Mitchell C. Hescox, president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, Erin Lothes, assistant professor of theology at the College of Saint Elizabeth, Mary Evelyn Tucker, codirector of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, and John Grim, codirector of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, discuss international efforts to address climate change, including faith-based approaches to environmental justice. This meeting took place at the American Academy of Religion 2015 Annual Meeting, as part of CFR's Religion and Foreign Policy Initiative.
FASKIANOS: Good afternoon. We’re going to get started now. I’m going to invite our panelists to the stage. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president for the National Program & Outreach at the Council on Foreign Relations. We’re delighted to be here today sponsoring this lunch at the American Academy of Religion. We have a terrific panel for you on climate change. I’m going to invite our panelists up on the stage.
This discussion is part of our Religion in Foreign Policy initiative that we undertake at the Council to connect foreign policy issues with religion issues.
So I’m going to turn the conversation over to John Grim. He’s a co-director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. And he will steer this discussion. So, John, over to you.
GRIM: Thank you, Irina.
Good afternoon. I’m very pleased to be with you this afternoon for this engaging discussion on the moral and political dimensions of climate change.
You all have a program with biographies at your place, so I’m just going to refer briefly; Erin here to my left. Erin Lothes Biviano is the assistant professor of theology at the College of St. Elizabeth. And most importantly, she’s the author of the forthcoming book Inspired Sustainability: From Ideally Green to Really Green. And this is in the eco-justice series at Orbis Press.
Mary Evelyn Tucker is my wife, which gives us an intimacy, an arc of intimacy here, and also senior lecturer and research scholar at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and Yale Divinity School. She’s a scholar of East Asian religions, especially Confucianism, and the co-writer of the fine book Journey of the Universe.
Mitch, it’s a pleasure to meet you and to have share of the podium today. Mitchell Hescox, as the program notes indicate, is president and chief executive officer of the Evangelical Environmental Network. And his recent books are very helpful in this discussion—A Case for Climate Conservatism, and most especially now the Work Sacred Acts. And Mitch, perhaps you will mention, when your turn comes around, your upcoming publication also with Bethany House.
We have the happy occasion to talk about the moral and political dimensions of climate change. And we’ve prepared a few questions. Our program will proceed in this manner. We’ll spend about 35 minutes of discussion responding to these questions. Let’s open it then to questions from the floor. There will be a microphone, so please stand and wait for the microphone and identify yourself. If you forget that, I’ll remind you just as you start.
And let’s proceed then with the questions that we have in front of us. The recent papal encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” has put forward a vision of integral ecology, namely integrating people and planet for a flourishing future. Pope Francis is concerned to bring together environmental issues and social justice. What, then—for all of you—what are some of the implications of the encyclical for religious community? And how has the Francis effect changed the dialogue?
LOTHES: Well, I think the Francis effect is an incredibly welcome spur to conversation and dialogue and engagement and hope. It’s made this question of climate change very visible. In the aftermath of the release of “Laudato Si’,” there were, by some estimates, 9,000 news stories in that immediate time period.
And David Sandalow, who’s a fellow at the Columbia Center for Global Energy Policy, has written a very encouraging essay, “Is the Paris Climate Conference Already a Success?” which we certainly hope. And among the factors that he lists as contributing to that success are, first, the China-U.S. accord, Brazil-U.S. conversations. And third, he puts the release of “Laudato Si’,” its visibility, bringing this issue to the forefront.
And I think that, in addition to putting out climate change as a concern for the earth, for the poor, for future generations, we also have the halo effect of Francis’s warm personality, which makes it easy to listen to, easy to take seriously. His compassionate expression of this concern makes this something we can all participate in. And, most importantly, he expresses this as a moral issue in his own voice. Looking at the encyclical, some of the citations from John Paul II, which go back 25 years and further in other teachings, we hear talk of a moral obligation to care for creation. This is nothing new, speaking of duty.
But in Francis’s own voice, there’s a very compelling rhetoric. He talks about the violence that the earth experiences, the violence that the marginalized and the poor experience. It’s more pointed. It’s more gritty. It’s more direct. And yet, at the same time, it’s full of love, you know, to speak of the soil, the mountains, the water, as being a caress of God, that we’re invited into this struggle and asked to sing as we go. So I think there’s his inviting voice.
And then, most importantly, as the diversity of people in this room suggests, by bringing it to the faith communities, Francis is asking for our consensus. It’s a shared issue. It takes it out of the dangerous realm of partisan politics and enables it to be a shared issue.
GRIM: Mary Evelyn.
TUCKER: Thank you.
Just to pick up on those wonderful comments of Erin, I would just offer maybe three other points, related points. One is the pope clearly offers a new and integrated voice; namely, this notion of integral ecology, people and the planet, the cry of the earth, the cry of the poor. And this is something that we’ve needed for a long time, because we have science and policy and technology and economics and law, regulation and so on.
And that’s been one side of the discussion—it’s been very strong at our School of Forestry & Environmental Studies—but where people are, the vulnerable, those who are going to be affected and are affected by climate change in a whole range of issues; toxicity and food safety and security and so on.
So coming together with the powerful dimension of social justice, which has been at the heart of religious communities for a long time, along with the long-term efforts of environmentalists and scientists, ecologists, this is a new framing for the issue and a new framing for the future, I would suggest. This is a historic document. I don’t think we’ll ever see something quite so integrated in our lifetime.
And it brings me to the next point, and that is, this is a long-term perspective. You know, we have tremendous urgency. We live in this tremendous shower of sad, bad news. It’s a tidal wave. And where do we get the long-term sensibility of sustaining ourselves, sustaining our vision and our hope? And this call in the encyclical, it’s not just to Paris and the COP, which it was timed to speak to. It’s beyond Paris and it’s into the centuries into the future. This is long-term sustained change. It’s civilizational change. It’s cultural change. And that is very different from political change or economic change, social change.
The long-term change that he’s calling us to, that many communities, Buddhist communities and others, understand is conversion, ecological conversion, is what he’s talking about. That is revolutionary. Some people have called it—it’s a new reformation even, you see. But ecological conversion is mind and heart. It’s consciousness and conscience. And that changes everything.
So as we pick this up, no matter what our discipline is, what our work is—law, government, academia, economics—we can all work towards a common goal of ecological conversion.
And that brings me to my final point. We are starving for hope. We are in a desert, looking for the oases to drink from, even the small drops of hope. We are left sleepless at night if we read the newspapers, listen to the news, speak to our colleagues who are working on these issues, are students. We don’t have children, but our students are our children. And for 40 years this is who we are trying to empower for the next generation. Where is their hope?
So I’ll conclude. This is an intergenerational effort. I’m so happy to see graduate students here and so on. But we need to acknowledge we have our doubts. We have our concerns. That’s a faith path too, isn’t it? But if we can generate from those mysterious dimensions of ourselves—religious, spiritual, ethical, or other—the wellsprings of new and a reservoir of hope, I think we can make it into this flourishing future ahead.
GRIM: Thank you.
HESCOX: Thank you all.
And I think one of the things, from the Evangelical perspective, is that, you know, for us at EEN, Evangelical Environmental Network, we say that creation care is a matter of life, that it is integral to who we are. It’s an act of caring for our children. It’s an act of caring for the least of these. And actually, most importantly, it’s an act of following, for us as Christians, Jesus Christ.
And I think that one thing “Laudato Si’” does is it really stands in the great not only theological tradition of, say, Evangelicals from our Evangelical Climate Initiative in 2006 or the Lausanne community, which was founded by John Stott and Billy Graham some 40 years ago, their Cape Town Commitment of 2011, which, I mean, you could take the pope’s words in the Cape Town Commitment and they’re just almost parallel documents.
But I think for me the pope jumpstarted it in a way that I don’t think anybody, at least I didn’t—I happened to be at the White House when President Obama greeted the pope. And it’s the first time that I’ve ever been at the White House where everybody was nice to each other—(laughter)—from people in the crowds and stories, and even in the reflection between President Obama and Pope Francis.
There’s obviously profound differences and, you know, in just the cultural issues of life. And we don’t need to go into those here. But what I saw in the White House is, I think, something the “Laudato Si’,” could do for all of us, and that’s allow each of us to treat each other with grace, for us to get out of our silos of being right and do this trans-partisanship, that we can come together on a common issue, a common moral framework.
And, you know, as Mary Evelyn said, is that, you know, for me climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our time as it impacts every single person on earth. But the good news is it’s also the greatest opportunity for building a sustainable clean-energy world. And that’s the hope that we have to talk about.
So I think this idea of grace, of coming out of our silos, to jumpstart, standing in the tradition with the Bible, and most importantly witnessing grace and hope.
GRIM: Thank you, Mitch.
I’d like to follow up, then, on this point about religious traditions and bring you to just reflect a bit more on this. We’re aware now that several statements have come out from the Jewish community, Islamic, Buddhist, and coming soon from the Hindu community, statements with regard to climate change.
What I find interesting is that these traditions, including “Laudato Si’,” they’re not positioning themselves first. So it’s as if guidance and leadership is being given here in which one’s own integral position is preserved and the issue can be addressed from the full force of one’s religious thought.
So I wanted to explore with each of you this sense of how are the other religions then responding to the encyclical and the substance of the encyclical?
LOTHES: Well, I think that one of the great messages of the encyclical is its appeal to human dignity and to human decency. And so it’s a very open, inclusive document that welcomes and calls for dialogue repeatedly. It reaches out to all persons on the planet of good will and in other places, to all living beings, whether or not they have good will. So it’s a radical call for dialogue. And it invites and it welcomes that response. And we’ve seen it from all the major faith traditions of the world, building on the advocacy and the coalitions that have been under way for a very long time.
TUCKER: Yes, I think what’s astonishing, the encyclical is addressed not just to Catholics, not just to Christians, but to all people on the planet, and that we share this moment. I study Asia, in particular the traditions of East Asia, China and Japan. China and India are going to change the face of the planet—they already are—with their efforts towards modernity, industrialization, and so on, as a person who’s studied Japan and lived there for three years and saw what they did with rapid industrialization.
But this is an octopus effect all over the planet. The tar sands in Alberta are going to China. So what is it that these countries and cultures, developing and developed, can come to a sense of common concern, differentiated responsibilities but common concerns?
So when we started the conferences at Harvard in the mid ’90s, almost 20 years ago now—and the little brochures on your table can give you some more information—but the notion was how could the cultures of China, the cultures of India, Africa, Latin America, bring forward their ethics for a transformation for the society, but for the planet? So what would a Confucian, Daoist, Hindu ethics, et cetera, look like? And that has been moving forward with sometimes rapidity, sometimes blockages, like all transformative movements.
But I just want to share with you this thing that, as John mentioned, statements of all the world’s religions have been growing for twenty years. You can see them on this website. Now they’re responding specifically to the encyclical. But there are statements from every community on climate change, the ethics of it, which we’ll talk about more soon.
But one example: China is actually talking about creating ecological civilization. And that means bringing forward the principles of Confucianism and Daoism and Buddhism. This is on the government level. It’s on an academic level, many, many conferences. It’s on a popular level. A woman wrote a book on Confucianism that sold ten million copies.
In the midst of massive, relentless materialism that’s shared by Asia and the West, people are looking for alternative ethical-spiritual visions, especially for the healing of our planet and its people. And that’s where we have to see this as interreligious, intercultural, interdisciplinary.
HESCOX: And I think for the Evangelical world, a couple of things about the encyclical, I think, were noticeable to me. First, it’s the first encyclical that I know of—and, of course, I’m not a Catholic scholar—that actually mentions the leader of another communion, Patriarch Bartholomew, who has been certainly the green patriarch for years. And we’ve worked with him.
And I think, even more than that, is that, you know, the pope on September 1st called, joining Patriarch Bartholomew in a world day of prayer for creation care, I think unheard of. And I know we at EEN joined that, and we had more hits on our website that day than ever before from across the world of people coming together.
And, of course, I think we’re seeing the pope, again, is one of the stair steps, maybe a great big stair step, of bringing more people on board. You know, we know that the National Association of Evangelicals, which I’m a board member of, in October adopted the parts of the Cape Town Commitment acknowledging creation care and climate change. So another large forty-three million—representing forty-three million Evangelicals in the United States are now on board with climate change.
So I think that it’s more and more—and even in the latest polling, you know, there were sort of different polls, one from the University of Texas that was purely political, looking at Republicans, and saw a massive increase in the spike of Republicans believing in climate change in the past six months. And the University of Michigan, I think, two weeks ago released a study showing that Evangelicals and mainlines are now actually—yay for Evangelicals, who now have about a fraction marginal percentage point above mainline Protestants in believing in climate change.
And certainly the pope had something to do with that. Whether it was all of it, you know—we think it was probably three things: One, the drought in the West; the continuing falling of renewable energy; and the pope and the other religious communities. So I think we’re seeing this mass moral movement coming together.
But what is so critical about this, and I think the pope highlighted it in his, and Mary Evelyn alluded to it, it’s OK to believe in climate change within the framework of who you are in a faith characteristic. You can be an Evangelical and believe in climate change. You can be a Catholic and believe in climate change. And it doesn’t take away from your belief structures.
In fact, you mentioned it, and I will say I have this upcoming book with Paul Douglas, a meteorologist, called Caring for Creation: An Evangelical Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Future. And that’s the whole point of it. I can still be an Evangelical, I can still be a pro-life person, and believe in climate change. In fact, according to the pope, they’re completely united together.
GRIM: That’s helpful.
Mary Evelyn, Erin, really these are responses that lift us up and give us a sense of that drip of hope that you mentioned. But all of you have either directly mentioned the sad, bad news, or alluded to it. And we certainly seemingly face that every turn these days. And yet, to make a slight turn here, in the midst of this time of transition, we know that a new clean-energy economy is emerging.
How are the religious communities helping? And what are the ethics needed for this transition?
LOTHES: I think that one of the great roles of the faith communities is to articulate and affirm the values that can help in dialogue, like policy experts and economists and scientists, to allocate the resources and the funding to scale up the transition to the renewable economy we need.
So what the faith communities can do is articulate those values, emphasize the priorities in the clean economy that we want, and then work in dialogue with our interdisciplinary partners to see what that might look like.
So I had the privilege of convening a group of Catholic scholars to write a paper on energy ethics that drew on established principles of Catholic social thought, particularly as articulated in a 1981 bishops’ letter on the energy crisis, back when peak oil was our problem, and to see what those principles might imply in the context of today’s energy reality.
So we looked at the energy of the past, fossil fuels; the energies of the present, the transitional realities of natural gas and nuclear energy; and energy of the future and how to transition into a renewable-energy economy. And what this is primarily about is affirming the priorities of doing so in order to protect the marginalized, in order to protect vulnerable communities, and to emphasize that we need the transparency, that we need to account for the full range of costs and move beyond externalizing these costs, being honest about the subsidies that are going on, and to emphasize that these are the priorities of our energy ethics.
And so many other communities are getting into the nitty gritty, but it’s an opportunity for dialogue. And so forums like this are so critical for those ethical principles to engage with the present technical realities, and help us to further fund and scale up the future realities that we’re moving towards.
GRIM: Encouraging. Mary Evelyn?
HESCOX: Can I speak to that?
HESCOX: I think, from the faith community, there’s really practical ways you can start out. And that is, very simply, that the church represents one of the largest owners of buildings in the world, let alone the United States. And whether it’s a seminary or a college or a local congregation, the first thing I would urge you to do is become energy-efficient yourselves, to take the time to work on your own carbon footprint and not only save money, but save the planet.
And then a great resource and a way to involve local congregations is to turn that money into mission funds for renewable fund—for renewable energy around the world. You know, 82 percent of sub-Saharan Africa is rural. It is doubtful that they’ll ever connect to any kind of grid if there’s the money to ever build it, which I doubt that. But they can do renewable. Right now in Kenya people have solar lamps for less money and solar houses—excuse me—for less money than they were paying for kerosene, about 45 cents a day, paying for it on their cell phone. They’re jumping way ahead of us, leapfrogging it.
So that’s the one thing I think we can do. It’s very practical for church engagement. You know, I spent 20 years being a local church pastor, so I want to be—ways to engage my congregation into it.
The second thing I think we have to do is to really fight, again, for individual homeowners in the United States to have the choice for energy freedom, to be able to not have our economy dictated by monopolies, by utilities. And there are fights going on. Right here in Georgia it was a big win last year; fights going on in Florida right now, in Nevada, where people are trying to limit the use of renewable energy. In fact, you know, energy is so cheap—NV Energy, Nevada Energy, just signed a contract to buy 100 megawatts of solar power for 3.78 cents a kilowatt. That’s cheap, if you don’t know it—cheap.
And so thinking about those things, we need to fight those policies that prevent the economy from—on moral ground. We’re not economists, but we can say what’s fair is fair.
And then the last thing, I would agree that it’s a tragedy to know that the first oil subsidy that is still on the books happened in 1916. We have been subsidizing fossil fuel as a nation for one hundred years. I think it’s time we stop. (Applause.) And for those of you who are in—you know, and I freely admit, and people know this, you know, that I am a conservative political person too—is that in the past 20 years in the United States we’ve roughly given $470 billion in subsidies, in breaks, to fossil fuels, and at the same time about $47 billion to renewables.
So even though people have made a big hubbub over how much we’ve spent on renewables and subsidized them, you know, fossil fuels have won 10 to one. And that’s the same thing worldwide too. You know, according to the International Energy Agency, we give about $500 billion a year in fossil-fuel subsidies worldwide and about $110 billion for renewables.
So those are some things we have to levelize out. We have to have a level playing field. And that’s the moral, ethical, right thing to do.
TUCKER: Thank you. You know, this is a complicated issue, and none of us are going to have the full answers here. But what’s—I think what’s great is that we all want a challenge that we can contribute to. And I would suggest that this is the pro, not the anti; namely, how are we going to engage in a great transition? This is a transition to a clean-energy economy. Who cannot want that? Who cannot want that for their children?
It involves a range of things, including economic change. It involves technical change. We’ve got brilliant people, ranging from Silicon Valley to—we have an industrial ecology program at Yale. It’s amazing what’s happening. I spoke in California to 400 people from Stanford and Berkeley, but all the industries that are talking about efficiency and moving forward. And they are so into it. They love it.
But it can’t stop there, just on technological efficiency and so on. We have got to make technological transfer possible to the developing world in a real way, because every international conference has promised technological transfer and economic assistance. We have not done that yet. And that is possible. We’ve done it on small scales, but on really effective scales we need to do that.
And so, just as my colleagues have said, we know this is a matter of personal transformation. It’s a matter of institutional transformation. Our building at Yale is a green building, energy-efficient and so on. It’s structural change that we need to change.
And I would just make two suggestions here. Many of the religious communities are moving towards divestment. And I think this is hugely important—UCC, Episcopal, and so on; some of the educational institutions. Stanford has divested from coal. We’re working at Yale on divestment.
You know, this is a huge issue for students. It’s just really gripping the students. I would suggest—at Yale, David Swensen, who’s the portfolio manager, a brilliant manager of a very large fund—when last summer the student—the board of trustees pushed back on this, he wrote a letter to all of his portfolio managers and said we must begin to look across the board and in terms of ethical investment. This has had a huge effect, absolutely huge effect already. So sometimes it’s things below visibility.
But I’d like to just end with—it’s an economic issue about subsidy. It’s a divestment investment issue in terms of new technologies and so on. It’s a political issue, but most of all, returning to this sense of moral concern for the long-term change. Energy is our most renewable resource for every person on the planet. This energy of change, of contribution, of making a difference, greening the seminaries, contemplation in action, and so on and so forth, these are things we can give ourselves to. And that’s what the next generation wants to think about too, the sustainable energy that will get them through into this flourishing future, as we hope.
GRIM: Well, that’s a very interesting perspective to activate our personal—thanks, Mitch.
HESCOX: Well, I just—continuing on the transformational thing, you know, I sort of forgot about—I talked about it earlier. But for those of us who claim to be Christians, whether we’re Evangelical, Catholic, or whatever, this whole thing is theologically grounded in Easter. As Christ rose out of the tomb and called his disciples to follow him to a new way, it really is a moment of spiritual transformation based in who we are as Christians and what that calling of Easter is all about.
I mean, Easter is about a new way and building the kingdom of God. And I can think of no better way to be a steward and a disciple than to building a sustainable world, as was built originally by the Genesis accounts.
TUCKER: And I think what we’re all trying to do is give that language voice in the cultures of all the world, in a truly inclusive way; so how a Confucian would say that, Buddhist, Jewish, et cetera.
LOTHES: And that question of consensus, I think, is essential, because the dialogue, the concern for the environment, has been trapped in partisan politics and stymied, suffocated, by denial and by vested interests for a long time. And it has to be released from that and empowered by the reality that this is a consensus issue, that this is something everybody wants, and the polling that suggests that 80 percent of Catholics want more investment in renewable energy, that they understand the need—that the climate-change authority, authority of the scientists.
It has to be recognized as a consensus issue. And when it’s placed on a moral plain, on a concern for communities, it comes out of that and it becomes a bridge issue we can all bring our own spiritual sources to. And it is a question of that renewal.
GRIM: Thank you, Erin.
We have prepared some questions, which is obvious. I’m looking for the sheet. But I wanted to throw a curve at our panelists and just ask them for a brief comment so that we can get to the fourth question.
But Mitch, can I ask you—and then coming this way—how do you see the traditions of bringing moral and ethical force to bear on questions of population, consumption, and equity of growth? Because I can sense there will be someone who wants to ask that population question, so let’s go at it briefly.
HESCOX: Well, you might as well go after the hard ones right off the bat, right? (Laughter.)
You know, on the population question, certainly we, as pro-life individuals, would join with the Catholic Church in saying that, you know, it’s not a people problem. It’s a resource-distribution problem and a stewardship problem, is that there is enough food on the planet. And not that we are not in favor of—in Evangelical terms in favor of, you know, both reproductive education for male and female, and maybe have some different (insights ?) than our Catholic brothers and sisters in that regard.
But really, I think the object is that we need to be good stewards. Look at the amount of energy we use in the United States versus the majority of the world. Look at the way we buy products and do things. And I think there is a movement that we have to bring their level up and we have to contain our consumerism. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
So we have to be called. We’re called to live in a sustainable world. In fact, one of my standard jokes when I talk to Evangelical churches is the first sustainability handbook is in the Bible, at least one that I know, written down from my tradition. And I tell people that it’s in the most favored book of everybody, whether you’re Jewish or Christian, believe in, and that’s the book of Leviticus, because there it talks about crop rotation, animal husbandry, the basic ways to do it.
I mean, Isaiah 24 says that human beings destroy the earth because we don’t follow God’s commandments. So I think we have to return to that vision of living sustainably again, for Christians, the garden, where Christ rose, back to the original garden.
LOTHES: I would echo that very strongly. The problem is consumption, not sheer population. With five percent of the world’s population, the United States has historically contributed to twenty-seven percent of the historical accumulation of greenhouse gases. There’s an interpretation of energy used under the two-world theories by Professor Ramanathan of Scripps, who acknowledges that the top four billion of the world’s population have vast access to energy, some using fifty tons of carbon per year, whereas in the bottom three billion, minimal to no access to electricity. So it is the use and the disproportionate use that is the issue.
The church supports responsible parenting. People interpret that in different ways. This is also a feminist issue. When you educate women, they become people with economies, with livelihoods. Their family size is reduced. They are able to contribute to their economies. So this is something that is part of Catholic development philosophy. And we see that that has a natural tendency towards reducing and stabilizing the population and increasing the economic stability when women become more educated contributors to a local economy.
So, with that philosophy understood, the real goal, the real problem, is the over-consumption. And Pope Francis, in “Laudato Si’,” calls us to simplicity; but even outside of his spiritual view of simplicity, a renewal of a Sabbath spirituality, which has been so beautifully affirmed by the 24/6 and other texts.
Secular economists have spoken to this as well. There’s an excellent report, “Prosperity Without Growth,” which talks about the need to de-carbonize our economic growth, suggests ways to do that. So all of these are converging on the notion that it’s the disproportionate use of resources that we need to address.
TUCKER: I would, of course, echo my colleagues here, and especially the education-of-women issues. I was involved in the earth charter drafting committee and its ultimate evocation of this interlinked consumption population issue. You know, we went in one century from two billion to six billion people. That has changed the face of the planet. We don’t have an answer. China’s changing its population policy, and so on.
But the other thing I would just add to these excellent comments is so what is an answer to the gospel of consumption that we have preached around the world? If you go to China, which we’ve done many times, the consumption level is just unbelievable. Cities of thirty—twenty-five (million) to thirty million cities (sic). There’s over 50 of them. The scale of this is inconceivable. But what have we given? Is this an American dream of more and more, bringing less and less happiness and satisfaction? We have projected a wasteland onto the world.
And the suggestion here is—voluntary simplicity and other things are fantastic, but one offering into the mix—I mean, the many new stories—is what Thomas Berry suggested is we need the sense we are part of this vast evolving universe. Earth is alive. Earth is not just resources to be consumed. It’s the source of our lives and our livelihood. And that large vision that we’re part of a fourteen billion-year unfolding universe has the potential to light up change in people for much more meaningful lives, a participation of giving. That’s the hope—an alternative to consumption.
LOTHES: If I may add to that, the cult of voluntary simplicity has a great appeal to many. But in the public square, where it may not appeal to all, I think one pragmatic resource is the happiness research. The sociological happiness research documents that more and more and more does not create more happiness. It shows that people are increasingly looking towards walkable lifestyles, that millennials do not want to be at the beck and call of an employer who keeps them there for fourteen-hour workweeks, and that there’s dictating some of the terms in their employment. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent book, Unfinished Business: Men, Women, Work, and Family, challenges us to take back that priority of care as well as competitive accomplishment in the workplace. So there’s many strands of it.
GRIM: You can sense the passion of our panelists. And now we’d like to feel some of the passion in questions from the audience. There are microphones. And if you have a question, I’d like you to stand. And when the microphone comes to you, identify yourself and then give your question. So, please, let’s engage in discussion.
Here’s a question.
KELLER: (Off mic.)
GRIM: It’ll come on.
KELLER: Does it come on? Oh, yeah. All right. So I’m one of the people very versed in the climate consequences. And I am always asked the—
GRIM: Could you identify?
KELLER: Oh. Mary Keller, University of Wyoming.
I am often asked the question about hope, as though hope is the one thing that is going to make people keep working, like we have to kind of almost hide what’s happening. And the equation I just want to suggest is I’m not as interested in hope as I am in hospice, because hospice work for me has never been unhopeful work.
So I want to look very frankly without thinking the one thing you have to do is give everybody hope, because I do think there is something very serious about living with hospice in this moment as well.
GRIM: Thank you.
TUCKER: Since I mentioned that, I couldn’t agree more. But we want to give a vision to our students that hospice may be new kinds of technologies. Hospice may be new kinds of ecosystems understanding. There’s a whole range of hospice. But if we say we are living, which in some ways we are, on a dying planet, where are we inviting people into transformative action?
So I think these are complementary ideas. I wouldn’t deny that. But I’m just saying if anyone in this room isn’t searching for hope, I don’t know why they’re—you know, they wouldn’t be here. These words have lots of implications, but—
TUCKER: —we’re on the same page.
LOTHES: I would simply say I think what climate psychology has often said is what we need to emphasize is solutions, to express the solutions that we have, because it’s true, being overwhelmed makes it almost impossible to go forward, although my own research with faith-based communities says that many of the most stalwart advocates do so not because of hope but out of virtue and a sense that their identity compels them to do this work.
GRIM: Please, another question.
WEBB: Hi. Mark Webb, Church of Scientology.
It is going to be about China, and probably a little more open than it was, and definitely not as closed as what the USSR was at one point. But they are leaving a huge carbon print on the planet. Maybe they are getting better, but I think even their statistics are probably not very transparent at this point.
But in addition to that, are they not still fairly closed towards religion coming in and basically having freedom of religion, even close to freedom of religion in China?
GRIM: Thank you.
HESCOX: First off, let’s talk about—I think if people really examine China from the point of view—and Mary Evelyn can join in right now. A recent study just concluded that two thirds of the people of wealth of China and identify with over one and a half million dollars are planning to leave China because of the pollution.
The Chinese people themselves are demanding climate or pollution action, mainly because of smog and water. Sixty percent of the surface water, by the government’s own admission, is polluted, which may mean it’s probably more like 75 or 80.
But the point is that one thing I think most of us who study China know is that the Chinese government will not tolerate destabilization. So one of the ways that they are the fastest-growing producer of renewable energy, both for their own economy and for exporting it, is with this—is by doing renewable energy. They’re closing down coal plants.
Are they acting as fast as they have to? No. Will they live up to the commitments they made for Paris? I don’t think they have a choice. Otherwise they’re going to have a revolt on their hands. Plus the economy is there to say it’s going to happen. So I think that’s their—you know, from a sociological point of view, they have to act.
And from a faith point of view, I can only tell you about the Christian church, because I have lots of missionaries and lots of friends that work in China now very openly. In fact, we mentioned it. You know, the largest problem that local church pastors have in China right now, according to the people that I know that go there, is consumerism, absolutely. I mean, their pastors are asking U.S. pastors, how do you deal with consumerism? How do you teach people stewardship? Because it’s rampant.
So I think religion is growing. It’s a base part of the community. It is very open in certain areas of China. But to deal with the issue of pollution and climate change, it’s a matter of national stabilization for the country. And that will force them to act.
GRIM: Thank you.
TUCKER: I’ve been going to China since the early ’80s, almost all parts of China. The leading scholars of Chinese studies are deeply concerned about this. As I say, this is why we began our work on world religions and ecology. There are over 100 million Christians in China. It’s the fastest-growing population. But there’s no doubt, since religious freedom came in in ’81, that these other traditions are coming roaring back.
I have climbed several of the Buddhist sacred mountains there. I have been to many conferences where Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism—the three traditions are one, incidentally; a little different from our Abrahamic traditions—but that they are coming forward with new visions for a flourishing future. And these are traditions who have deeply understood the cycles of life, the ecosystems, the seasons, and embedded humans within them for millennia. These are rich, unbelievable resources for an ecological civilization.
We met in 2008 with the minister for the environment. And he, Pan Yue, is one of the leading spokespersons for this sense of bringing forward these traditions for an ecological civilization, against great odds. How can we help? That’s the question.
GRIM: Shall we take a question?
CHOGE-KERAMA: My name is Emily Choge-Kerama. I’m from Kenya.
And one of my concerns is the clean energy for women. You talked about women. We cook with firewood, and that is really the cheapest energy that we can have. And that is also destroying the environment; charcoal. And, I mean, it is a sad situation. But this is—you know, this is for sustenance, for food, you know. And how can—I mean, what are some thoughts about that? Because it’s really very basic. Thank you.
GRIM: Thank you.
LOTHES: Professor Ramanathan has spoken to this question of the crisis of the indoor smoke, as you say, that’s deadly, that’s killing hundreds of thousands every year in Africa and India, and is also releasing short-term climate pollutants into the environment. It’s a cause of global warming as well. And so not only do the developing nations need to, as he says, dial down their short-lived climate pollutants while the developed nations are dialing down their greenhouse gases.
A solution that he recommends is to promote these solar cookstoves that Mitch mentioned—solar cookstoves, solar lamps. And he proposes that members of the developed nations for—he’s calculated $22—purchase these solar cookstoves and see it as a carbon credit, and furthermore, emphasize the need to support the transition to clean energy in the developing world, lest emissions rise, because it’s essential that there be this development.
Yet it needs to be clean development or else emissions will rise and developed nations will have to make even more drastic cuts in their own carbon budgets. So it’s in everyone’s interest to pay into the climate fund, to transfer those technologies, and to make available now the inexpensive and absolutely available technologies that exist.
HESCOX: I agree. First off, not only is it a fact that 600,000 people, half of which are children, die every year of smoke inhalation in sub-Saharan Africa, so the number is astronomical. Three hundred thousand children die because of indoor smoke.
Two, the most at-risk thing for women and children to do in rural Africa is to go looking for firewood and water, especially in conflict zones. So we have that problem.
We have deforestation is the third problem, because literally the largest use of firewood in most of Africa is for fuel. In fact, fuel—firewood is still the number one fuel around the world for cooking. So you’re right. But the—(inaudible). So we have to find ways of working in communities within Africa, because the real drawback of solar cooking stove is they’ve been argued that some people don’t use them because they’re unfamiliar; they’re new concepts. And we have to go about working with indigenous people and empower them, to make sure they’re locally supplied, not just handed down through that.
So there’s whole ways that we can build upon this ways. But you’re absolutely correct is it’s a problem that we have to work on together. And I think people like you could be leaders of that. And we want to empower you to work together with all of us to come up with the right solutions that work for Kenya and other places in Africa.
TUCKER: And I just want to invoke Wangari Maathai’s name here. You know the Green Belt Movement.
TUCKER: She was a huge supporter of all of this work and a great hero for reforestation, for empowering women, and so on.
GRIM: That’s excellent.
Let me come back just a moment. I haven’t asked a question here. Please. There’s a microphone.
HINGA: Yeah, I’m also from Kenya. And thanks for invoking Wangari Maathai.
And I want to go back to the question—
GRIM: Could you identify yourself?
GRIM: Identify yourself.
HINGA: Teresia Hinga. I teach in Santa Clara University. And I’m also from Kenya and very concerned about this focus on environmental issues.
And I want to come back to the whole question of cleaner energy in developing countries and so forth and to point out some kind of questionable corners of this whole green idea. Some people are talking about the dark side of green, where, for example, the quest for clean energy, the whole idea of biofuels, has been proposed. And that has meant in some cases going to places as Indonesia to make plantations of what used to be food—
HINGA: —crop turned into biofuel crops; you know, palm oil or corn or cassava. And many times we are ignorant. So on the one hand we want to do clean energy, but at the same time we are kind of still slight of hand in this. And also the industrialization of the whole concept of going green, still people making money out of the concept, and many times local people are left high and dry. I’m thinking of in Kenya sometime back, the whole jatropha idea, like grow jatropha for biofuels. And peasants put their land under jatropha, and then they are left high and dry.
GRIM: Thank you.
HINGA: Any comment on that?
GRIM: Thank you very much.
Please, this question of plantations and people.
LOTHES: I think that in the process of searching for green solutions, mistakes have been made. And the diversion of agricultural land towards biofuels is one of the big ones. And I think that that’s something that hopefully policymakers continue to recognize and work in other directions to avoid that tragedy.
TUCKER: We created a world food crisis thinking we were making biofuels, just not thinking of the long term.
HESCOX: And I would agree that I don’t think anybody wants to use food stocks at this day and age to turning into biofuels, but advance the more synthetic and the more advanced biofuels. There are some really neat things happening where they’re turning algae—absorbing carbon out of the ground and turning it into biofuels.
But I’d like to address one quick point that you said, is one of the largest problems, economic policy problems of sub-Saharan Africa, is most of the investment in energy infrastructure is made for exporting the energy out of the area. And that’s something we have to work together. Instead of plowing the money into fossil fuels and other things and then export it to the benefit of a few, we need to address and come up with solutions to that problem right now.
GRIM: It’s excellent to hear these questions that focus attention to at least three areas that I think the religions will attend to with some precision, in some detail—food, health, and children. So this is very good to have these questions coming.
Please, in the back of the room. Could you identify yourself?
KUPPA: My name is Padma Kuppa. I’m from the Hindu-American Foundation and I’m an interfaith activist.
Religion drives personal behavior. In my Hindu practice, alongside Jain practices of Ahimsa, drive my vegetarianism. In September 2013, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that livestock supply chains are responsible for nearly 15 percent of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions. Two months later, the Norwegian military instituted meatless Mondays. Today President Obama is going to be pardoning a turkey. (Laughter.)
What can you say about our need to simplify our consumption by also instituting a meatless day in this country and in western countries as part of our consumption simplicity, simplification? Because I go to India almost every year, and I see KFCs and McDonald’s growing by leaps and bounds. And the fashion amongst my young cousins is to go hang out there and eat meat, which I would never have done. So thank you.
GRIM: Thank you.
TUCKER: You know, I’m so glad you’ve mentioned this hugely important issue. Rajendra Pachauri, the former head of the IPCC, who is at Yale, used to say one of the easy things you can do is eat less meat. I’ve been vegetarian for 35 years. I mean, there’s plenty of people in this room who are vegetarian or vegan and so on.
To me, it is one of the things we can do something about. We did not grow up with factory-farmed meat, of pigs, chickens, and beef. It is simply not the case that we have to feed the world on factory-farmed meat. And I think it is one thing the religious communities can do something about. We have plenty of films; “Fast Food Nation.” It is a workers’ issue, the horrible treatment of workers, as well as the animals. So, yes, yes, yes.
HESCOX: Well, I’d agree that we have long promoted, you know, picking one day a week as a meatless day. We practice that in my family and encourage all people to do that. And, you know, of course, the other thing about that is one of the things that’s great for in local churches, besides just being meatless, is let’s help both our congregations and many of our universities and our schools, whether they’re inner city or rural, to grow, to have community gardens, that people can source local food, know what it means to grow and to care for something, to get an aspect—(inaudible)—to grow, that it—I mean, the engagement with what it really means to grow your own food.
GRIM: Thank you, Mitch.
Please, in the back.
FLANNERY: I’m Frances Flannery. I’m a scholar of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism. Can you hear me?
FLANNERY: Is that OK? As a former environmental scientist as well, I’m very concerned about the 200 species a day that we’re losing, in part due to climate change. But as director of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Terrorism and Peace, I’d like to point us in a different direction, a different aspect of this debate on climate change; namely, the connection between refugees, climate change, and security.
Right now—and I want to know what thought and work you’ve done on this—right now we have 15 million refugees, not counting the forty-five million internally displaced persons. But we’re expecting, due to climate change, another sixty-five million refugees or internally displaced persons within the next fifteen to twenty years. So whatever we think we’re experiencing right now, it’s going to be literally twice as worse.
I’m wondering what work or thought you’ve given to that human dimension of crisis that is coming our way.
GRIM: Thank you.
LOTHES: The figures I’ve heard are even larger—50 (million) to 150 (million), maybe 200 million climate refugees by 2050. So—and we’re seeing it so dramatically this summer, this fall. It seems clear that climate refugees will be a way that climate change confronts us very directly.
And I think from the faith communities it calls us to an ethic of hospitality, to welcoming the alien in our midst, and that we as a faith community, as an interfaith community, need to really pull forward our resources for a theology of kinship, a theology of hospitality, and get it ready now, because we’re going to need it.
TUCKER: I think the push towards climate justice, this integration of cry of the earth, cry of the poor, that the focus presented and many other theologians have presented and people from various religious communities is key here, because we’ve been saying forever this isn’t—the environment isn’t about whitewater rafting. It’s about equity issues. It’s about opportunities. It’s about jobs. You know, it’s about the whole range.
So Katrina is a climate-change event. Do we report these events and their effect on our people? Around the world, my friends in Japan report the increase of typhoons and its effect, like in the Philippines, as weather-related events. You see, we have a news and media problem here about how these things are reported. And therefore, even as we know right now, what is the dignity of the human around the world?
This is one of the greatest nations in the world to accept people from all over the world. Where are we going to stand up for dignity, for hospitality, for future generations? And there’s no doubt this is going to get worse, which is why resilience across the board is what’s needed.
HESCOX: I would completely agree with you. I think there are two things that I would suggest as—(inaudible)—great lessons. The people of Bangladesh have done a great job of—actually many of the women of Bangladesh—of building resiliency. And if you haven’t heard their stories, I would urge everyone to do that.
The other thing that I would urge us to do collectively as a faith community is we have to be ready for this problem. I mean, it is a risk that is there. You know, right now we’re arguing in Congress over $500 million to go to the down payment of our green climate fund, which President Obama—quite honestly, excuse my language, you’re going to need a hell of a lot more to deal with, you know, the problem we have coming up in the world. And we have to act now to minimize it, but realize putting on the brakes now, we can’t stop the extremes by 2030. And so it’s a both-and situation that we have to prepare for.
If you don’t know, the CIA did a study back in late ’90s that said a million people are moving off of northern Mexican land, farmland, into the cities and partially into the United States because of climate change and just poor farming practices. So it’s already here. We’re already seeing this great migration. And it’s—we have to be prepared for it. And you’ve seen the studies where, you know, one degree, two degrees of temperature change, you know, results in a 40 percent increase in violence in Africa, worldwide, just because of resource scarcity. So it’s a big problem.
GRIM: Thank you, Mitch.
Please, let’s go to the next one.
MICHAELSON: Thank you. Jay Michaelson at Chicago Theological Seminary. I’m also a religion columnist for the Daily Beast.
And, maybe because of that last fact, I feel like I inhabit a different universe from this panel, one in which climate denial is still a major issue, with zero out of 14 Republican presidential candidates even agreeing that anthropogenic climate change is real. We can talk about nonpartisanship, but the Senate also just passed a resolution saying that anthropogenic climate change is not real.
Religion tends to actually be on the wrong side of this issue. The data from PRRI from one year ago is that only twenty-seven percent of white Evangelical Protestants believe that anthropogenic climate change is real. About twice that number believe that changes in climate are due to the end times. That number may have changed, obviously. And I’d be eager to hear if it’s really changed.
But I’m curious if—is climate denial not a big deal? If it is a big deal, what are the best practices? Has anything actually worked to move the needle in terms of climate denial, particularly given the vast expenditure of resources that’s on that side? (Applause.)
HESCOX: As one who lives that livelihood every day, the needle is moving. And I guess the best way for me to describe it is it’s moving slowly but surely. Six years ago, when I became the Evangelical Environmental Network, we had 15,000 people who we e-mailed to regularly. Today it’s almost 850,000. So the numbers are increasing, but not near enough.
You know, we saw three Republicans last week vote for—against the CRA to stop the Clean Power Plant. That wouldn’t have happened a couple of years ago. I mean, there’s no doubt that we have right now a difference between a policy vacuum of what the American people believe and what our policy leaders, especially our Republican leaders, do. And there’s certainly a funding of the tea partyism and the tea party of money in those political arenas, which we are going to have to slowly overcome.
And I think there are ways to do it. And I could spend the rest of my day talking about this, because both of these people have heard me talk about how to do that. So I want to suggest to you, if you find me afterwards, I’ll have a long discussion with you and we can talk about how we see the needle changing and how there are ways to move the needle in the conservative faith community.
TUCKER: I just want to add a supportive remark for Mitch. You know, when we started the Harvard conferences in ’97s we had the Christianity and ecology conference. We had the Environmental—
TUCKER: —Evangelical Network there represented. They’ve been at this for a very long time. That was ’97. But what was quite interesting was when Sir Ghillean Prance and Sir John Houghton in the U.K. brought a group of about 26 Evangelicals to Oxford. And these are scientists who were involved in the IPCC report and spoke to the Evangelicals. Rich Cizik was one of them. That shifted the mark considerably, because a scientist was giving the message who was also Evangelical. Katharine Hayhoe is doing this as well from the University of North Texas. This is quite heroic work, I might say.
But what we’re trying to do in the religious pluralisms that we’re trying to put forward is to say, as we did in the Christianity and ecology volume, this isn’t going to be through one door. You’ve got liberal Protestantism. You’ve got orthodoxy. And you’ve got this wonderful pope and patriarch, and we went on many of his trips. You’ve got a range of Evangelical positions too.
And so the words that are going to work—climate, you know, care for creation, et cetera—we’ve got to draw out the perspectives of a variety of communities and invite them to the table with their perspectives. And that’s really important. And scientists—sorry—have been a little bit arrogant thinking facts and figures and diagrams are going to change human behavior. That’s why this is important. It’s a really long-term agenda, though.
GRIM: And yet the science community has effectively partnered, allied with many religious—
TUCKER: The science community is indispensable. And, in fact, especially after the encyclical at Yale, they’re coming to us, like, how can we help? Because they too are desperate about not having their science understood.
LOTHES: Well, towards that, it’s essential that plain language is used. You know, we know that if you speak about positive feedback cycles, to the layperson that sounds like a good thing, positive feedback. Well, we have to say that there’s a vicious circle. And we have to speak of facts. It’s a fact that fourteen out of the fifteen years are the warmest on record, and to, as far as possible, not engage the debate about denial and to assert it’s over. Invite people to read the IPCC documents. Those little text boxes are very clear. And if you have the expertise to challenge them, feel free. But most people who are denialists do not have that expertise.
So I’m very sympathetic. It’s a huge crisis, and it’s imprisoned us. And that’s why I think it’s so important to assert the consensus that exists and the growth of so many groups that are increasingly concerned. Hispanic Catholics are a very powerful group affirming climate change and seeking action. And to see the needle moving within the Evangelical community is wonderful news, because, as Reverend Hunter has said, Evangelicals have their pedal to the metal. And when they’re engaged, things happen. And they have political clout. It’s very important.
TUCKER: There was a very important conference here in Georgia just a few years ago with scientists and Evangelicals. It’s up on the website. You can see the statement that came out of it.
GRIM: As our time grows short, I see three questions on the floor. And I think it would be good to hear each of the three questions and then a final response from the panel.
Please. Could you identify yourself?
DABARERA: My name is Amali Dabarera. I’m sorry. I’m a little nervous.
I’m originally from Sri Lanka, and I’ve been living in the U.S. for ten years now. And talking about consumerism, that was one of my culture shocks. I mean, in Sri Lanka we do have our own issues—you know, racial issues, fighting, violence. But I do believe in the U.S. the culture of the economy is based on mass consumerism. And recently I go outside, the day before Halloween, and there’s—they’re selling Christmas gifts and decorations.
And I think the religious leaders, religious communities, should step up and then say, you know, don’t make it a corporate manipulation. And also Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country, but I’m minority back home. I’m Christian. And we celebrate Christmas. We do not share gifts. It’s in the culture here. And maybe we can try to do a gift that is not based on corporate manipulation.
GRIM: Thank you.
Please, the two gentlemen here at the table.
FRIED: My name is Michael Fried. I’m from the Dispute Resolution Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I’d like to know—I understand a lot needs to be done on the political side. But what is being done in the boardrooms? Because you have the issue of the coal, the oil companies, and not just those, who are going to be resistant because the company welfare and actually the worker welfare in terms of jobs is going to be affected by this. So what is the religious community doing, and how should it approach the businesses?
GRIM: Thank you.
Finally, this gentleman.
GREENHAW: My name is David Greenhaw. I’m from Eden Seminary in St. Louis.
I drive a hybrid, and I recycle, and we’ve replaced our light bulbs with LEDs. I worry about this action that I’ve done, because I start to feel pretty righteous about it. And I just really want to go back to the types of denial that there are. It seems to me that there is this sense that if I’m on the good side and do these few things, that somehow they will all aggregate in some way and the world will be better.
Are any of you involved in helping—Ricoeur says that symbols invite thought. If these are symbolic actions out of which good thought is coming, great. But these are not transformative actions. And that’s a worry I have about it actually feeds and continues to feed the denial. Thank you.
GRIM: Thank you. Panel?
GREENHAW: The Prius effect.
GRIM: Consumption, boardrooms, and on-the-ground action. Can you—
LOTHES: This is a great idea. We should—we should reverse our Christmas celebrations to not be about giving gifts. And we should all buy a solar stove for somebody. I think that is a brilliant idea; may it be.
I will pass on the boardroom and go to symbolic actions. Symbolic actions help if they build a habit, a sense of virtue, a sense of commitment that reinforces one’s identity to work further for the radically scaled-up change that we need. And towards that end, I suggest we all need to work for reinvestment in any institution that we have a voice within—in our workplaces, in our institutions, in our faith communities, and in our faith communities’ largest levels of polity; so reinvestment and the divestment that supports that.
HESCOX: Let me go, and I’ll talk to—I believe that the individual engagement proves success and can built collective engagement and help lead to policy action. So I encourage individual action, community action, local churches, because I think people need to engage that they can do something, but also understand that it’s not the final answer, that it’s only part, a small part of it.
And to the boardroom question, actually American business now is beginning to lead the way because of looking at the risk. If you look at all the food manufacturers, General Mills from on down, all signed on to climate change in the past year. Even the oil companies are doing it. Everybody needs to know an assurety (sic) of policy and of risk.
So I think the president had 80-some companies, you know, sign a list a couple of months ago. So the boardrooms are taking it. Some of the best companies—I mean, you know, M&M Mars is by far the leading; zero carbon by 2020. General Mills is going the same direction. Even people like Dow Chemical are cutting their energy use because of climate change and the monetary advantage they’re getting out of both.
So the only corporations we’re not seeing leading the way right now or moving that way are the fossil-fuel industries. And they will be isolated by themselves. And if you haven’t watched the stories of how Exxon has changed its tune in the past three weeks, I invite you go to go and read the corporate statement two weeks ago from Exxon’s statement of how they are—and I’ll leave it at that. You can figure out what their CEO and chairman of the board said.
GRIM: Mary Evelyn.
TUCKER: Yeah. So, to pick up on these comments, clearly what we were suggesting earlier, there’s personal change. There’s systemic change. There’s immediate change, as you’re speaking about, and there’s long-term change. And what we need to do, though, as Americans, is realize there’s not one—I hate the term silver bullet, but there’s not one answer to this. And it’s not just to feel good that we have a Prius or this or that. It is a change on such a level, you see, of consciousness and conscience.
My brother is head of Chubb Insurance in New York. Do you think he isn’t concerned about climate change? Look at the Munich Re and Swiss Re and all the reinsurance companies. We have to get them even more to the table of our discussions, because they can lead the way in the business communities. They don’t even insure, Chubb Insurance, coastal water properties. Think about it. What a leverage for change, right?
But what I want to come back to is this sense that here’s an activist, John Seed, in Australia dealing with the loss of rain forest for years and years and years, wondering how he can keep up his activism, his contribution. He read, as did Carl Anthony, one of the great environmental-justice African-American leaders in this country, he read Thomas Berry’s “Universe Story.”
Carl Anthony said for the first time he understood how he belonged to something larger and how his actions really mattered, what Thomas Berry would say, the great work; the same with John Seed, a world-class environmental person with a tremendous spiritual vision, who was going into despair. And he said he was regenerated for this long-term sense, that ecological conversion that the encyclical is calling us to.
So I would suggest we need the transformation of scriptures and traditions, of cultures, of spiritualities, of ethics, across the board, that are nonjudgmental of other approaches to this, but that are inclusive of an ecological and scientific worldview that suggests, at this moment in human history, a 250-year industrial revolution, must transform to an energy revolution. That is the change that is at hand. That is a fabulous revolution that we can contribute to for the continuation of a 13.7 billion-year process. That’s where we need to go.
GRIM: Please join me in thanking our panelists. (Applause.)
Well done. Really well done.