Climate Change for the Non-Environmentalist

I would like to begin a conversation.

With all those who, like me, may not really know all that much about climate change.

I mean, I know enough to know (to believe) that it’s happening. But don’t ask me to try and convince a climate change denier that it is happening by laying out all the scientific evidence. I’m not a climate science expert. I’m just like the probable majority of the population, who recognize that climate change is an issue – even, perhaps, a big issue – and that “something” should probably be done about it.

To be clear, I have never considered myself an “environmentalist” or an “environmental activist” or anything of the sort. What I can say, however, is that care for the environment has always been a steady and consistent theme since my childhood – and I imagine yours too, if you grew up on the west coast of Canada, where the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, were consistently taught and reinforced.

As I grew older, I became more and more aware of waste – my own and that of those around me. In university I began to carry around Tupperware, a water bottle and travel mug with me wherever I went to cut down on styrofoam, plastic bottles and paper cups. At events, I would push for the use of real dishes and cutlery to reduce the use of disposables. Around campus, I carried my recyclables around with me until I found the appropriate receptacle for them. Thankfully, ten years later, UBC has made it easier by making recycling and composting receptacles prolific across campus.

Initiatives like these make a difference.

But only now am I realizing that it’s still not enough.

Are our individual or even municipal efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle enough to offset the ecological and social costs of the Alberta tar sands, to take one relevant example? What does it mean if we recycle this bottle here and that plastic container there “for the good of the earth”, then close our eyes to the injustice carried out by corporations in the tar sands as they strip northeastern Alberta bare and suck it dry? What does it mean if I choose to take transit or cycle everywhere to reduce my carbon footprint, then shy away from holding Parliament accountable to reducing emissions?

These are honest questions I have to ask myself.

But with the questioning also come a whole slew of other doubts – about economics, politics, corporate influence, and GDP; about social, health, and environmental impacts and implications; about who is winning and losing with each decision that is made; about who is telling the truth (and does anyone really know the “full” truth about what’s going on?); and about how best to act to save the earth and by extension ourselves.

That’s an entirely new set of questions, I know. And, you know what? I get it. They’re hard, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. How can you or I be expected to answer to all these realities, when daily we’re bombarded with a whole host of other issues on the local, regional, national and global scale? Not to mention our own personal responsibilities: paying off debts, taking care of aging parents, or perhaps hoping a once faithful friend or family member will return to Jesus.

So what are we to do?

First, we have to have faith in the One who reconciles all things to Himself. We have to have faith that though circumstances may seem irreparable and hopeless at times, nothing is impossible for God. He is constantly at work — calling people, moving hearts, inspiring change — to bring about justice, reconciliation, and healing to our broken world.

Second, we must recognize that though God is ultimately in control, each of us has a role to play. We cannot use faith in an omnipotent God as an excuse not to act in some shape or form. God heals in and through us. And so we must start, but how we start – what specific shape and form our action takes – will depend on each individual, his/her circumstances, and how God is calling him/her to respond in any given moment.

For me, at this point in my climate justice journey, the shape and form my action takes means continuing to reduce, reuse and recycle; continuing to carpool and use transit and cycle; participating in and helping to organize climate change action and awareness initiatives as I am able; and saying “yes” to learning more about climate change when the opportunity presents itself.

As for tackling those big questions: I will, in time. Little by little, I will learn more through conversations, through reading, through dialogue. And one day, I will have the answers to those questions instead of being paralyzed by them. I will be able to make informed choices and take deliberate, concrete and effective action towards greater climate and social justice.

But I won’t get there unless I start.

Maybe you’re just beginning your climate justice journey too, a journey towards greater understanding. It’s okay. Jesus is probably not asking you to pick up a sign this instant and join the protests and marches. But maybe He’s asking you to pick up that pamphlet? Or visit that environmental website or blog? Or listen to that podcast? Or watch that documentary? Or talk to that Earthkeeper? Could He be asking you to be open to opportunities to learn more about caring for His Creation, of which we are called to be stewards?

What shape and form will your action take? 

For some ideas on where to start, check out:

  • – A Canadian social enterprise, providing homes and businesses with an easy way to switch to renewable sources of power.
  • – A website that helps you measure your carbon footprint and offset it, with suggestions on how to reduce it
  • – A worldwide grassroots climate movement, organizing for political and social action
  •  – An initiative educating and mobilizing diverse faith communities for environmental leadership

Ashley Wan joined Earthkeepers in the summer of 2016, not with an already deep, personal, burning passion for bringing about climate justice, but rather with a simple interest and an openness to learning more. She believes that we are called to love and to care for all aspects of the created world and she is on a journey to discover the most effective way of doing so. Ashley currently offers support to Earthkeepers as the Outreach Team Lead.

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