“We are at a moment of reckoning,” said Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Unless we take action to reduce carbon pollution, the world will face a warmer and deadlier future.
We are at a tipping point, according to a recent United Nations report. The only way to put the planet on a sustainable path will be to increase renewable energy sources, change our transportation systems, restructure cities and towns, improve agricultural practices, and remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Unless we act, says The Washington Post, collapsing ice sheets will “raise sea levels at rates not seen in human history. Coral reefs could vanish, along with a growing number of animal species. Intensified disasters would wreak deadly chaos, especially in the poorest and most vulnerable communities. Parts of the Earth that currently slow the pace of warming — such as oceans that absorb excess heat — would become less able to help.”
“This report presents the best and most robust list of options to limit warming to 1.5 degrees,” said Eddy Pérez, the international climate diplomacy manager for Climate Action Network-Canada. “It put countries in a position where they actually need to look at themselves and recognize their actions are inadequate.”
A message of life and death
In my mystery novel Windows of the Heavens, a Methodist pastor named Harley Camden took a walk outside the small river town of Occoquan, Virginia. When he got halfway across the pedestrian bridge crossing the Occoquan River, he stopped. He could hear the river rushing beneath him, a sound that was both soothing and threatening.
Yes, running water was a beautiful thing, part of the music of the natural world. It sang of refreshment and cleansing and new life — that’s why Christians used water in the sacrament of baptism. But the river also sent a message of danger and destruction and death, a theme that was equally present in Scripture.
The authors of the Bible had a healthy respect for water, expressed in the Book of Psalms when the writer cries out, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.” Nothing refreshing and soothing about that.
A town on the edge
Harley looked over the railing at the rushing black water below, and thought of how destructive the recent flood had been. A residence had been destroyed, businesses had been crippled, and untold items had been ruined in flooded basements throughout the town.
And now, with global temperatures rising and glaciers melting, the rising seas were going to encroach on coastal areas around the world — including the Town of Occoquan. Was the September flood just the first of many? Would the destruction continue? Are the mighty waters going to wipe us out?
Harley knew that miners used to carry canaries with them when they went underground, realizing that if methane gas or carbon monoxide reached a dangerous level, the canary would die before any human would get sick. Occoquan was the canary in the coal mine for the larger region, an early indicator of climate change danger. Perhaps this town will be the first to go, when the fountains burst forth and the windows of the heavens open.
Through his first minutes of walking, Harley had felt invigorated. But now, with his thoughts spiraling downward into ruminations on flooding, he was back to feeling fragile and vulnerable. Save me, O God, he thought as he peered down into the swirling blackness, before the waters come up to my neck.
Harley knew he had to do something. Not just as a resident of Occoquan, but as a Christian. After all, he followed Jesus, the man who was nothing less than the Creator in creation, fully God and fully human.