Climate change represents an unprecedented human emergency. Unlike past threats that humans have faced, this one is irreversible on a time scale of thousands of years. In the past invaders might attack a society, but only those involved might suffer. Our present addiction to fossil fuels will impact the entire inhabited world. If we continue with business as usual and continue doing what we have been doing, we will likely cause the collapse of civilization. The question is whether our thinking and actions will allow society to respond fast enough to survive. This is why the manner of your response – and everyone else’s response – is so important.
An effective plan to address climate change requires every person to make changes in how he or she chooses to live. For perspective Americans and Canadians are among the world’s worst climate offenders. Historically we have contributed far more to this problem of elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere than any other countries on earth.
In order to be effective, develop a check list of actions that represent the steps that are needed to integrate our lives into the worldwide effort to quit fossil fuels and correct our climate predicament. A beginning level of information on how to do this is provided in this chapter.
Please realize that the steps listed below are only a small start. Our goal cannot be limited to this list or any other list because we seek to change and transform our entire lifestyles.
The critical challenge is to stop harming the planet because of our lives and thoughtless behavior. As a simple test, imagine if every person on earth lived just like you. Would the world be a better place? Would we be able to survive? The answer to this question will tell you whether or not you are helping to heal the world.
At the same time, we need to begin the repairing, the caring, the sparing and the sharing of the goods of this world. These steps will help us bring about a deeper level of community to our lives.
The following steps are just an introduction, a brief summary of the beginning. Please add to this list as you discern additional actions that are important and that fit your unique circumstances.
Do all that you can to eliminate the use of fossil fuels – i.e., coal, oil and gas. These fuels are the primary drivers of global climate change.
Become energy independent. Find ways to embrace solar or wind power instead of electricity from the utility grid. Minimize your use of fossil energy.
Use green energy
Green energy is environmentally friendly electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and sun. You can either buy green power from your utility or modify your house to generate your own energy – by installing a solar hot water heater or photovoltaic panels on your roof.
Eat lower on the food chain
Whenever possible, buy locally grown, clean organic foods. Avoid beef as much as possible. Cattle consume a lot of grains and exert a heavy impact on climate. Our diet represents our single largest impact on the climate. Besides, less beef is a healthy choice.
Heat and cool smartly
Clean air filters regularly. Lower the thermostat in winter and raise it in summer. When it’s time to replace old equipment, choose a high efficiency model. Turn your water heater thermostat down to 120o F.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repair
Support the recycling programs in your community. Recycle newspapers, bottles, metal, paper and other goods. Purchase products that can be recycled and items that can be repaired or reused. Support recycling by buying products made from recycled materials. Reducing, reusing, and recycling helps conserve energy and restrains pollution and greenhouse gases.
Spread the word about the need to address climate change
This is important. Talk about climate change. Tell family and friends that energy efficiency is good for homes and the environment because it lowers greenhouse gas emissions. Bring awareness of climate change to local and regional meetings.
– Remember God as the Creator of All Things in All Places. Reflect on how to reverence God and our Lord Jesus Christ through caring for His parish temple? Remember the Orthodox vision of Christ and the Holy Spirit filling all things. As we care for God’s creation, continually seek to do “on earth as it is in heaven.”
-Observe God’s mandates regarding creation. Respect for creation is a striving to discern a sacred dimension to all space and place in which one intuits a holy purpose for every single thing. This involves prayer and reflection to cultivate an attitude of respect in the care of Church property. With prayer and attention, this soon becomes an all-embracing worldview. What is sacred space? How do we connect our lives to remembrance of God? By cultivating reverence and respect for what God has created, an ethic of creation care emerges. Apply that ethic to all things in the world because it is all God’s world.
-Eliminate all waste. Use only products that can be recycled or that will harmlessly biodegrade into the earth. Products that will not recycle or biodegrade should be eliminated from parish use. This includes synthetic materials which do not break down – especially styrofoam and plastic. There is no excuse for using styrofoam cups at coffee hour; this only affirms the throw-away culture and sets a bad example for parishioners. Porcelain or clay coffee mugs should be used. St. John of Damascus tells us, a Christian does not worship matter, but matter is respected as God’s gift so that we might fulfill our purpose on earth.
– Emphasize conservation. Respect the materials in our lives. From energy to building supplies, from food to fiber, water to paper, the fruits of creation (which the secular world calls natural resources) must be respected, preserved and conserved. Our unsustainable consumption habits and wasteful tendencies must be transformed under the influence of our Christian worldview and integrated into the ecosystems of the planet. This begins with the handling of food and extends to our habits of eating, transportation, and all of the systems of society.
– Seek harmlessness is all church affairs. Harmless means setting a right example of how to live amidst a society shaped by secular values. Parishes should reflect affection for each other and the elimination of harm to the earth.
At Church (continued)
— Encourage Simplicity. The values and lifestyle of the material culture sneak into our homes and parishes though the media and commercial establishments. The dominant culture promotes unnecessary complexity. Simpler patterns encourage a more direct way of thinking. Simplicity of design means focusing upon the essentials without omitting any need. This means emphasizing the essential and beautiful and avoiding the unnecessary. This applies the virtues of restraint and self-control. Simplicity becomes a guide to ecological design and an exercise that avoids the consumer mentality. Simplicity never denies beauty.
— Build and design with Beauty. True beauty is a reflection of God’s prior beauty. Doestoyevski writes, “Beauty will save the world.” Beauty is not in the exterior shape of design; it has an inner dimension, a harmony and spirit which reflects a touch of the divine amidst the material. A focus on beauty brings a sense of Christ’s immanence and elegance; it makes our dwellings attractive because it conveys a feeling for God’s vitality everywhere around us. By striving to reflect beauty and balance, a subtle reflection and remembrance of God’s prior Beauty touches both mind and soul. With this focus on natural beauty, people are more easily reminded of God’s presence in other dimensions of their lives.
— Acquire Harmless Energy Sources. Good energy is harmless energy. Negative energy is harmful and destructive energy. Fossil fuels and nuclear power are destructive dead ends for society. Some people have referred to these as “King CONG” energy (Coal, Oil, Nuclear and Gas). Our society’s addiction to fossil fuels has brought the world to the brink of climatic disaster as well as serious economic and public health problems. Many monasteries already embrace solar energy. A few have tapped into wind power. Parishes are beginning to follow. Let us do all that we can to support the trend away from destructive fossil fuels and toward energies that are renewable and sustainable.
— Seek an Orthodox Christian Way of Life. Apply theology to lifestyle. This initiates a critique and identification of an alternative to the western worldview. Share your reflection with others. Thankfulness for food and prayer are central. So is the sanctity of life and respect for creation. We must remove toxic materials from our lives, embrace fuel efficient appliances and vehicles, ensure the health of the future as well as the present. Set a journey toward a way of life that is transforming of one another and transfiguring of the Lord’s good earth.
On the Road
Drive with Sun Power
Obtain an electric vehicle (eV) or a gas-electric hybrid. An electric car is smooth, quiet, saves money and emits very little pollution. Choose a vehicle that is maximally efficient and uses the least amount of fossil fuels.
Avoid Unnecessary driving
Our habits and assumptions need to change. Recreational driving using fossil fuels has to become a thing of the past. Find things to do near home.
Give your car a break.
Use public transportation, walk or use a bicycle whenever possible to avoid using your car. Try to avoid vehicles which burn gasoline or fossil fuels.
Car Pool when possible
Ride sharing is easy, especially if you commute to school or work. Carpooling reduces traffic and lowers the expense of driving.
Emphasize fuel economy; go easy on the brakes and gas pedal, avoid hard accelerations, unload unnecessary items in your trunk to reduce weight.
Keep your vehicle well tuned. A well-maintained car is fuel-efficient, produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and is more reliable and safer! Check and replace your vehicle’s air filter regularly.
Check tire pressure regularly. Under-inflation increases tire wear, reduces fuel economy and leads to higher greenhouse gas emissions.
Minimize long distance travel. Transportation uses more fossil fuels than any other sector of society. If a trip is not essential, make every effort to avoid that travel. More and more we will all need to be content when staying at home.
Consider going “car free.” If you live in a community with good public transportation, this will lessen your carbon impact, reduce traffic and CO2.
In the Outdoors
Plant trees Trees help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and builds up the “lungs” and vitality of the planet. They clean the air and increase moisture in the soil.
Enjoy time in nature Learn to respect the earth. The more you develop an affection for the land and forests, fields and stream, the more you will act to protect our planet and avoid those causes which are polluting the atmosphere and the world.
Serve the Earth. Remember to recycle all things. Pick up trash, especially plastic which will not degrade. Seek to use materials which can be recycled and reused. Help clean and protect parks.
Be thankful for the good earth The regular practice of thankfulness will bring a sense of joy and appreciation for the world, and this in turn will strengthen your willingness to protect it and do everything possible to save it.
Keep nature clean and green Become a voice for a clean environment. Encourage parks and protect open spaces. Take children on walks in nature. Teach respect for all that is green and beautiful. Serve creation by keeping nature clean.
Practice beauty The more one seeks beauty in nature, the more it is found. Strive to become that beauty by bringing beauty into your thoughts, words, actions and posture. Let beauty radiate from your whole being. The more one practices beauty, the more you enjoy life and the harder it becomes to pollute the earth or defile its climate.
Respect life and all nature Advocate for the protection of animals, for laws that conserve open spaces, for regulations that eliminate pollution and desecration of the land and especially the health of children and all citizens.
In City and Society
Demand corporate accountability
Remember that the love of money is the root of all evil
Strive in all things to do “on earth as it is in heaven”
Help replace our obsolete energy system with clean renewable energy
Dematerialize your life. Remember that materialism is toxic to happiness Practice self-sufficiency Work less and reclaim your time Promote public transportation, biking infrastructure and walkable communities Turn off technology Eat slow food and low on the food chain Shed possessions and downshift your life. Buy less and give away more Support consumer owned cooperatives Remember the joy in arts and crafts Get corporations out of politics and away from the media Reflect on your life. What are your priorities as a person? Where are you going? Support local food production and initiate backyard gardens Be mindful of your overall impact on the world Learn all that you can about climate change, its causes, consequences and solutions
Orthodox Assembly of Canonical Bishops
“We must live in a manner that is consistent with what we believe and pray. Our heart must be “merciful, burning with love for the whole of creation” (Abba Isaac the Syrian, Mystic Treatises, Homily 48). At minimum, this means caring about the effect of our lives upon our neighbors, respecting the natural environment, and demonstrating a willingness to live within the means of our planet.”
– Standing Committee of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA), May 23, 2007
Dr. Gus Speth, First director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality:
“I used to think that the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change." “I thought that with thirty years of good science we could address these problems." “But I was wrong." “The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy. To deal with those issues, we need a spiritual and cultural transformation,
…but we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
Top Climate scientists summarize the danger we all face:
“In the face of an absolutely unprecedented emergency [i.e. climate change] society has no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilization.
Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us.”
– Statement from Synthesis Paper from 20 Past Winners of the Blue Planet Prize, including
* Dr. James Hansen (Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies & one of the most important climate scientists over the past 40 years);
* Dr. Susan Solomon (Senior Scientists US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association & Chair of the National Academy of Sciences Committee that produced the 2010 Climate Science Report);
* Professor Sir Bob Watson (Chief Scientific Advisor in the UK & Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 1997 to 2002);
* Lord (Robert) May of Oxford (Former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government & President of the Royal Society of London (1660));
* Lord Nicholas Stern (Professor, the London School of Economics; Former Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank from 2000 to 2003, and author of The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review)