The UN Climate Report is Devastating… And That Doesn’t Let Us Off the Hook.

At first I saw the headlines on Facebook from articles that friends were posting:
Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as early as 2040 [1]… We Have 12 Years to Limit Climate Change Catastrophe, UN Warns [2]… UN Says Climate Genocide Coming, But It’s Worse Than That [3]…

Honestly, I couldn’t read them. I was finishing up co-facilitating a training for the Colombia Accompaniment Program, and my heart was already worn out from remembering and re-learning about the violence in Colombia, violence that the United States has played such a major role in and that continues in new waves with multinational corporations exploiting the Colombian people and land along with rising assassinations of social leaders.

I didn’t feel like I could read about the devastation and destruction that our planet is facing–violence that the United States has played such a major role in, violence that it appears this administration has no intent of curbing or even trying to mitigate. Pretty pessimistic, I know. But I’m not prone to optimism.

Maybe you’re like me. (And if you’re not–great!) We are all, however, called to hope. It’s at the heart of our call as Christians–to believe that somehow life and renewal can come out of the most impossible situations. 

When the vote to divest failed at the PCUSA General Assembly this summer, those of us who had worked so hard–and walked over 200 miles!–for divestment were profoundly disappointed. And yet, the community that had formed around and because of the Walk and the movement for divestment was exactly what sustained us through that moment of defeat.

We mourned and prayed, we did a die-in, and then we got back up and, together, got back to work. It was precisely because we had an experience of community that was interdependent and committed to a common cause, a community that took care of each other and prayed for each other–in person and virtually. We were changed and humbled by it. That experience of community is what gave us the strength and the vision to get up off the floor and resolve to keep working together and keep widening the circle of that community.

Clearly, it will take much more than just the PCUSA divesting from fossil fuels to curb climate change, but that is one collective action among many that we can work for as Presbyterians. I also know that curbing climate change is a much bigger effort than the PCUSA divesting from fossil fuels, but my hope right now comes from that experience of community that was formed from people committed to curbing climate change as we also address the violence of colonialism and racism, because they are linked. My resolve is rooted in the relationships that made and sustained the PCUSA Walk for a Fossil Free World. My hope is grounded in the experience that we can create these kinds of alternative communities that are what we will have to create on a much larger scale if we’re going to do what we’re called to do to curb climate change.

Climate change is real and it’s happening. There is so much destruction that will happen even if we got to carbon-zero today. That’s just real. And it’s devastating. And yet we’re called to hope and create and change.

Optimism is thinking we can reverse climate change. Hope is knowing we can’t, but believing we can curb it. Optimism is thinking people will change their habits and lifestyles if they just know how bad climate change is, hoping is believing that we have the capacity to radically shift the ways that we relate to each other and the Earth but it will be the hardest thing we’ve ever done.

Optimism turns quickly to pessimism in the face of the realities of climate change. Hope turns to resolve. Movements have changed the impossible before (this article outlines a few of those moments and movements in history). This is one of those moments where our movement has to overcome the forces of capitalism and domination that are wrecking our planet and many people’s lives already. It will take collective action and systemic changes, and it will take all of the hope and action we can muster.

[1] New York Times, 10/7/2018
[2] The Guardian, 10/8/2018
[3] New York Magazine 10/10/2018