On Sunday, March 22, PA IPL board member Rev. Doug Hunt was the invited guest preacher at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Pottstown. Overheard after the service “You know, I’ve heard all that before, but he’s the only one that has gotten me to do something. I’m going to make some phone calls today.” It’s not the same as being there, but you can get a glimpse of the readings and sermon below. Let us know if you’d like to have a guest preach or teach in your congregation (sermons, education hours workshops). We’ll help figure out what would be your best fit, and we’ll help make it happen. Reach Cricket at 814-876-2597.
First reading from “My First Summer in the Sierra” – John Muir – 1911
The snow on the high mountains is melting fast, and the streams are singing bankfull, swaying softly through the level meadows and bogs, quivering with sun-spangles, swirling in pot-holes, resting in deep pools, leaping, shouting in wild, exulting energy over rough boulder dams, joyful, beautiful in all their forms.
No Sierra landscape that I have seen holds anything truly dead or dull, or any trace of what in manufactories is called rubbish or waste; everything is perfectly clean and pure and full of divine lessons. This quick, inevitable interest attaching to everything seems marvelous until the hand of God becomes visible; then it seems reasonable that what interests Him may well interest us.
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell, and we feel like stopping to speak to the plants and animals as friendly fellow mountaineers. Nature as a poet, an enthusiastic workingman, becomes more and more visible the farther and higher we go; for the mountains are fountains–beginning places, however related to sources beyond mortal ken.
Good Morning. Every guest speaker says it’s good to be here, but it is more than that for me — I am grateful.
I am grateful for every opportunity I can find to talk about what I love, which is this place we call Earth and everything about our world — the smells, the colors, the dirt, all the living and changing and growing. On a good day, I can even appreciate the transitions from one way of being to another. I love all of creation. To be honest, I love some beings more in the abstract than the concrete, nice kitties rather than hungry tigers face-to-face, spiders not so much, but I LOVE all of it.
I am grateful most of all for the opportunity to talk to one more group about the reality of our planet facing the most critical moral and ethical challenge ever. I am especially glad to be in a place where I know I am surrounded by people who do their best to tell and to hear the truth in love, who have love for each other, people who will know that what I have so say is said in love and who will react or even disagree in love, and in respect.
I honestly believe that If we can’t talk about the biggest, hardest, most terrifying problems and search for loving, moral, ethical responses we might offer here, then where can we?
This morning I want to talk as calmly as I can (I tend to be a passionate person) about two words:
Climate which, simply put, is the patterns of weather you expect, and
climate change —what you have when you consistently get weather patterns that are well outside of what’s expected.
First, let me talk a little about science, because it has been a large part of my life, and because as one of my new favorite people, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, remarked “the wonderful thing about science is that it is true whether you or your neighbor believe it or not.” The science of climate change is simple. I’m tempted to slip into my 35 minute lecture on the science of climate change and the sources of greenhouse gases and the identification of things that absorb, reflect, or trap heat in one way or another in our atmosphere so it gets hotter. If you really do want that, let me know after the service. I’ll happily send a list of books, papers, slide shows, power points, YouTube videos, TED lectures, NASA, NOAA, US Global Change, papers, videos, and links that contain the basics and build up to the complex areas of this science.
This morning I will spare you that because it is unnecessary for our conversation. There are just four (or maybe five) simple points and only-mildly-scary scientific conclusions I want to share. The American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) published a paper just last week titled “What We Know.” That summarizes the essential scientific consensus on climate change. Climate is the weather patterns you expect. Climate change is consistently getting weather that is substantially different than you expect.
- Climate change is happening here and now.
- We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
- The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost.
Who says this? Every National Academy of Science in the World (more than 160 of them!) and 97% of all the scientists actively engaged in climate research. So far a couple of the most easily understood and uncontestable results of these conditions are
- We are now in the 344th consecutive month when average global temperatures has been above the 20th century average for that month
- The UN estimates that more than 100 million refugees are already attributable to climate-change-related events which are growing more frequent and more intense
To summarize in the colorful language of a friend of mine from my days of work on climate and sustainability with NGOs at the UN, Sunita Narain (now director of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi, India) says “We are standing at the precipice of hell.” This is most true (as usual) for those who have contributed the least to creating the problem: those living in poverty around the world.
Science and plain old good sense tell us that climate change is not only an environmental issues, a scientific question, or a moral imperative to act. It is all of these. Perhaps most importantly it poses a truly existential question. Acting on climate change is a question of survival for humanity and for most species on the earth. It is a challenge that demands action from people of faith, spirit, hope, and love. It demands action from me and from you.
For those who believe that God will fix it, I respond: even if that were to be true, if we were to —despite a future “fix,” or because of it— do all we can right now to demonstrate our love for our children, our grandchildren and generations to come by making this world better, safer, more stable, and more sustainable world, could that be possibly be a bad thing? Could it be a waste of time and energy and resources?
Growing numbers of people here and around the world have taken simple steps to sustainability. Many are using high-mileage vehicles, purchasing green power and reducing our energy use. We recycle packaging, or no longer buy plastic bottles, and we’ve reduce our intake of meat and fish. My congregational home in Devon has solar shingles as a large part of the roof; we drastically limit air conditioning all the time and virtually turn it off in areas that aren’t being used. All of these are examples we can mirror in our homes.
But in the face of the climate change that is contributing to rising sea levels, and melting polar ice caps, coal-fired emissions-spewing power plants are still scattered like weeds around the planet. Much more is needed.
We have taken important first steps acknowledging that we are not going to be rescued by the Lone Ranger, the President, the UN, or by some savior. This is wishful thinking. As much I wish it were true, we must move forward in reality.
What then are we to do? Carl Jung said that the only option when faced with an impossible problem is to get up and do something. We belong to this world, and the web of life we are part of is calling us forth at this time, letting us know in no uncertain terms that no one else, nothing else will save us.
Having love, having hope, having faith in each other and that which calls us to do justice and bring hope means acting to create a healthy future for our children, and for children we will never know. We realize that there are challenges in store—who doesn’t like a good adventure to help you feel alive? We need to seize that sense of adventure.
Our actions need to move us out of our comfort zones, into the places where policies and laws are made. Where money frequently speaks louder than human concerns. When we step out there, we will find others like UU Tim DeChristopher (Bidder 50), the UU Global Warming Task Force, Climate Action Teams, the UU Ministry for the earth already joining together. PA IPL, is out there, too, working with congregations all over the state to identify and take steps to build a future for our grandchildren.
We can do things as simple as talking calmly, lovingly and directly to our neighbors and coworkers about climate change and the future. We can call members of our county or township boards to ask how they are preparing for climate change; we can call or write Senators, Congressmen and members of the legislature faithfully — monthly to ask what they have done about climate change since we last called.
Like me, you may be motivated to join tens of thousands of others on the national mall to let our president know he is responsible for taking more and firmer action over greenhouse emissions.
You may sign a postcard, like those I’ve brought today urging EPA to establish firm controls over carbon emissions, or join in supporting the Blue/Green (labor/environment) coalition building a “just transition” plan for those who may lose their jobs in efforts to reduce emissions. You may find a new way to help us move to a more loving, hopeful, future in a world we can be happy to pass on.
But we have passed the time when we can allow ourselves “one and done.” Thinking and acting on climate change must become a part of our daily lives. The changes most certainly will. We can —with love, and truth and courage— come together in spirit and hope to be the change that will ensure a hospitable planet for the future. In that joining, I find hope. Thank you.
Second Reading (after reflection as benediction): an excerpt from Adrienne Rich’s poem “Natural Resources” found in Dream of a Common Language “
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those who
age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”