By Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners
20 May 2014
(TIME) – To ignore climate change is to abuse the moral call to care for the environment, and generations to come will suffer
Some of the most inspiring words in the entire Bible are found in the opening pages of Genesis. Here we are told that humans were created in God’s image and given a divine mandate to care for Creation (Gen. 1:26-31). Our vocation—our calling—is to partner with God in preserving and sustaining the earth with all the creatures and species that God has made. The word used in most translations is “dominion,” and the true meaning is what we would today call “stewardship.”
Unfortunately, these passages have often been used and abused to advance countless agendas, often to the great detriment of the Earth and its inhabitants. The deep sense of stewardship implied by and inherent in these verses is ignored and the word “dominion” has been interpreted as domination—and a license to destroy. Such thinking is not just unfaithful to God; it is dangerous to all God’s creation and creatures.
The most recent example of this unfortunate mindset can be seen in the recent comments made by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) denying that human activity contributes to climate change. He claimed proposals attempting to address the troubling climate trends were problematic because they might hamper economic growth and lacked international buy-in. We certainly wouldn’t want something as insignificant as the sustainability of our planet to impinge on next quarter’s GDP, or worse yet, a potential candidate’s presidential campaign.
Much attention has been given to Rubio’s denial of climate science. After all, there is overwhelming evidence that climate change is real and humans are contributing to it in significant ways. But what’s potentially more harmful than his devaluing of the widespread scientific consensus is the utter lack of discussion about moral implications. This was in fact a political denial of the facts, for the sake of a voting base he desperately wants to cultivate; but worse, a cover up of both moral and theological imperatives.
And there are serious moral costs to our willful ignorance and political inaction on climate change.
It is time to acknowledge this as the sin of short-termism. By prioritizing the present—and at worst, current political calculations—at the expense of the future we are risking the health and prosperity of future generations. Our nation has long prided itself on leaving the next generation better off, but what sort of example are we now setting and what inheritance are we passing on? It is hard to answer these questions honestly because we are unwilling to admit the truth. Scientific denial is psychologically easier. For some of our elected leaders it is also politically convenient. [more]