Today is Earth Day! The annual event, which began forty-five years ago today, is intended to promote humanity’s stewardship of the Earth. Pick up trash! Buy a more fuel efficient car! Petition Congress to do something, anything, to combat climate change!
The person teaching my Sunday school class last week lamented the increasingly palatable consequences of climate change. I was taken somewhat aback, as he was a so-called “baby boomer.” His concern was genuine. I figured that climate change, like the solvency of social security, wasn’t a real concern among the baby boomer set. (But perhaps I’m being a pessimistic millennial.)
Every year, humanity is taking billions of tons of carbon that have been sequestered safely underground for millions of years and pumping it into the atmosphere. This has increasingly undeniable consequences on our climate. The Southwest is experiencing prolonged drought, and radical water conservation measures are being put into place. Globally, ten of the hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998. And because warmer air can hold more water vapor and carry more energy, winter storms and hurricanes have become stronger, and economic damage caused by those storms has increased.
Climate change has been made a political issue, encouraged in large part by oil companies with a vested interest in maintaining a carbon-dependent economy. But climate change shouldn’t be a political issue; it’s a moral issue. We were given a biblical mandate to be good stewards of the Earth. After all, we don’t own the Earth; we are merely leasing it from future generations.
With countries like China and India hesitant to make any meaningful strides to reduce greenhouse emissions, it seems unlikely that we can do anything to abate climate change.
But we can and are. In southeastern North Carolina, a number of solar farms have popped up in the last two years, harnessing the sun’s rays to create clean energy. Just this past week, scientists announced a breakthrough in a manufactured photosynthesis process. This means that the process used by plants to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen can be re-created by man, and as the process is refined and becomes more efficient, industrial applications of this technology can be implemented, and we can clean the mess created by our dirtiest fuel sources.
Climate change can be seen as a crisis, or as an opportunity. We are creating new technologies to clean up the mess we’ve made of our terrestrial home. We can humbly remind ourselves that the Earth does not belong to us, but that we belong to the Earth. And because no nation, religion, or race will be spared by the effects of climate change, we can begin the hard work of working together as one human tribe to keep the only home we’ve known habitable.