Faith responses to energy challenges

by Erin Lothes last modified Jun 15, 2017 05:15 PM
Faith responses to energy challenges

Power lines. © Albin Hillert/WCC

Jun 15, 2017

Summertime in the glorious outdoors… now is the time to savor the joy and relaxation of summer Sabbath, the season of vacation and re-creation that alternates with our seasons of work.

Are we ready to rest, confident we have been caring for the garden?  We are called not only to care for our jobs and our families, but to protect the garden of our common home, the earth we all share.   This earth is so beautiful and fruitful, and yet the impacts of climate change are felt in many places around the world, where heat, storms, droughts, coastal erosion and loss of biodiversity are affecting the poor first and worst.

The doctrine of creation teaches that God has given us the responsibility, the freedom and the dignity, to be God’s workers in the garden of this world. The parable of the sower teaches that the word of God does not bloom in mid-air.  The word of God must take root in the soil of our lives because God has pitched his tent among us, and entrusted Creation to our labor.

We can do more than a change a lightbulb and carry a canvas bag: we can choose actions with significant social impact.Today love of neighbor requires careful attention to the energy decisions we make and the energy structures that govern our lives.  These decisions and structures have enormous impact on the wellbeing of all living communities and the sustainability of a healthy earth.  Almost any walk around our world increasingly shows the desecration of God’s creation by pollution and the effects of climate change.  The most vulnerable communities suffer the greatest impacts from the structural addiction to fossil fuels that drives the world’s superdeveloped economies.  Today, the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor sound as one.

Energy driven by fossil fuels is altering the very order of Creation and its natural balance, causing drought, hunger, intense storm impacts, loss of homes and jobs, social dislocation and instability.  Yet energy is also essential to lift developing communities out of poverty, improve health, and support human dignity.  Complex choices about energy investments and energy sources face decision makers -- and in one sphere or another, we are all energy decision makers.

As responsible editor, I had the opportunity to present Light For a New Day: Interfaith Essays on Energy Ethics at last November’s COP 22 summit in Marrakech at an interfaith forum hosted by GreenFaith. This not-for-profit inspires and educates faith communities in their environmental leadership, to explore the spiritual and ethical implications of energy decisions. The essay collection's fifteen authors represent the world’s major faith traditions and geographic regions. While addressing particular energy issues, all of the essays powerfully illustrate the nexus of climate change, energy policy, suffering, and ethics.

In these essays, traditional religious wisdom, moral teachings, and spiritual insights are brought to bear on the critical question of energy ethics.  Deep values from our shared humanity and faith traditions can inspire every person’s conversion to new and just ways of using energy.

Living out the great command to love one’s neighbor as oneself now requires examining how we impact neighbors far and near through energy choices and energy systems. Honoring the Creator implies this commandment: Honor your Mother Earth, that your days may be long on this Earth that the Lord God has given to you.

Those who take up these essays for their summer reading will encounter powerful, faith-based analyses of the scars that fossil fuels leave upon crucified nature, along with hopeful witness from faith communities that are finding new paths toward a sustainable, equitable, and blessed future.