Orthodox Statements on Global Climate Change

Orthodox Statements on Global Climate Change

Stewards of Creation

We are all called to be sensitive to the greatest risk to the survival of our planet — namely, the dramatic changes in our climate and in our environment. Orthodox Christians understand the meaning of being stewards — oikonomoi — and we reach out to you, to work together with all the Orthodox Christians around the world, to set the example of respecting, nurturing, and preserving God’s created order.

HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, New York, NY October 26, 2009

A Universal Human Responsibility

The ecological crisis, and particularly the reality of climate change, constitutes the greatest threat for every form of life in our world.

For our Orthodox Church, the protection of the environment as God’s creation is the supreme responsibility of human beings

According to the theological understanding of the Orthodox Christian Church, the natural environment is part of Creation and is characterized by sacredness.

We call everyone to a more acute sense of vigilance for the preservation of nature and all creation.

HAH, June 5, 2009

An Important Opportunity for a Healthier Planet

Taking action against climate change should not be understood as a financial burden, but as an important opportunity for a healthier planet, to the benefit of all humanity and particularly of those states whose economic development is lagging behind.

The urgency of the situation and the progress of science and technology pave the way for a low-carbon global economy, the development of renewable energy sources and the aversion of further deforestation. We all need to collaborate, in order to make sure that our children will be able to enjoy the goods of the earth, which we bequeath to them.

HAH, Bangkok, Thailand, Sept 28, 2009

These Actions are Sinful

To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation… for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands… for humans to injure other humans with disease… for humans to contaminate the Earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances… these things are sins.

Thus we begin the process of healing our worldly environment which was blessed with Beauty and created by God. Then we may also begin to participate responsibly, as persons making informed choices in both the whole of creation, and within our own souls.

HAH, Georgetown University, November 3, 2009

Unifying How We View God and the World

What does preserving the planet have to do with saving the soul? It is commonly assumed that climate change and the exploitation of nature’s resources are matters that primarily concern politicians, scientists and technocrats….

Nevertheless, there are no two ways of looking at either the world or God. There is no distinction between concern for human welfare and concern for ecological preservation. The way we relate to nature as creation directly reflects the way we believe in God as Creator of all things. The sensitivity with which we handle the environment mirrors the sacredness that we reserve for the divine.

Moreover, scientists estimate that those most hurt by global warming in the years to come, are those who can least afford it. According to the Gospel of St. Matthew, the questions that will be asked of us at the final moment of accountability will not be about our religious observance but on whether we fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, comforted the sick, and cared for captives. …

We are all in this together. Our planet unites us in a unique way. While we may differ in our conception of the origins or purpose of our world, … surely we can all agree on our responsibility and obligation to protect its natural resources – which are neither limitless nor negotiable – for future generations.

It is not too late to respond…. We could steer the earth toward our children’s future. Yet we can no longer afford to wait…. We have a choice to make. The time to choose is now.

HAH, Warsaw, Poland, November 14, 2013

Hope through Personal Responsibility

Our effort over the last two decades has been to promote dialogue and cooperation among various disciplines and faiths, contributing to global awareness and discerning changes in attitude and lifestyle related to the ecological crisis….

We are convinced that any real hope of reversing climate change and addressing the environmental pollution requires a radical transformation of the way we perceive and treat our planet…. All of us are frustrated with the stubborn resistance and reluctant advancement of earth-friendly policies and practices.

HAH, Halki, Turkey, June 12, 2012

Climate Change Impacts Us All

Climate change and environmental pollution affect everyone. While the data may be variously debated, the situation is clearly unsettling. To take but one example: dramatic increases of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere — largely due to fossil fuel burning — are causing global warming and in turn leading to melting ice caps, rising sea levels, the spread of disease, drought and famine. The European heat-wave of 2003 could be unusually cool by 2060, while the 150,000 people that the World Health Organization conservatively estimates are already dying annually due to climate change will be but a fraction of the actual number.

It is painfully evident that our response to the scientific testimony has been generally reluctant and gravely inadequate. Unless we take radical and immediate measures to reduce emissions stemming from unsustainable — in fact unjustifiable, if not simply unjust — excesses in the demands of our lifestyle, the impact will be both alarming and imminent.

HAH, Aichi, Japan, September 20, 2005

The Impacts of Climate Change Proliferate before Us

We stand against a background of grave pronouncements from scientists about the consequences of climate change for every living thing on earth. Global hunger has re-emerged on the world stage with even a greater sense of urgency. How will we feed the world’s people? And we see how climate change acts as a ‘threat multiplier’, by interacting with food insecurity, economic weakness and the ever growing pressure of population….

Climate change threatens the ability of the Earth’s ecosystems to meet the needs of present and future generations. Adverse climate change poses a serious threat to food security through erratic rainfall patterns and decreasing crop yields, its impacts on natural systems, resources, infrastructure and labor productivity may reduce economic growth, exacerbating poverty. Depletion of natural resources may place additional burdens on women, on their health, on gender equality, on women’s’ empowerment and on all the marginalized. The increase of vector-borne diseases and heat-related mortality, with decline in the quantity and quality of drinking water, will threaten the achievement of the World Health Organisation’s Millennium Development Goals.

The potential impacts of climate change proliferate before us. We hear of air and water pollution, of global warming and the threatened extinction of numerous animal and plant species. Human suffering in the poorest countries increases; nowhere is this shown more vividly than in Africa, where global warming and human interference with ecosystems have brought a new quality of threat to Africa’s water and all who depend on it…. The evidence and statistics are indeed alarming. How should we react?

Every product we make and enjoy, every tree we fell, every building we construct, every road we travel, permanently alters creation…. Let us consider, however, the radical distinction between the various kinds of economy. Our economy tends to use and discard; natural economy is normally cyclical and replenishes; God’s economy is always compassionate and nurturing. Nature’s economy is profoundly violated by our wasteful economy, which in turn constitutes a direct offence to the divine economy. The prophet Ezekiel again recognized this abuse of the natural eco-systems when he observed:

Is it not enough to feed on good pasture? Must you also trample the rest with your feet? Is it not sufficient to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? (34,18).

HAH, Halki, 2017

Acknowledge the Consequences of Our Choices

While many of us in more affluent societies unfortunately cannot comprehend the consequences of climate change due to our comfortable, if not complacent and complicit circumstances, the more vulnerable among us… fully understand the dire situation as they witness the rising sea levels consume their home and threaten their survival.

Still, we are all called constantly to remember that what we put into our waters is as harmful as what we take out of the oceans. The way that we pollute our oceans – whether intentionally through non-biodegradable waste or else inadvertently through precipitation – is as destructive as our practices of overfishing and harvesting of particular fish populations in a manner faster than they can naturally reproduce.

Moreover, basic human rights are also at risk when we do not protect the oceans. The way we defile the oceans is plainly reflected in the way we exploit their resources, which in turn is directly related to the way we treat our fellow

human beings, particularly the more marginalized and less fortunate of our brothers and sisters.

Nonetheless, if we have created the dire conditions that we now face, we are equally accountable for and capable of remedying the health of our environment. Each of us can and must appreciate the way in which our individual and collective lifestyles impact the environment; we can and must acknowledge the harmful consequences of our material choices; indeed, we can and must assume responsibility for positive and permanent change.

HAH, Message for World Oceans Day, June 8, 2015

Facing Irreversible Climate Change

Our reckless consumption of the earth’s resources – energy, water, and forests – threatens us with irreversible climate change. Burning more fuel than we need in an overpopulated city, we may contribute to droughts or floods thousands of miles away.

To restore the planet we need a spiritual worldview, which brings frugality and simplicity, humility and respect. We must constantly be aware of the impact of our actions on all of creation. We must direct our focus away from what we want to what the planet needs. We must choose to care for creation; otherwise, we do not really care about anything at all.

HAH, Warsaw, Poland; November 14, 2013

Climate Change in the Arctic

The climatic changes taking place in the Arctic and the contamination of parts of its food chain are an accurate and unavoidable image of human thoughtlessness. If there is one single message in all the information which we have received during our symposium [on the Arctic], it is this: ‘time is short.’

The ice of the Arctic is shrinking at a frightening pace. That is what we are told by scientists, that is what we are told by Greenlanders who know the ice better than anybody. If all the ice in Greenland melts, the consequences for Greenland and the world could be devastating: a Biblical catastrophe in the most literal sense.

As Orthodox Christians, we use the Greek word “kairos” to describe a brief moment in time which has eternal significance. When Our Lord Jesus Christ began his preaching, he declared that a decisive moment, a kairos (Mark 1:14), had arrived in the relationship between God and mankind.

For the human race as a whole, there is now a kairos…. We will either act in time to protect life on earth from the worst consequences of human folly, or we will fail to act.

On behalf of all of us, on behalf of our Greenlandic hosts and on behalf of all the people, allow me to offer up a public prayer: ‘May God grant us the wisdom to act in time.’

HAH, Greenland, September 12, 2007

Excess Consumption as a Cause of Climate Change

Global Climate Change has been on the Eastern Orthodox Christian agenda for over twenty five years. In 1989 Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios began to raise the alarm when he observed “scientists… warn us of the danger of the phenomena of the greenhouse whose first indications have already been noted….”

To restore the planet we need a spiritual worldview which cultivates frugality and simplicity, humility and respect. We must constantly be aware of the impact of our actions on creation. We must direct our focus away from what we want to what the planet needs. We must care for creation. Otherwise, we do not really care about anything at all.

In our efforts to contain global warming, we are demonstrating how prepared we are to sacrifice our selfish and greedy lifestyles. When will we learn to say: “Enough!”? When will we understand how important it is to leave as light a footprint as possible for the sake of future generations?

HE Archbishop Seraphim of Zimbabwe, Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, June 18, 2014

A Universal Human Responsibility

In our time, more than ever before, there is an undeniable obligation for all to understand that environmental concern for our planet does not comprise a romantic notion of the few. The ecological crisis, and particularly the reality of climate change, constitutes the greatest threat for every form of life in our world. Moreover, there is an immediate correlation between protection of the environment and every expression of economic and social life.

For our Orthodox Church, the protection of the environment as God’s creation is the supreme responsibility of human beings, quite apart from any material or other financial benefits that it may bring. The almighty God bequeathed this “very beautiful” world (Gen. 1.26) to humanity together with the commandment to “serve and preserve” it….

According to the theological understanding of the Orthodox Christian Church, the natural environment is part of Creation and is characterized by sacredness…. Thus we call everyone to a more acute sense of vigilance for the preservation of nature and all creation.

HAH Ecum. Patriarch Bartholomew, The Phanar, June 5, 2009

The Great Challenge of Our Generation

As Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has written: “Climate change affects everyone. Unless we take radical and immediate measures to reduce emissions stemming from unsustainable excesses in the demands of our lifestyle, the impact will be both immediate and alarming.”

Therefore, each parish and every individual should seek out ways of practicing prayer and care for God’s creation by applying the fundamental principles of scripture, theology and tradition with regard to our relationship with the natural environment by considering changes in our attitudes and habits with regard to food and travel, by reducing consumption of fossil fuels and choosing alternative sources of energy with regard to lighting and heating, as well as by raising and promoting awareness with regard to the divine gifts of water and air.

Every parish and community is invited and encouraged to open a fruitful dialogue on this challenge of our generation.

HE Archbishop Elpidophorus, Protocol No. 22/19, September 1, 2019

Unite to Combat Climate Change

World environment day is a popular event with colourful activities such as street rallies, bicycle parades, concerts, essay and poster competition in schools…. The theme of this year’s environment day is thought provoking “Your Planet Needs You – Unite to Combat Climate Change!”

We in Kerala are worried about the weak and sporadic rains in this season of normally heavy and incessant downpour. It is explicitly felt that the rhythm and balance in nature is disturbed. Although climate change can seem complex, there are a variety of simple actions that individuals and communities can take to make a difference. A few of the actions which we can employ are energy conservation, education programmes to create awareness, planting trees, using less petrol vehicles and recycling projects.

I exhort all Church members to observe the day with seriousness and learn to go back to the nature. A simple, natural and unsophisticated lifestyle is the best cure for these maladies. Let us join our hands to save our planet. Let us all unite to combat climate change and make this planet a commodious dwelling place for the posterity.

His Beatitude Metropolitan Paulose Mar Milithios, The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, (aka The Indian Orthodox Church), March 22, 2010

Reading the ‘Signs of the Times’

For better or worse, we are living in an age when the destinies of all human beings and all human communities are ever more closely intertwined. Patterns of behavior and consumption in one corner of the globe can affect the lives and livelihood of people who live at the other extremity of the earth.

This new proximity, this closeness, need not be a bad thing if we learn to read the “signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3). To some degree, we are all drawn closer by a common experience of fear and suffering as the consequences of climate change are felt in different ways. At a time when climatic emergencies of many different kinds are affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people, we have no moral choice but to “bear one another’s burdens” as the New Testament (Galatians 6:2) enjoins us.

HAH, Ilulissat, Greenland, September 7, 2002

A Sin Against God and a Crime Against Humanity

We are all responsible for the future of our planet and for human life. Climate change affects all people and all nations.

Climate change is a global problem. We share one world and the same resources, one atmosphere and the same habitat. We are all inseparably interconnected. Any genuine solution demands the ability to think for the whole world. We are all connected and our actions affect each other. Conservation and compassion are intimately interrelated.

When will we face the inevitable truth that all ecological activity is ultimately judged by its impact on the poor? When will we sense the painful reality that the continent that has scarcely contributed to global warming is bearing the most detrimental repercussions, even while being the least equipped to cope with its consequences? The greatest delusion is that measures to deal with climate change must not or may not affect economic growth. Without sacrifice, both personal and national, we cannot reach the unity necessary for an enduring agreement.

Global climate change presents an unprecedented threat to the integrity and diversity of life on earth. At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we have already denounced ecological abuse as sin against God; we should recognize how it is also a crime against humanity. Blame is no solution. Instead, we must discover the resources that lie deep within the human spirit in order to develop a sense of urgency and resolve.

HAH, UN Climate Conference, Durban South Africa, November 28, 2011

The Greatest Threat to our World Today

We know that the greatest threat to our world today is climate change and its destructive consequences for our survival on the planet. This topic was paramount in the 9th Ecological Symposium, entitled “Toward a Greener Attica: Preserving the planet and protecting its people,” organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate last June on the Saronic Islands of Spetses and Hydra. Unfortunately, the recent devastating fires in Attica and the impending consequences of this immense environmental destruction constitute tragic proof of the views shared by the symposium participants on the severity of the ecological threat.

The ecological culture of the Orthodox faith is the realization of its Eucharistic vision of creation, summarized and expressed in its church life and practice. This is the Orthodox Church’s eternal message on the issue of ecology. The Church preaches and proclaims “the same things” “at all times” in accordance with the unassailable words of its Founder and Leader, that “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Lk. 21:33). Adhering to this tradition, the Mother Church calls upon its Archdioceses and Metropolises, as well as its parishes and monasteries throughout the world, to develop initiatives, coordinate projects, organize conferences and activities that foster environmental awareness and sensitivity, so that our faithful may realize that the protection of the natural environment is the spiritual responsibility of every one of us.

The burning issue of climate change, along with its causes and consequences for our planet and everyday life, offer an opportunity to engage in dialogue based on principles of theological ecology, but also an occasion for specific practical endeavors. It is vitally important that you emphasize action at the local level. The parish constitutes the cell of church life as the place of personal presence and witness, communication and collaboration—a living community of worship and service.

HAH, September 1, 2018

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