How to Be a Person (Or Church) That’s Not Paralyzed by Climate Change
January 11, 2023
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As a child of the 80s, I grew up with the notion that global warming was something of a hoax.
It was laughed at, dubbed extreme, or simply ignored. Until recently, I didn’t question these assumptions.
I can’t recall a specific moment when I began to see things differently, but I think it started with fear. I was afraid of the truth in the claims, the truth I could see. I was worried that no one seemed concerned (especially not most Christians).
Trash has always bothered me. My mom taught my sister and I to pick up litter, and I regularly take my own kids on “trash walks” in our neighborhood.
But trash is a symptom, not the root problem, right? Could we produce less waste? Could I?
The onus to fix this enormous problem felt like it was on me and I felt overwhelmed.
I started listening to people who were talking about stewardship, creation care, and climate change. I became paralyzed when presented with data. For me, a lightbulb came on when I saw people responding to problems in simple and logical ways.
For example, it makes sense to me that food waste is a problem. It’s a problem because so many go without food. It’s a problem because of the earth-warming emissions it produces.
It’s an overwhelming problem. A problem that can paralyze.
And yet—I looked around. I saw a few people doing something about it. I learned of a curbside composting service in my city and signed up. A very small step, indeed.
And yet—we began to get excited about less trash in our bin each week. We became more mindful of packaging. We got excited about all the things we could compost (e.g., pizza boxes, banana peels, coffee grounds). The kids started to ask, “Should this go in the trash or can we compost it?”
And yet—we wondered what other small steps we could take. We began to think creatively about our yard, our clothes.
And yet—we aren’t eco-saints (not even close). But our first step empowered us. We found immense joy, not deprivation, in doing things a little differently for the sake of the earth, for the sake of our neighbor.
Our first step un-paralyzed us.
Have you ever felt paralyzed by climate change? Here are three simple encouragements.
Take an Action Step
My first action step was composting, but it doesn’t have to be yours. There are so many creative ways to care for the earth in your choices. Looking for ideas? Find inspiration in this list of 10 actions.
Band Together With Others
My friend Andrew Oppong once gave me this sage advice, “You can’t draw from an empty well.” God created us to live and work in community. Justice work especially.
I highly recommend connecting with the folks over at the Climate Witness Project for inspiration and encouragement. I’m also happy to listen and connect ([email protected]).
Live With Hope
Finally, and this one is huge, don’t become bitter. Be stubbornly hopeful. Not because you're naive, but because God wants this for you. We aren’t meant to walk around carrying a crushing burden (Matt. 11:28). Give that to God.
See the pain and brokenness and respond. But don’t let it break you. A day is coming when every single tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21:4) and all things will be made new.
We have hope, the ultimate healing is coming.
And yet—how can we join in God’s healing work now?
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Great article. I would like to suggest that one of the top climate scientists in the world, who is also a Christian - and openly advocates for that position, is Katherine Hayhoe.
Thank you so much for this comment, Wayne. I'm a big fan of Katharine Hayhoe. With hope, we continue. Thanks again!!
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