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BY REV. JEFF WELLS

July 21, 2021
Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay
On Wednesday, July 14, the European Commission announced a package of proposals intended to dramatically reduced the use of fossil fuels. ("Europe Unveils Plan to Shift From Fossil Fuels, Setting Up Potential Trade Spats,” in The New York Times)
God placed within creation a deep and abiding hope that creation would one day be liberated from its slavery to corruption and experience the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation groans in unison with birthing pains up until now…. It’s not just creation – all of us are groaning together too. Though we have already tasted the first fruits of the Spirit, we are longing for the total redemption of our bodies that comes when our adoption as children of God is complete – for we have been saved in this hope and for this future. - Romans 8:20-25 (adapted from The Voice)
While the New York Times calls the EC proposals "the most aggressive and detailed plan in the world to reach a carbon-neutral economy by 2050,” it may not be enough, and the rest of the world is still far behind. Some climate activists are already criticizing the proposals. As Greta Thunberg tweeted, "So it’s official. Unless the EU tear up their new #Fitfor55 package, the world will not stand a chance of staying below 1.5°C of global heating. That’s not an opinion, once you include the full picture; it’s a scientific fact.” Also, the EC estimates it will take two years just to negotiate and get approval for a final version of the proposals. 
 
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, said in a 2019 interview, "Thirty years or 50 years out, the world’s going to run on sun and wind, because they’re free…. The question is…what kind of world will it be? If we make it happen faster, it’s not like we’re going to stop climate change. It’s not like it’s going to be a utopia. But we may be able to avoid the worst dystopias."

I have been reading, thinking, talking, and writing a lot about climate change over the past year. As bleak as the outlook may be, I am determinedly holding on to hope. As a 2019 book declares, "Hopelessness is our greatest enemy" (What is Ecological Civilization?: Crisis, Hope, and the Future of the Planet). Without hope, we will not have the motivation or the will to do what we must to create dramatically different, healthy, and just ways of co-existing on the Earth.

In my message last Sunday, I declared, "We know, all too painfully, that the ability of the earth’s biosphere to sustain life is no longer assured. Yet hope is not based on assurances, certainty, or guarantees. Instead, hope thrives in the face of uncertainty and risk. Hope makes it possible to believe that tomorrow (or next week or next year), things might change for the better" ("Hope Keeps Us Alive and Curious”).  

In a 2019 interview, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she was inspired to devote her life to progressive political change when she traveled to South Dakota to participate in the Standing Rock Reservation protests against the Keystone Pipeline. Here is what she learned about hope from her experience: 

“It seemed impossible at the time. It was just normal people, showing up, just standing on the land to prevent this pipeline from going through. And it made me feel extremely powerful, even though we had nothing, materially – just the act of standing up to some of the most powerful corporations in the world. From there I learned that hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope” ("When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met Greta Thunberg: 'Hope is contagious'.”)

We desperately need ecological hope and rapid and dramatic action. Thankfully, we are loved and inspired by a God of hope and possibility. Let's work together to keep hope alive so it will kindle in us the will to act and make the civilizational changes necessary to survive and even thrive.
Spread the word. Sound the alarm. Advocate for dramatic policy changes. Begin making changes in your own life now, and urge your family, friends, co-workers, and communities of faith to do the same. Pray for hope to thrive and propel action.
Loving and luring God, help us keep our hope alive as we face the current reality and future risk of climate change. Inspire in us the strength, courage, and will to take the necessary actions (protest, advocacy, education, policies, and civilizational change) that might make it possible to save life on our planet. In the way of Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Jeff Wells is the lead pastor at The Church of the Village in New York City, a progressive, radically inclusive, and anti-racist congregation that seeks to undermine all forms of oppression and promote the affirmation and flourishing of every human person and every living thing. pastorjeff@churchofthevillage.org
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