

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Gary Payton Gary Payton is on a Faith Walk that takes him to Russia, Eastern Europe and Sandpoint, Idaho

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climate change, Garys Faith Walk, coal trains

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