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True Climate Confessions

My name is Cindy Stover, I’m one of the CRC’s justice mobilizers, and I have a confession to make. Until about a month ago, I had no idea what I could do to combat climate change. More specifically, I had no idea what I, as one person, could reasonably do to substantially impact our overwhelming global climate crisis. Now, I do lots of simple environmentalist sort of things; I recycle, I shop second hand, I try to buy local produce at the grocery store, and I even remember (most of the time) to bring my reusable grocery bags with me! But is all that really enough? Most days, I worry that I’m choosing the easy, feel-good things over the harder things; like moving to a 100% plant-based diet, or reducing the fossil fuels I put in my car, or saving up the extra money to buy carbon offsets when I travel. I worry too whether any of these small, personal things are really going to matter in the face of a rapidly warming planet. 

What’s paralyzing for me though is to hear that this impending catastrophe is coming.

I’ve heard the reports from climate scientists trying to shock us out of our comfort zones and into the reality that we have 12 years or less to drastically reduce carbon emissions so that our global temperature does not rise beyond an additional 1.5 degrees. What’s paralyzing for me though is to hear that this impending catastrophe is coming, and to have no idea what it means, or what I can do about it.

In our justice work within the denomination, we’ve long identified that part of our faithful response as creational stewards is to protect and advocate for all of creation, both because we believe it was created good and is worthy of care, and also because we’ve seen the evidence that its erosion gravely impacts the world’s most marginalized people. The biblical mandate to care for the land and to care for the poor are intrinsically linked; we can’t do one without the other.

What practical, tangible steps can you and I take?

Therefore, I want to fulfill the biblical call, and I believe the science, but what can be done about it? What practical, tangible steps can you and I take to respond?

My first step turned out to be with Dr. Henry Brouwer, a former chemistry professor at Redeemer University, and regional rep for the Climate Witness Project. As part of his work in educating and engaging churches in climate justice, Dr. Brouwer has been hosting a series on ‘Understanding our Climate Crisis’, and I jumped at the opportunity to support these events so that I could learn more. Over the first 4 sessions I’ve learned how most carbon emissions are created, what a global rise in temperature actually looks like and who it impacts, why there’s so much controversy over climate change (hint, follow the money!), and what we can do to change our economies and lifestyles towards being carbon neutral. (I certainly can’t explain it all, but the session recordings can be viewed here, and there are two more weeks of this series to come so join us if you’re in the Hamilton area!)

I attended my local climate strike a few weeks ago.

Secondly, as part of this personal climate quest, I attended my local climate strike a few weeks ago. Hundreds of youth and allies descended into the downtown core of Hamilton, and I was honestly a bit choked up to see so many youth, kids, and families present, holding protest signs ranging from one-liners to outrage about the inaction of global leaders. As the young organizers gave their speeches, it was clear that they were passionate, knowledgeable, and determined.

It was also clear that they were scared. Scared that you and I and the adult decision-makers in this world won’t take this seriously and take action on climate change in time. They’re scared that we’ll be too comfortable in our consumptive lifestyles, or that our politicians will be too complicit with economies of extraction. They’re afraid that since those of us who are globally privileged are not all feeling the impacts of climate change directly, that we won’t act soon enough and broadly enough to stop what will be a lifetime of climate uncertainty for North Americans - but for the marginalized of the world, will be a guarantee of compounding climate disasters on top of the poverty and vulnerability they already face. 

They were still resilient, compassionate, and have hope.

They’re scared, and they want us to be scared too. In Greta Thunberg’s words, they want us to panic, as if the house is on fire, because our big, communal, created-good house is on fire. 

As I watched the youth march, it was also clear that while they may be distressed, they were still resilient, compassionate, and have hope to change the world. Many studies on today's youth show that this generation prioritizes helping others and responding in practical ways to the overwhelming challenges that are being handed to them. Like it or not, these youth will have to face climate change, and it’s what we do or do not do now that will impact how severe it is. 

I can no longer put my fingers in my ears.

Our world can’t afford for me to be so overwhelmed that I’m paralyzed with inaction. I can no longer put my fingers in my ears pretending it’s not real so I can continue a life of privileged comfort, ‘the way it’s always been’ (even though ‘the way it’s always been’ was only possible because of environmental degradation somewhere else in the world). Like the youth who are demanding change, I need to demand it too, and I need to change. We need to change. We need to consider our personal impacts, and also the impact our nation’s policies have on creation. 

So what practical, tangible steps am I going to take to combat climate change? In what I’ve learned over the past month, I’ve come up with four steps: education, conversation, advocacy and action. I’m going to continue to educate myself through resources like the Climate Witness Project, and have conversations with others about what we can do together. I’m going to advocate to our elected leaders to support policies that reduce carbon emissions, and I’m going to take some of those harder actions in my own life to reduce my personal carbon footprint, like eating less meat and traveling greener. One real tangible thing that all this education and conversation has changed my mind on is that I’ve decided to replace my 20 year old (adorably cute but falling apart) VW Beetle with a hybrid or fully electric option for my next vehicle. A greener car may not be the cheapest, easiest or perfect choice, but it may be one practical step in the right direction. (And now that it’s in writing, I have to do it!) 

What practical, tangible steps are you taking to combat climate change in your own life? How are you engaging in education, conversation, advocacy and action? 


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