Climate Change: “The Number One Pro-Life Issue”

May 21, 2014

I just got an email inquiry to speak to a faith group – I am sure not coincidental to the recent news from the Antarctic.  The faith community, a sleeping giant on the climate issue, is stirring once again.  A new editorial in the National Catholic Reporter calls it the “number one pro-life issue”.

National Catholic Reporter:

While the church has taken it on the chin for centuries-old condemnations of scientific truths, the reality today is that it stands uniquely in a position to not only aid the science but also to engage in the ethical discussions essential to any consideration of global warming.

If there is a certain wisdom in the pro-life assertion that other rights become meaningless if the right to life is not upheld, then it is reasonable to assert that the right to life has little meaning if the earth is destroyed to the point where life becomes unsustainable.

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodríguez Maradiaga described the problem during a talk opening the Vatican conference. He described nature as neither separate from nor against humanity, but rather existing with humans. “No sin is more heartless than our blindness to the value of all that surrounds us and our persistence in using it at the wrong time and abusing it at all times.”

Humans, he said, have become technological giants while remaining ethical children.

Humans have been driven to a point of decision by the consequences — good and bad — of two centuries of technological development. In his closing remarks at the Rome meeting, NewYork Times writer Andrew C. Revkin stated, “Scientific knowledge reveals options. Values determine choices.

“That is why the Roman Catholic church — with its global reach, the ethical framework in its social justice teachings and, as with all great religions, the ability to reach hearts as well as minds — can play a valuable role in this consequential century.”

The problem is enormous, but so is the opportunity for the church to use its resources, its access to some of the best experts in its academies and the attention of those in its parochial structures to begin to educate. This is a human life issue of enormous proportions, and one in which the young should be fully engaged. The Climate Assessment document as well as the recent discussion at the Vatican are excellent starting points for developing curricula materials for education programs in parishes and schools.

Time magazine recently named Evangelical Scientist Katharine Hayhoe one of the country’s “100 Most Influential People”. Now this from Pastor Jim Wallis.

Evangelical Jim Wallis in Time:

Here is the moral narrative. What will your grandchildren’s grandchildren ask about why we, and why you, did not do what was necessary for them? Why were we so selfish and short-sighted? Why didn’t we care enough about the future of our world and theirs, to take care of our descendants? And here is the biblical and spiritual narrative: does care for God’s creation really allow us to exploit the earth and its resources for short term economic self-interest? Is that good stewardship and the humble worship of God?

There is much to be commended in the President’s plan and what many scientists are pleading for, but unless we confront the underlying narratives that inhibit faithful progress even the most obvious policy solutions will remain out of reach because of our nation’s dysfunctional politics and short-term economics. The irony is that the moral course of action would bring new economic opportunities. There are more potential good jobs in the retrofitting of the nation to conserve energy, and the re-wiring of our energy grid for a cleaner future; but that would not be in the self-interest of the oil and gas companies that now control the country and its politics.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so often quoted, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Of this I have no doubt. My only question is whether we’ll have the moral courage on climate change to bend it fast enough before catastrophe becomes unavoidable. For the sake of my grandchildren—for the sake of my grandchildren’s grandchildren—I hope we start taking our calling as stewards of God’s Creation a lot more seriously.

It’s time to stop denying science, denying our created instructions, and denying the sovereignty of God. Instead, let’s start acknowledging our moral responsibilities.


A group of Evangelical Christians are calling on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to create a plan to mitigate and adapt to climate change, hoping that their message will resonate with Scott’s staunch Christian values.

Rev. Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), is leading the group’s campaign for Scott to recognize climate change as a major threat in Florida. EEN is collecting signatures for a petition asking Gov. Scott to create a plan for climate change, one which so far has garnered about 12,000 signatures.

Hescox pointed to the suffering climate change has caused around the world as reason why climate change is something Christians should care about. Air pollution is linked to asthmakidney disease and heart problems, and climate change is expected to cause a rise in vectorborne illnesses like malaria and West Nile. These are some of the most compelling reasons to act on climate change, Hescox said.

“For us, it’s a pro-life issue,” he said. “We are pro-life from conception to natural death, and we believe anything that affects the quality of life is something that’s a pro-life value.”


26 Responses to “Climate Change: “The Number One Pro-Life Issue””

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    This is good news—that the “sleeping giant faith community” is stirring. Once they decide that keeping the planet and the human race alive is more important than thumping bibles, we may make some real progress on AGW.

    After all, if everyone is dead, that will be the end of arguing about “social issues”, especially considering that all the deniers are going to hell and the climate protectors will be in heaven—-although I suspect the deniers will be down there arguing amongst themselves about who was the biggest fool.

    PLEASE go talk to the faith group. All the talking points you need are right here in this post, especially in what Wallis said. Time is running out.

    PS Have seen some talk on various non-climate sites that the news from the Antarctic has had a big impact on some previously “non climate change involved” folks. From “the end is near” to individual denial, dismay, grief, acceptance—-it appears many are going through the process and are ready to fight back, and that supports what you say in this post.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Can you share links to some of those sources?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I’ll look around but most likely not. I am on a lot of subscription lists for various environmental, political, and activist groups and have likely deleted those posts. The “talk” I saw was mainly in the comment sections rather than in the main body, so it may not be easy to find. The Daily KOS comes to mind as one place where several comments on one post supported the idea of folks going through the process of dealing with “loss”.

  2. lesliegraham1 Says:

    Oh great.
    With friends like the anti-choice whackjobs who needs enemies.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Don’t forget the old saw about “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. It doesn’t matter one rat’s rear end if these “whack jobs” continue to rail against abortion, same sex marriage, and all their other supposedly biblically inspired “social issues” as long as they come down on the right side of climate change.

      Are you familiar with the battle of Castle Itter at the end of WW2? Wehrmacht and US soldiers joined forces and fought side-by-side to defend the castle against the Waffen SS and protect the high ranking French political prisoners who were being held there—the SS wanted to execute the French prisoners. The German officer commanding was killed during the battle and over 1/3 of the American troops were black. Read The Last Battle if you’re interested—a great little book that reads like a good movie script.

    • You might not agree with their beliefs, but you must realize that the US needs them to take climate change seriously, if we ever hope to solve the problem. So what you’ve said here helps nobody.

  3. rayduray Says:

    Re: but you must realize that the US needs them to take climate change seriously, if we ever hope to solve the problem.”

    Oh, I completely disagree. The oligarchs who rule this country do not follow the opinions of the sheeple. It works the other way around.

    Look at how rarely the will of the people is the law of the land. We were dragged into the wars in Af/Pak and Iraq by lying oligarchs. we were dragged into Obama care by lying oligarchs, you name the issue and it’s pretty much the same.

    I think George Carlin is brilliant in this sketch about who needs to change if there is to be any serious amelioration of the climate matter, and just like with removing lead from our gas or removing CFCs from the ozone layer, the decisions come from on high.

    • Phillip Shaw Says:

      Nihilism is good for a laugh, but that’s all it’s good for – if there is truly no way to make a difference, to iprove our situation, you might as well shoot yourself now. Or, if you’re right about oligarchs running everything then act on your delusions . . . er, I mean, carefully thought out beliefs . . .and thin out their ranks. Goodness knows you won’t have any trouble buying weaponry up to, and possibly including, tactical nukes. By your whining you’re like a passenger on the Titanic complaining that dinner wasn’t served on time so the trip is ruined.

      My own feeling is that of course the playing field is uneven – but who ever promised that life would be fair? But the game is not hopeless, not if we get involved and do what we can. The evidence that individuals CAN make a difference is all around us. Who do you think pushed for and enacted protection for clean air and water, endangered species, civil rights, voter rights, and on and on? Our Oligarch Overlords?! Puh-leeze!

      • rayduray Says:

        Hi Philip,

        I haven’t seen you around this water cooler before. Welcome. Or welcome back if I’ve missed you prior comments. 🙂

        Gosh, where to start.

        Apparently you didn’t get the memo. In April a major report was all the rage among those keeping up with the world. The Telegraph had a good variant on the headlines at the time:

        “The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.”

        Yes, this is a highly regarded study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities. Not some nattering nabobs or negativity or nihilists. These are smart folks busting down the artifices and national myths that have so distorted the minds of the masses into the delusion that America is anything like what it once was, or anything remotely democratically ruled.

        Civil rights movement? Our schools are more segregated today than they were 60 years ago. Old Joe is still pickin’ cotton.

        The clean and and water rules are largely enforced by the EPA, which if you study history you will learn is a creation of Richard Nixon who used the EPA as a tool to fend off the 1972 challenge from the Left by Sen. Ed Muskie. Neither the rabble nor the rabble’s representatives in Congress had a damn thing to do with founding the EPA. That was an oligarchic decision from inside the White House.

        Voter rights act? The people had nothing to do with passing this legislation. This was something that had been gathering dust for three decades before Lyndon Johnson decided to strong-arm Congress into passing the legislation against their will and with a hell of a lot of pork larded into the bill for the recalcitrant Southern Democrats. No one but Johnson could have pulled this off.

        Re: Our Oligarch Overlords?!

        Yes, your condescending sarcastic tone is noted. And I feel one of two ways. Either you are a charlatan and a PR flak for the oligarchy, or else you’re one of the damnedest fools ever on this thread. I don’t really need that question answered. You’re fine to spew delusions. I can handle it.

        • ubrew12 Says:

          Wells: ‘Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe.’ I think what P. Shaw is saying is those oligarchic tendencies are always with us. What I find new, even groundbreaking, about the increased involvement of Religion in the AGW debate is that the oligarchs carefully curry favor with Religions to consolidate their power over the People. If the pulpit is thundering ‘Abortion is Sin’ every Sunday than the People are going to vote for the Party that tries to end Abortion. Thus do the people reliably participate in their own disenfranchisement. But, occasionally, the Religious tide turns, and the flood presses against the wishes of the Oligarchs: and this may be one of those times. And it IS a moral issue, after all. Its generational warfare of the worse sort, and good people, everywhere, can in good conscience decide its wrong, and enlist their Religious faiths to stop it.

          • rayduray Says:

            Re: “the Religious tide turns, and the flood presses against the wishes of the Oligarchs: and this may be one of those times.”

            While I like the sentiment expressed, I find scant evidence for this effect in place.

            Thomas Jefferson said that when the People fear the Government there is tyranny, but when the Government fears the People there is freedom.

            What I see today is increasing evidence of the Oligarchy arming itself for domestic conflict in the U.S. DHS recently acquired 2,700 MRAPs. See one deployment unit here:

            Getting church people on board for being more conscientious about the looming climate catastrophes is one thing. Having the means to put down mobs in a frenzy to seek food after some weather or other natural disaster is quite another. If DHS were seriously thinking about disaster preparation as a relief effort, why aren’t they showing us warehouses of emergency preparedness supplies instead of military assault vehicles?

            I don’t know what your reaction is to seeing these MRAPs on our city streets. I recall my reaction a few years ago here while I was on a prominent corner holding a protest sign against the stupid, unjustified Iraq War and a Police Department MRAP slowly rolled by with the driver giving us the evil eye. I felt a bit vulnerable. After all, what was I armed with in order to enforce “my” criminal aggression against government bullies? The only thing I had to shoot off was my mouth.

            And that’s back to Jefferson’s quote about Government tyranny and the fact that U.S. government tyranny is in the ascendency today and this particular cur is showing no signs of being being brought to heel. Sermons from America’s pulpits seem a trifling and almost irrelevant matter in comparison. Oligarchs with their robocops in MRAPs are hardly going to care about sermons about climate or anything else being dictated to the masses. They are only going to care that the masses get the message about law and order. The message? Forget the law, order is power and that’s all that matters. The law is only for the little people, just ask the Albuquerque police or the bankers. It’s the same with sitting in church pews; this is only for the little people. The bosses prefer to sit in their sky boxes and rule.

          • dumboldguy Says:


          • dumboldguy Says:

            PS My Amen was meant for Ubrew;’s comment, not Ray’s.

            As for Ray’s need to have a weapon to “shoot off” other than his mouth, try bottles full of gasoline. DO understand that you night get hurt though.

          • Glad you clarified that. My DOG avatar disintegrated after reading the first “amen”.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Uh, Ray? Hate to butt into one of your magnificent rants, but I am having trouble here with the condescension and sarcasm references. Seems like the pot is calling the teakettle black here?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      F**KIN” nailed it, George! A “brilliant” and concise description of how things are in the corporate fascist state that is taking over this country. Watched a great documentary the other night—available on Netflix. Robert Reich in Inequality For All. Excellent job of laying out in simple terms just how this country is more and more owned by the oligarchs,and details in 1-1/2 hours what Carlin said in 3 minutes (w/o F-words). Reich has written some good books, too. Much less dense and easier reading than Al Gore’s stuff.

      PS Ray, I know that once you get on a roll, you tend to go wild, but I fail to see how Bush et al getting us into the oil wars has any equivalency to Obamacare, which will probably end up being a good thing. Elaborate, please.

      • rayduray Says:

        Re: “I know that once you get on a roll, you tend to go wild, but I fail to see how Bush et al getting us into the oil wars has any equivalency to Obamacare, which will probably end up being a good thing. Elaborate, please.”

        1) Af/Pak wasn’t really an oil war. It was more of a continuation of the 19th Century Great Game with the U.S. substituting itself in the Grand Chessboard as the opponent of Russian expansion into the reaches of south Asia. This “pivot” was more about encircling and constraining expansioist tendencies of Russia and China than in further the goal of transshipping Turkmenistan gas or Kazahkstan oil to Pakisstan and India. If anything, our goal was to stymie development in the region and create chaos, which we’ve done great at.

        2) The equivalency comes in once you look at the stock prices of military industrial contractor in 2000 vis-a-vis their stock appreciation through to 2012 and beyond. And then look at the impact of Obamacare on the value of the stocks of the medical insurers from 2008 through to today. Both Bush and Obama carry water for our major corporations at all times. Furthermore, if you examine closely what is happening in the insurance markets what you’ll see is that millions of insurance purchasers are seeing their rates rise inexorably as their coverage is diminished in scope. You’ll see Obama use the IRS as an enforcer for the collection of private profits of the insurers, something that to my knowledge has never happened before in this nation. It is the antithesis of socialism, which would have had us extend Medicare to all. Instead we get the opposite of Left Socialism, we get the conjoining of a corrupted state serving the interests of the large corporations. A situation in a different era and place that Mussolini described as fascism. Sure, we kid ourselves that using the state’s coercive powers to create private profit is not fascism, but it’s only a game of semantics at this point. Furthermore, you’ll see how the ACA will work for the uinions with their “cadillac health care plans” which were anathema to the Pete Peterson crowd and the old oligarchy who own the heavily-unionized old industrial corporations. These marvelous plans will all be killed off within a few years. Pretty soon the only high quality, affordable care will be coming from the highly socialistic VA. And we can see for this week’s headlines how the plan is to kill that off as well. Or did you think it might be just a mistake that Eric Shinseki still serves at the pleasure of the President while the triage gets demonstrably worse in the VA by the month?

        To conclude, both Bush and Obama have set out to crush the middle class for the sake of the corporate masters they serve. Any questions? 🙂

        • dumboldguy Says:

          1) Sorry, I don’t buy that. Once the Soviet Union collapsed and the cold war ended, there was little reason for us to “substitute” for the British in the “encirclement” on the “grand chessboard”. And since they were there with us, it could be said that they were fighting the fourth (or is it fifth) Anglo-Afghan War and we were just their helpers. It wasn’t about getting T-stan of K-stan gas and oil but more an excuse for us to have a presence right in the middle of the oil patch so we could meddle, manage, and create chaos around oil, as well as enrich the corporations of the M-I Complex.

          2) I haven’t looked at the question of the medical insurer’s future profits in that much depth, but even if you’re mostly correct, I fail to see that working toward the goal of universal health insurance is in any way equivalent to the reasons we fought the two Bush wars. All your “dire consequences” and “dirty dealings” are just conjecture for now, even though we both know that the USA is well on the road to becoming a corporate fascist state.

          No more questions.

  4. Phillip Shaw Says:

    By all means talk to the faith group. I just don’t see any downside to your meeting with them. Responsible stewadship and sustainability are topics where agreement can come from secular beliefs or religious beliefs. Or both. As we’ve seen with the ‘Green Tea Party’ small groups coming together for shared concerns can be very effective.

    Peter, you have a widespread credibility in large part, I believe, because you are independent and reasonably objective in your reporting. You don’t play the quote-mining or spin-doctoring games we see so often in the media (sadly, from all sides). And I think that there are millions ofaverage Americans who are hungry for the facts on climate change – what is the problem, how serious is it going to be, what are our options? But they don’t have the time or expertise to sift through the mountains of chaff for the grains of truth. (That’s a rather muddled metaphor – sorry about that) Spokespeople like yourself, Bill Nye, and Dr Hayhoe do a great job of communicating with the average folk by presenting the facts in a clear, concise and easily assimilated manner. Keep up the good work.

  5. skeptictmac57 Says:

    Yeah,if my house were on fire and my neighbor showed up to help me fight it or save my family,pets and belongings,I don’t think I would ask “Hey are you a believer in God,because if you are,I don’t need your help”.

  6. Apropos MLK:

    We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on. …” We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.

    (“Beyond Vietnam” Riverside Church 4 April 1967 New York City)

  7. I will immensely enjoy watching the GOP squirm over this treason to the cause by one of their largest stakeholders 🙂

  8. Wes Says:

    For those of you who are long-time secularists, you may not realize that the “faith community” has a very wide range of beliefs, with the fundamentalists and
    literalists being only a loud and obnoxious minority. Christians can do good science – ask Dr Hayhoe. She and the Pope take the same approach – we are stewards of the environment and responsible to God. From that point you can have a great discussion on what action is required and most Christians will see climate change as a vital issue to tackle. There are millions of potential climate activists going to church – and we’re all in this together.

  9. rpauli Says:

    When you speak before them, first show the phenomenal video of a cat saving the life of a toddler

    (It’s a security-camera video of a dog attacking a child, and a cat intervening.)

    All of humanity needs 7 billion cats to rescue us from our own blunders with carbon emissions.

    Why is it that a cat has such quick acting ethical responses to danger, and humans have so little response?

  10. Politics makes strange bedfellows. The truth is, there are plenty of religious people who take the point of view that it is an ethical imperative to preserve and respect nature. Likewise, there are many conservatives who believe in independence and resourcefulness and so support distributed solar. And why not? Lets light a candle rather than curse the darkness.

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