The home of Susan Soleil, director of Interfaith Power and Light, is a geodesic dome with a full complement of energy efficiency measures, 16 April 2013 in Midway, Utah. Photo: Trent Nelson / The Salt Lake Tribune

21 April 2013
(The Salt Lake Tribune) – Rob Gillies and his team gather data on Nepal’s changing climate for a research project. They log temperatures, raindrops and snow. They pump the numbers into powerful computers and read the trend lines the computers spit out.

Gillies sees the numbers in human terms, too. Global warming is likely to mean less water, putting crops and livestock in peril, along with nourishment for children who already don’t get enough to eat. That leaves the climate scientist with questions instruments can’t answer. About fairness. Justice. And life and death.

"I see it as a scientific issue," said Gillies, Utah’s state climatologist. "But, given my experiences in Nepal and elsewhere in the world, I see a moral aspect to it beyond science."

He is not alone in expanding the conversation about climate change beyond politics and science on the eve of the 44th Earth Day.

More and more people view it as a moral issue that touches on what people care about most: our relationships to one another, near and far; our relationship to the Earth or, for some, God’s creation; our concern for the future; and our sense of what’s right and good.

"If we profess a love for God, for each other, our neighbors as ourselves, shouldn’t we be protecting what God loves, which is the creation?" asked Sally Grover Bingham, an Episcopal priest and founder of the Interfaith Power & Light project.

Speaking recently at the University of Utah law school’s Stegner Symposium, Bingham described global warming as the most pressing moral issue of our times.

It’s a problem for people of faith in the developed world when they recognize their own oversized appetite for fossil fuels, while their pollution poses the greatest threat to people in the undeveloped world. And, while the world’s wealthiest people are measuring the consequences of global warming in economic terms, the world’s poorest will be paying with their lives.

"Major social changes in America have not happened without the voice of religion," Bingham noted, "and that voice is needed now."

Bingham’s organization penned the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change in 2009. Gathered with climate-change position statements of dozens of other religious groups on a web page hosted by The Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, the interfaith declaration echoes the sentiments of churches, synagogues, mosques and temples around the world about the fundamental importance of being good stewards of God’s creation, Bingham pointed out.

In the U.S., about 80 percent of Americans say they belong to a faith community, and that puts them in a powerful position to take meaningful action and to drive change — past the politics and the science skeptics.

"It’s time to look for solutions," Bingham said, "to save the entire community of life — not one species, not one disease or one problem. This is about the well-being of the entire communion of life." [more]

Moral climate: Beyond science and politics



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