The Climate Crisis and COP 27: Conflicting Worldviews

 

Published November 28, 2022 by United Methodist Insight:  The Climate Crisis and COP 27: Conflicting Worldviews

The recent climate conference, COP 27, ended with mixed reviews from climate campaigners. United Methodist Agencies were represented in the talks, and their reports from the Conference and other reports about the climate negotiations are available below. In the following excerpt from her newest book, Sharon Delgado draws from The first chapter of First Corinthians to frame the ongoing conflicts that have prevented the international community from charting a clear course towards a stable climate and a just world, and points to Jesus’s passion for the reign of God as a model for our participation.

Excerpt from Sharon Delgado’s new book: The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World

According to the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), average global temperatures have risen 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The report says we must limit this warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent the most catastrophic impacts, which means cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half globally by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050, which will require rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society. Or in a slogan from the climate justice movement, “System change not climate change.”

Climate justice advocates demand policies based on the science that will help bring about systemic change. Such policies include ending fossil fuels subsidies that the International Monetary Fund says amount globally to $10 million per minute, providing “loss and damage” payments to poor countries that have been impacted most and have contributed least to climate change, immediately transitioning to justly and sustainably sourced renewable power, and banning permits for long-lasting fossil fuel infrastructure projects like pipelines and offshore oil drilling rigs that will cause pollution and keep the fossil fuel party going for decades. The bottom line is to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

The problem is that there are powerful interests working to keep the dominant system intact. They propose complex carbon-trading schemes and postpone action based on the hope of untested carbon-capture and geoengineering technologies. They promise to move to net-zero domestically sometime in the future while continuing to increase fossil fuel exports. Many government and industry leaders see the magnitude of the dangers but won’t go against the conventional wisdom of today’s system of corporate-dominated globalization, which is built around profit, powered by fossil fuels, and backed by police and military power.

Meanwhile, the movement for climate justice is strong and growing. These struggles are often led by people who are marginalized in official decision-making processes— people from island and low-lying nations experiencing sea-level rise, drought-stricken nations facing famine, frontline communities being turned into sacrifice zones by fossil fuel extraction and processing, Indigenous people whose lands are being polluted by pipelines or confiscated to plant tree farms to supply polluting corporations with carbon credits, and young people whose lives and futures are at stake— and they are supported by environmental groups, labor unions, and other civil society groups, including churches. Together, these groups make up the global movement for climate justice. They call for climate change to be treated as the emergency that it is and for governments to take immediate action. Participants are not just saying no to fossil fuels but yes to a transformed world, and they have plans to get us there.

These are two completely different approaches to the climate crisis: an approach that leaves our market-based global system intact and an approach that calls for a widespread social and economic transformation. They represent two conflicting paradigms and opposing worldviews.

Perhaps the answers to our search for climate solutions will come in ways that we least expect them. Leaders in struggles for climate justice are not high-status official representatives of the domination system, nor are they wealthy or powerful according to the wisdom of this world (1 Cor 1:20). But it may be that these will be the very people who will save us from climate catastrophe by opening our eyes to another worldview, by pressing for systemic change, and by demanding commonsense solutions that will keep fossil fuels in the ground. They may be considered “weak” and “foolish” (1 Cor 1:27-29) by the world’s standards, but they are organizing and networking together to build grassroots movements that have the power necessary to bring about the widespread social, political, and ecological changes that are necessary to transition to a more just, compassionate, peaceful, and ecologically regenerative world. Churches could amplify these movements by joining such campaigns and coalitions as respectful allies. In the words of climate justice organizer Bill McKibben, “The main way to counter the malign power of vested interests is to meet organized money with organized people.”

The word of the cross (1Cor 1:18), as weak and foolish as it may seem, allows us to glimpse a new order, an alternative to the dominant culture and its values based instead on the compassion, justice, inclusivity, and nonviolence that characterized Jesus’s life and (as we now know it must be) on care and concern for all creation. Martin Khor of the Third World Network speaks of something similar when he says that there are two paradigms at work in our world today: the top-down system of corporate globalization, backed by violence, and an emerging alternative system that is community based, people friendly, earth centered, and nonviolent. He points out that as we work within the dominant system to make it fairer, more just, and less ecologically destructive, we must also nurture seeds of hope to bring alive the second paradigm and “infuse it into the first paradigm as a kind of transition.” This worldview offers an alternative to the domination system that is consistent with traditional and contemporary Indigenous views and is supported by the understanding of God as not only transcendent but also immanent within creation. It recalls Jesus’s proclamation of the reign of God and its contemporary secular counterpart that proclaims that “another world is possible.”

The compassion and passion for the reign of God that motivated Jesus may yet save us, as his risen Spirit lives and loves through us and empowers all who give themselves to this crucial work. As we become willing, God breathes new life into us, inspiring us to speak truth to power and empowering us to participate in God’s reconciling work to all creation and in the ongoing story of the universe.

Sharon Delgado is a United Methodist pastor, speaker, writer, and activist who has been working on climate justice and related issues for over 30 years. She is on the Coordinating Committee of the United Methodist Creation Justice Movement and is Chair of the Cal-Nevada Climate Justice Ministries Task Force. Previous books include Love in a Time of Climate Change:  Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice (2017) and Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization (2007, 2020). Sharon’s blog is at sharondelgado.org.

 

Other resources from COP 27

 Listen to representatives of United Methodist Agencies–Global Ministry, Church and Society, Westpath, and United Women in Faith–share their perspectives on events at COP 27.

Part I, November 10: United Methodist Agency Perspectives at UN Climate Talks.

Part II, November 17: United Methodist Agency Perspectives at UN Climate Talks.

Read The World Council of Churches Statement on COP 27

Rev. Richenda Fairhurst from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference has produced two articles with videos that elaborate on faith-based climate advocacy related to issues of COP 27:

Nonviolent Direct Action: Why Youths are Walking Out and Organizing

Loss and Damage: A Necessary and Moral Response

Video from Democracy Now: Indigenous Activists on the Link Between Colonialism & Climate Crisis

Articles

“Let’s Try Something New,” Naomi Klein Calls for Boycott of Next Climate Summit

‘Abdication of Responsibility’: Fury as COP27 Draft Omits Oil and Gas Phase-Out

Is COP27 Already Too Lost and Too Damaged?

United Nations Environmental Program Faiths for Earth Resources:

COP 27 Outcomes Faith for Earth Presentation

List of Faith-based engagement at COP27

Follow Sharon’s blog and receive a notification when she posts by signing up at the “Follow” link to the right. Share with the Social Media buttons below. Read other blog posts related to climate change here. Check out Sharon’s books.  Contact Sharon to request a presentation, to request a free chapter of one of her books, or to order discounted bulk copies.  Discussion guides and video introductions of her books are also available.

 

 

 

 

Resistance for the Long Haul

Progressive Christian Social Action

 

Resistance for the Long Haul

In this new year, I have been hearing people talk about how bad 2017 was (politically), and hoping that 2018 will be better. Many people who have not been active before have worked hard last year to resist the Trump Administration and the Republican agenda.  The current state of the nation and world makes it almost impossible to focus solely on one’s personal life.

That’s a good thing, because our neoliberal society would have us believe that we are separate and self-sufficient and that we can find fulfillment by escaping into our personal lives, focusing on ourselves, seeking our own comfort, and feeding our own appetites.  This enables the dominant institutional Powers to divide us and discourage us from taking communal action that could disrupt their attempts to dominate the world.  Besides, that is not the way to happiness.

There are hopeful signs.  Many people are refusing to be sidetracked, and are continuing with the struggle.  Several Republicans have been unseated due to election upsets.  This coming Saturday, there will be anniversary marches around the country, recalling the huge Inauguration Day demonstrations that took place last year.

I have a sense, though, that people are exhausted.  It’s hard not to be discouraged by the constant barrage of presidential tweets, the acceleration of harm, hate and scapegoating, surveillance and repression, and the ongoing “dismantling of the administrative state.” We face tremendous dangers, and many fear that we are descending into fascism, runaway climate change, or even nuclear war.

How can we sustain resistance for the long haul?  I have found that I need a spiritual foundation to keep going, maintain a positive attitude, and live in hope of both personal and social transformation.  In other words, resistance must have an inner, as well as an outer, dimension.  This involves spiritual and cultural awakening, remembering who we are as children of earth and Spirit, prayer as an “uprising against the disorder of the world,” resistance and contemplation, and the conscious practice of simplicity.

I have written about these themes in the context of progressive Christianity in Resistance and Contemplation, an excerpt from Chapter 17 of Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, first published in 2007.  A revised, updated, and expanded Second Edition will be released later this year.

 

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Beyond the Spectacles

Progressive Christian Social Action

 

Beyond the Spectacles

As the daily spectacles of the Trump Administration enthrall the public, Republicans continue to push their unjust and oppressive agenda.  For one thing, they are trying to repeal laws that keep the Internet free and accessible.  Today I made calls as part of the Internet-Wide Day of Net Neutrality, which the organizers have made very easy to do.

The shameful policies of the Trump Administration (and the Republicans) were apparent at the recent G-20 meetings, and were especially obvious in the sidelining of the U.S. president in his refusal to engage with world leaders on the issue of climate change.  Still, some have found a silver lining in that cloud of U.S. non-participation.  Because the United States has regularly blocked strong and binding climate legislation, the rest of the global community may be able to craft a stronger position than would have been possible otherwise.  The G-20 events highlight not only the disaster of the presidency of Donald Trump, but of the problems inherent in U.S.-style politics, captured by corporations, dark money, and ideologically-driven special interests, especially the Religious Right.  (See Paris, Trump, and the Religious Right.)

Meanwhile, heat records are (again) breaking and wildfires are blazing throughout the Western United States.  And now we’ve gotten word that a trillion-ton iceberg has broken off (“calved”) from the Larsen Ice Shelf; it is so big that maps of Antarctica will need to be redrawn.  There are calls to name it the “ExxonKnew” Iceberg, since internal studies show that Exxon-Mobil has known that their products would cause climate change for decades, even while they created a massive public relations establishment promoting climate change denial.  And ironically, Rex Tillerson was CEO of Exxon-Mobil from 2006 until 2016, before he was appointed to the prominent position of U.S. Secretary of State.

My new book, Love in a Time of Climate Change, addresses the ideology and mechanisms that underlie the present U.S. and global system, leading to problems that are illustrated by, but also go far beyond, the ongoing shocks of the (hopefully short-lived) Trump presidency, and which create a momentum that not only harms people’s lives but endangers life on earth.  For example, preview Corporate Influences on Climate Policy in “Chapter 10, Reason:  Climate Justice and Common Sense.”  The following call to action is also an excerpt from that chapter:

“Whatever we do, it is important to keep in mind that we are not acting in isolation, but contributing to the larger movement for climate justice. We are doing our small part to awaken people to what is at stake and to point in the direction of hope.

“Reason makes clear that building a strong movement to stabilize the climate means working in coalition with justice-oriented groups that have other priorities. By joining with pro-democracy organizations, we help to end corporate domination of government and build a peoples’ democracy. Another natural ally is the peace movement. War is deadly for humans and all life, and the U.S. military is one of the world’s largest consumers of fossil fuels. It also makes sense to work with groups that oppose toxic trade deals like the TPP.  Specific groups are listed in the Suggested Reading List at the back of this book.  Working together in a broad coalition of groups builds strength in solidarity and makes it possible to influence public policy in areas of trade, economics, racial justice, immigration reform, prison reform, war and peace, and climate justice. It also makes system change more likely.

“The movement for climate justice, together with allies in the broader movement for global justice, embodies faith that “another world is possible.” Together we seek to establish justice and build a global community in which all human lives, local communities, and the natural world are valued for themselves and not for how much wealth they deliver upwards. As we consider God’s call to climate justice, we turn now [In Chapter 11] to the experiences of people living and working on the front lines of climate change.”

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Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resistance: A Way to Live Humanly

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Today, Good Friday, I am publishing two excerpts from my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, about the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and continuing presence.  You can order it from a local bookstore, order signed or bulk copies directly from me, or find it online.  Here is the first excerpt:

 

How can we live humanly, as free and responsible human beings, enmeshed as we are in a global system that is diverting the life-force of human beings and siphoning off the gifts of God’s creation for idolatrous and unjust purposes that threaten the future? This question brings us around again to resistance for, as William Stringfellow said, in times of great tyranny, “resistance [becomes] the only human way to live.”[i]

For the topic of personal transformation to be relevant here, it must address these issues. In other words, How does the message and Way of Jesus Christ help us to become free of idolatry and injustice? How do they help us to become free, fully human, faithful to God, more completely the people God created us to be?

First, it is essential not to lift the story of Jesus’ death on the cross out of the context of his life, teachings, and ministry or out of the time, place, and political situation in which he lived. In the words of Charles Campbell: “The cross cannot be plopped down out of the blue as a magical transaction between God and individual sinners. Rather, Jesus’ resistance to the powers of the world leads to his crucifixion and gives the cross its distinctive meaning.”[ii] Jesus’ death was a continuation of the way he lived his life. It was also the consequence of living in faithfulness to God and in resistance to the Powers.

Second, those who would follow Jesus can expect the same. There is no promise of safety, no corner of ease or complacency in which to hide. Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”[iii]

Third, Jesus makes us a wonderful promise that will be fulfilled, if we are willing: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). Jesus promises that if we follow him without reservation we will be given back our lives, our humanity, ourselves.

But how? Following Jesus isn’t easy. In fact, it is impossible without divine aid. Fortunately, this is just what is offered. For those who would follow Christ, this aid comes through an ongoing relationship with the Creator, through the tangible activity of the Holy Spirit, and through the presence of the Christ within and among us. Christian faith does not just offer us an example to follow, but a “Way.” And ironically, the cross, an instrument of torture and oppression, has become a symbol of the Way of Jesus Christ, which transforms human life.

[i]. William Stringfellow, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (Waco: Word Books, 1974), 119; italics in original.

[ii]. Charles L. Campbell, The Word Before the Powers: An Ethic of Preaching (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 47.

[iii]. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 99.

Costly Hope: This Changes Everything

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“Love will save this place.”  From This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein.

Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. the Climate, is a hard read.  But it is so important and timely that I will be leading a five-session study and discussion on this groundbreaking book (see details below).  It will begin on April 6, the Monday after Easter, an appropriate time to begin discussing a book that gives hope that we human beings will be able to rise to this historic occasion and address the root causes of climate change and related injustices before the ultimate catastrophe of runaway climate change is upon us.

The catch?  This book does not lend itself to optimism.  It fosters what I call “costly hope.”  The book pushes us toward facing our global situation squarely and refusing to take refuge in false hopes that will allow us to stay comfortable as we are.

A friend who has started reading admits that she is becoming discouraged as she reads.  And it’s true—the first section of the book, “Bad Timing,” points out the grave challenges we face on a warming world and makes clear that the profit-based global economic system that is accelerating greenhouse gas emissions cannot provide a solution that will save us.

This sounds, at first, like very bad news.  Part II, “Magical Thinking,” goes on to expose the false hopes for addressing climate change that have gotten us nowhere.  The very things that we had hoped would save us are revealed as too little, too late.

More bad news—but wait!  Facing the reality of our situation is actually a healthy place to be.  It is like coming out of denial and hitting bottom, ready for a new approach grounded in true hope for both personal and systemic transformation.

This is a fitting message for this Easter Season.  It is a bit like dying and being reborn, like entering the darkness in order to glimpse the dawning of the light.  It is costly hope because it requires us to change.  As the title of the book says, “This changes everything.”

The last section of the book, “Starting Anyway,” is an astounding proclamation of hope and a call to hopeful action.  So much is already taking place that is hopeful, and it is not based on the market, or on corporate partnerships, or on “Big Green” environmental groups, or on government action.  Rather, this hope is being built upon successful grassroots struggles that impact everything (“this changes everything”), including actions at the top.  Hope that “another world is possible” is not a top-down process, but emerges from the bottom up, from people who are invested in the lives of their communities and are committed to leaving a flourishing world to future generations.  “Love will save this place.”

This is not a summary of the book—just a challenge to read it and consider what changes you can make to your current world view and way of life.  It helps to be able to talk things out with others who are also going through a transformative process, so feel free to join us.  This changes everything.

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Community Book Study on This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein, Sponsored by the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition 

The Nevada County Climate Change Coalition is sponsoring a 5-session book study on This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein.   The study will be led by Sharon Delgado, a climate change educator, and is open to all.  Each session will include a presentation summarizing the themes of each chapter, with small group and open discussion by those who are reading the book.  The study will be held on the following Mondays at 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Nevada City United Methodist Church, 433 Broad Street, Nevada City:

 April 6- (pages 1-94) Introduction and Part One:  Bad Timing (Chapters 1 and 2)

April 13- (pages 96-187)  Part One:  Bad Timing (Chapters 3, 4, 5)

May 4- (pages 189-290) Part Two:    Magical Thinking (Chapters 6,7,8)

May 18– (pages 291-387) Part Three:  Starting Anyway (Chapters 9,10,11)

June 1- (Pages 388-466) Part Three:  Starting Anyway (Chapters 12,13); Conclusion 

Please RSVP if you plan to participate by “joining” this Facebook event at the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition website:  https://www.facebook.com/events/790583357657274/ or by contacting Sharon or by email at thischangeseverything@earth-justice.org. 

Book study organizers encourage participants to purchase copies of This Changes Everything from local book dealers:  The Book Seller (272-2131) or Harmony Books (265-9564), well before the first meeting.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  Her other blog postings about climate change can be found here.