A Religious Take on Climate Change

Were it not for the setting in a stately Romanesque cathedral near downtown Los Angeles, the gathering might have been mistaken for a political rally.

Many of the 90 people present signed cards to California’s two U.S. senators urging them to support legislation to roll back greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Others pledged to oppose efforts by oil companies and conservative activists in California to suspend the state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. They signed a “carbon covenant” to oppose illegal logging and deforestation in the developing world.

Yet for most of those last Sunday, the underlying motivation was not political but religious. They said they had a moral duty to care for the Earth and all of God’s creation. They called for a widened understanding of what it means to love one’s neighbor in a world where choices made on one continent can affect people thousands of miles away, including those in poor countries least able to cope with climate shifts.

The gathering at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral was yet another sign of a maturing religious environmental activism and sophistication 40 years after the first Earth Day. At that time, religious bodies were virtually silent about “green” issues. Not now. Indeed, longtime environmental advocates such as author Bill McKibben, the keynote speaker at St. John’s, said that whatever success there may be in staunching the worst effects of climate change will depend in large part on people of faith.

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