We can’t just sit back and celebrate

“The Blue Marble”
Photo by NASA, 1968

By Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services and associate editor of Messenger magazine for the Church of the Brethren.

We are in the month of April, which is Earth Month, and Earth Day was this past Monday, April 22. I’d love in this moment to be able to simply reflect on the beauty of God’s creation. We can appreciate our good Earth in this photo taken by a NASA mission in 1968—often called “The Blue Marble.” This is our beautiful Earth!

However, now is not a time when we can just sit back and celebrate. When your home catches fire, you don’t just sit back and wonder at its beauty, and celebrate as it goes up in flames. No, when your home is on fire, you jump into action and do everything you possibly can to save it.

This is one of the ways people have talked about our current crisis of climate breakdown: the analogy of a home on fire. I’ve also heard the analogy of watching a train wreck in slow motion. I like the home-on-fire version better because there are things you can do when your house catches fire. There’s not much that can be done when you are watching a train wreck, beyond standing in horror and fear of what’s happening right in front of you.

At this point in time, in April 2024, there are many things that can be done to mitigate the damage to our human home, the Earth, God’s good creation—even though climate change is occurring at an ever-increasing pace and scope. There are things each of us can do personally, in our work, in our congregations, in our communities, and in other areas of life where we have influence. I pose that challenge as much to myself as to anyone else.

But the time we have is short.

Here is a brief review of latest news on the climate front, since these are things all of us need to be aware of. And just as if a fire broke out in our home, it is appropriate to be scared. The truth is that our lives and the lives of our loved ones—as well as the whole of humanity, and rest of the living creatures that God has placed here on the Earth with us—are under threat. It is inappropriate not to be scared, and I pray that God helps us use that strong emotion to be eager to take action in response!

The most important number to watch: atmospheric CO2 in parts per million. CO2 (carbon dioxide) is one of the greenhouse gases that are steadily increasing the average temperature of the Earth. In this chart from NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) as published by the Guardian, you see the upward curve. That upward curve is what needs to be brought down by decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Atmospheric CO2 chart - The Guardian

The next thing to know: our world is currently in a 10-month streak of hottest months. USA Today recently published an article about March 2024 being the hottest March on record “in data that goes back to before the Civil War. . . . It was also the 10th month in a row that was the hottest on record, itself an ongoing record-breaking streak.” In addition, the global average temperature is the highest on record, with the past 12 months being 1.58 degrees (Celsius) above preindustrial levels (www.usatoday.com/story/news/weather/2024/04/09/warmest-march-on-record-2024/73260522007).

The third thing to know: Simon Stiell, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, says that the next two years are essential for saving our planet. This was reported by Reuters on April 10, 2024 (www.reuters.com/world/un-climate-chief-says-two-years-save-planet-2024-04-10).

The most important thing to remember: our planet is our human habitat. God’s good Earth is what keeps humans—us included—alive and well. Without the Earth as a healthy ecosystem, we cannot live.

So here is the challenge again, to me and to you: consider what we each can do—personally, as Christians, in our congregations, in our work, in our wider communities—to act on this information.

I recently completed the every-five-years clergy ethics training in Illinois and Wisconsin District. It was excellent, led by Ministry Office director Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, district executive Walt Wiltschek, and Naperville Church of the Brethren pastor Dennis Webb.

Out of the training emerged this question, for me: given the extreme danger that climate change poses, what is the ethical choice? Is it to be fully involved as the church in the most important work of Creation Care, and to engage in it together as disciples of Jesus Christ?

This reflection was offered as the devotions for last week’s Zoom meeting of the denominational staff. Brumbaugh-Cayford closed by sharing a performance by the Goshen Community Chorale (available on YouTube) of the song “Easy on the Earth” by Luke Wallace, arranged by Shawn Kirchner of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren. “Music is something I turn to when I need encouragement and energy to move forward,” she said as she introduced the piece.

Sign up to receive “Rooted,” an email newsletter produced by the Brethren Creation Care Network and staff of Peacebuilding and Policy that focuses on creation care: www.brethren.org/creationcare/#rooted.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

One thought on “We can’t just sit back and celebrate

  1. Happy earth day, to the brethren family, as are we still in the month of April, commemorating and reflecting the gift of mother earth. I want us to know that it is imperative for us to continuely obey the mandate of care for creation. Let this reflection on earth day continue to be part and person of us. Happy earth day comrades.

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