For the Love of God’s Creation
By the Rev. Jenny Phillips | Illustration by Gregory Johnson
A young woman recently explained to me why she decided not to attend a climate rally despite caring deeply about the environment and knowing that her friends would be there. Her rationale was simple: she didn’t think it would make a difference in stopping climate change.
This logic embodies a lack of hope that might be considered reasonable. When you really come to understand the magnitude of the climate crisis, it is hard to feel hopeful that the political and economic forces that drive our current patterns of fossil fuel consumption can be transformed at the speed and to the degree necessary to stop the worst effects of climate change. It’s harder still to feel like there is much one can do as an individual that will have any meaningful impact in the problem. When it’s hard to find bite-sized solutions to intractable problems, despair quickly breeds complacency. If you’re not sure whether or not your efforts will make a difference, the reasoning goes, why bother trying?
This woman went on to share about her work in wetland restoration. She is passionate about the land and how it interacts with the sea and the air. Like many people, she feels God’s presence most vibrantly in the natural world.
Not long after the rally, she was working in an area where she had expected to see salmon, because at that time of year, the salmon were always there. But that season, they didn’t show up. Her colleagues speculated that perhaps the fish had not returned to spawn because the water hadn’t cooled down enough–a common problem as local and global temperatures continue to rise above what were once considered normal levels.
This realization caused this young person to feel deep grief and deep sadness. But the despair helped her connect with another, more powerful motivator than hope. It helped her tap into love. The experience helped her realize that she loved these fish and their habitat, and that alone is reason to stand up for them. Love had the power to put the rumblings of prophecy into her feet when hope couldn’t get her off the couch. Love is what helped her recognize the need to stand up and take action.
Paul writes to the Corinthians that of faith, hope and love, the greatest is love. It is deep love for God’s people and God’s creation that is going to give us not just the will to show up for a march, but also the endurance to walk the long road ahead.