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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Delaware Interfaith Power & Light: Climate change is a moral issue

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Michael Stafford
Michael Stafford
Author Michael Stafford is a 2003 graduate of Duke University School of Law and a former Republican Party officer from Middletown. He works as an attorney in Wilmington. He is the author of the book “An Upward Calling” on the need for public policy and politics to advance the common good.

Michael Stafford speaks to the DEIPL gathering. Photographer credit: Peggy J. O. Schultz

Nationally, Interfaith Power & Light has played a critical role in calling attention to the moral and ethical implications of climate change and environmental degradation.  It has helped frame these problems as religious issues, and has mustered an interfaith response bringing together representatives from a diverse range of faith communities.

Now, Interfaith Power & Light has a presence here in Delaware.

Last week, Delaware Interfaith Power & Light celebrated its official launch on Monday, May 21st with a series of events in all three counties.  Speakers included IPL’s founder Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, Nobel Laureate Dr. John Byrne from the University of Delaware’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, and I.

Delaware IPL’s mission is quite simple:  marshaling “the power of Delaware’s faith communities to promote environmental justice and ensure a livable planet for future generations.”  That marshaling has already begun in earnest.  As of this writing, Delaware IPL has eight local congregational members!  Moving forward, I’m honored to serve, along with Dr. Byrne, on Delaware IPL’s Advisory Council, and I look forward to contributing to advancing its important mission here in the First State.

My remarks from the inauguration service on May 21st are reproduced below:

Addressing climate change isn’t just a moral issue; it’s a moral imperative.

I know I’m (literally) preaching to the choir here – to an audience knowledgeable about the scientific research on this issue, and its implications.  So I’ll be very brief.  Today, we face a man-made threat of global proportions; one whose dire consequences, if left unaddressed and unmitigated, will cascade far-forward into the future.  And as you know, I’m not just talking about the worst-case scenarios.

Climate change is another major stressor added to an already taut line.

At a minimum, if we do nothing to reduce emissions, if we continue, heedless of the consequences, down our current path, then the world will, in many ways, become a much more marginal place in which to live- one marked by chronic and persistent food shortages, draughts, increased storm intensity, rising sea levels, and a host of other problems that will, cumulatively, destabilize our societies, disrupt our lives, and diminish our opportunities.

But the world won’t merely be degraded in a material sense- it will be damaged in a spiritual sense as well. As the Great Barrier Reef, and coral reefs like it all over the globe, slowly succumb to increasing acidification driven by rising water temperatures, as widespread despeciation occurs, we are destroying things of beauty in nature that serve to uplift our spirits and inspire our souls.  This is significant. Creation has always been a window through which humanity perceives the veiled visage of its own Creator.

And here I must say that while the biggest burden imposed by climate change will certainly be borne by those least able to adapt- the world’s poor and its poorest nations- it’s a mistake to think that our own nation, or other industrial democracies, will be passed over.  We’ve no lamb’s blood upon our door.

Even worse, time is against us.  We are rapidly approaching the moment when it will be too late; where we will be merely trying to mitigate the worse impacts, as opposed to trying to avoid them altogether- the moment when the spectrum of available alternatives will range from bad, to worse… to catastrophic.

Now you might wonder why I care so much about climate change.  Why this particular question became such a significant concern for me. Well, the answer is very simple actually- I’m a father.  I have three very young children.  I want a world where they can live and breathe; one where they can flourish. Not this poisoned patrimony we are preparing for them.

From everything I’ve said, the need for a religious response to climate change should be obvious- if we are not good stewards, who will be?  If we do not speak out as works in wisdom made are destroyed forever in a riot of selfishness and greed run amok… who will?  If we do not point out the interrelationship between protecting the environment, and securing peace and justice, who will?  If we do not remind the world (which would rather ignore or forget it) that our actions and inactions always have consequences, then who will do so?  The answer, of course, is no one.

But what can we do? Confronting a problem of planetary scale, in the face of enormous political inertia, and under the shadow of lies cast by the well-funded deceptions of a denial misinformation industry serving powerful vested interests, it would be easy to lapse into despair and mere-hand wringing.  To feel powerless.

But we are not powerless; we are powerful.

What can we do? The answer, in fact, is a great deal.  And we do this by bearing witness to the truth; by speaking the truth in the face of falsehood.  We do this by coming together, through organizations like IPL, to advocate, to inform, to present alternative models, both at the local, state, and national levels, in our churches, and in our communities.

Alone, as individuals, we will be swept away; but together, speaking with one voice, we still have an opportunity.

It’s a dreary day outside today; we meet under threatening skies.  And we’re gathered here inside, in the light and in the warmth, and in a community of fellowship.  Together, with our faith fueling our courage, we have resolved to make a difference here in Delaware on this important issue.

Our challenge is to take this light back out into the darkness.

 

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