Is there a natural connection between the religious and environmental movements? In Sacred Acts: How Churches are Working to Protect Earth’s Climate (New Society Publishers), author Mallory McDuff lays out the way that churches have increasingly become active in the business of caring for creation, seeing it as one of the defining moral missions of our time. Whether churches are lowering the carbon footprint of their houses of worship or parishioners are participating in protests against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, these faith communities are speaking to a new generation and maintaining their relevance.
A collection of authors come together in the book to weigh in on one of the following topics: stewardship, spirituality, advocacy or justice. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe’s essay “At the Intersection of Belief and Knowledge: Climate Science and our Christian Faith” explains both science and spiritual solution. She succinctly describes how global warming works, i.e. “Through our increasing use of fossil fuels, we have artificially increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide by 40 percent, and methane levels by 250 percent….This is what is heating our planet.” Hayhoe tracks the ways in which these increased greenhouse gases are radically altering the planet and also how global warming has become, instead of a shared public concern, a matter of political affiliation. These divides, she writes, also extend to religious communities. In a survey response to the statement “I believe global warming is real and manmade,” she notes that only 28% of evangelical pastors agreed with the statement. Hayhoe argues that the call for caring about creation comes down to three essential truths: That we are pushing the boundaries of the earth that sustains us; that “God created the earth and gave us responsibility for it”; and that, quite simply “It is wise to conserve our resources.”
Other essays continue this theme, touching on topics from green jobs, to climate refugees, to anti-coal activism. “The Birds of the Air: Preaching, Climate Change and Anxiety,” a sermon from Reverend Brian Cole, addresses our age of anxiety and the antidote that nature, and through nature, God, provides. It is about getting outside of ourselves and our troubles and considering more closely the world around us. “Consider the bird and the field and then love them the way God loves them,” Cole says. “Our love can motivate us to seek their protection, even if our attempts are potentially futile.”