Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stewardship or Sacrifice?

Penn State's Center for Ethics and Religious Affairs is hosting a conference on religion and the ethics of climate change, titled Stewardship or Sacrifice? It goes from today to tomorrow (Oct. 8th and 9th). From the site:

"The purpose of the conference is to explore the role of religion in helping solve the climate change crisis. A panel of climate scientists will provide the latest understanding of how climate change impacts our world; theologians will reflect on the scriptural bases for ethics response; members from congregations across Pennsylvania will describe concrete actions that they have taken to reduce their carbon footprints, and workshops will focus on how Pennsylvania religious institutions can mitigate threats to human health and the environment from climate change.

Keynote addresses from the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder of Interfaith Power and Light, and Michael E. Mann, a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report, will detail the scope of the ethical challenges we face and the urgency of immediate action to build a more sustainable future. The conference invites wide participation from members of Pennsylvania faith communities interested in responding to climate change or simply learning more about this issue. For more information on the conference contact Jonathan E. Brockopp, Department of History and Religious Studies.

This conference is part of a week-long series of events at Penn State, including a co-sponsored conference on "Educating for Sustainability" October 5 and 6, 2009, at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, organized by theSchreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, Schreyer Honors College, theCenter for Sustainability, and theRock Ethics Institute."

If you have time check it out please. I think that one of the things that we need to recognize is the sheer power of some portions of the religious community in American life. If we want to take meaningful action to curb climate change and reduce some of the potentially catastrophic change then we are going to have to work with and within our faith communities to do more and do better. This includes churches, mosques, temples, etc. reducing their carbon footprints through reduction and retrofitting their operations. These can come about through the investment of time and money by the congregation in new technologies and pledging to reduce their own consumption for ethical and theological reasons.

Additionally, this can mean actively engaging the most corrosive brands of anti-reason climate change denying sects among us. As many of you know, I am an avid follower and opponent of the creationist movement in the United States. The Venn Diagram of creationists and climate change deniers overlaps too much. To my mind, there is an urgent call for the Christian faithful who understand the science of climate change to engage, educate, and persuade the deniers among them that they need to change as well. The status quo cannot stand.

As we have seen with other big social movements - notably the abolition and civil rights movement - religion CAN play a very constructive role. Until now, it has been lagging behind on this most crucial of issues. Will the religious communities help us? Or will too many continue to hinder the greatest transformation our country has ever needed to make? This conference might bring us some hope.

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