February 7, 2021
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is God who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to live in;
who brings princes to naught,
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when she blows upon them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
God who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because God is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
God does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
God gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
I got my start in climate activism when I was a Senior in College. I was working for Campus Life, and I was invited by Professor of Economics Eban Goodstein to be a part of the largest one-day teach-in that has ever occurred in the United States, known as Focus the Nation. Teams of students, on January 31st, 2008, gathered at over fifteen hundred colleges, universities, and K–12 schools throughout the U.S. to engage in a nationwide, interdisciplinary discussion about “Global Warming Solutions for America.” That evening, events were held that put students, civic leaders, and policy makers in conversation on the issue of climate change. I was part of organizing a Green Torch Relay that went from Portland to Salem, stopping for events at my former High School, Church, and various locations, ending with a rally at the State Capitol. During the Teach-in I was part of a panel discussion about religious responses to the climate conference, and I was invited to ask a question of US House of Representatives Member Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. You might not know his name, but if you’ve ever seen him in his signature bowties, you’d remember him. He was joining us by teleconference, and the TV monitor he appeared on even had a bowtie attached to it. He was the first Representative to regularly bike to the Capitol and his congressional office, pushing for bike racks to be installed. Focus the Nation highlighted the idea that a clean energy economy offered an opportunity to redefine American prosperity and US leadership at the local and international level. The hope was to empower Millennials with imaginative, civic, and systems-thinking skills to become powerful agents of change in our own communities.
That year was a whirlwind of ideas, organizing, and engaging with the press. There was so much excitement and potential. The goal was to change the conversation and understanding about climate solutions by 2018, a date that seemed impossibly far away when I was 22. As the events wound down, my mind was buzzing with ideas, from a Green Conservation Corps installing solar panels, to investments in climate neutral transportation systems, to new regulations for vehicle emissions. But more than that, I had a deeper sense that personal lifestyle changes, like driving a hybrid or electric vehicle, composting, and reducing air travel would not create the kind of change needed. Instead, I had a deeper sense of the advocacy that was needed for institutions, businesses, government to make large, systemic changes, beyond what any group of citizens could do personally, so that collectively we can minimize the effects of climate change. The events prepared us for long-term engagement. There was a need for immediate action, but the changes were not going to happen overnight.
It’s been thirteen years, and looking back, I find myself encouraged at where we are at this moment. We see activists and policy makers, students and community leaders who have been consistently pushing for change, actually making ground. Last Sunday I attended the Legislative Briefing held by religious leaders and community members in our state, and the movement to care for our planet has become mainstream. What seemed radical in 2008, now is central to how many of us think about our relationship to God’s Creation. We’re seeing progressive religious communities banding together, organizing for change, in ways that I could have only dreamed of in 2008. One of the most surprising takeaways from the Legislative Briefing last week was hearing how powerful our voices are. Our Maryland General Assembly Members take notice when people of faith contact them about the environment. There is a recognition that we are organized and committed. I find myself strengthened, encouraged, and a little bit surprised if I’m honest.
Because over the past thirteen years, there have been times when it’s felt like we’re going this alone, hasn’t it? At times, I’ve felt like no one in power was listening, like government officials and industry leaders were ignoring the damage being done to our planet. I know I have had times where I’ve wondered where God is, while we threaten destruction to our planet. That sense that we are alone is as old as our religious tradition. And yet the prophet Isaiah reminded his folks, and us across the millennia, that God is still with us. But sometimes, we’re going to renew our hope, look deeply to tap into that source of divine love that set us in motion. We are reminded to stop and take in the wonder that is creation and remember the Creator. We are offered strength or the long haul of partnering with what the Holy One is up to in our midst, and rise up, our strength renewed. If our hope comes from human progress, we’re likely to be disappointed, but when we seek God’s empowerment for the long haul of making change, while there are setbacks, there can be a hope that keeps us moving towards the promised land.
One of the lessons I learned from Focus the Nation was how important it was to celebrate breakthroughs when they did happen, to keep moving. They might be small at first, but we were encouraged to notice when change started happening. This week, I have found myself full of hope, and gratitude for what God has been up to in the hearts of so many in power. I was surprised to learn this week that General Motors has announced that they are moving to producing electric only vehicles in the coming decades. We heard that the automotive industry is actually asking the federal government to create stricter emission standards, to help move us towards zero carbon vehicles. I watched as Pete Buttigieg, our newly confirmed Secretary of Transportation, spoke about climate policy as central to transportation strategy, and about the need to center racial and environmental justice. There is a Climate Envoy as part of the National Security Council, and creation care and climate activism are now a central part of how we think about national security, economic development, and empowerment. While my hope had grown weary over the past 13 years, I’m amazed at where we find ourselves today. And I find myself strengthened by God’s faithfulness and empowerment of people through diverse religious traditions to run the race set before us.
Beloved, this Month, myself and our Stewardship Action Group for the Earth invite you to experience a renewal of hope. We know it can feel like we can’t make change sometimes. Those moments of exhaustion, of feeling alone, are an invitation to look in awe at creation, and remember God’s faithfulness. In some traditions this is referred to as resting in the mighty acts of God, trusting in the promises. When we push for change, stopping for a moment to pray and ask God for the strength to make a phone call, or write a letter, can remind us we’re part of a larger story, that it’s not all up to us, but that we have a part to play in God making all things new. Just that small reminder can renew us.
We can help lead this state to take some amazing things to stem the effects of climate change, provide safe, reliable public transportation for essential workers and historically underserved Black and immigrant communities in our area, and reduce the number of cars on our roads. We can enshrine in our state constitution the right to a healthful environment, meaning that we can already push our state government to act in our best interest, and protect our planet for future generations.
You’re invited to experience your strength renewed this month. SAGE will be inviting you to learn how to contact our State Representatives and Senators to encourage them to vote for the Green Amendment. If advocating is new to you, this is a great way to learn. Or, if you’re someone who has been on this road a while, we’re also sharing resources about specific bills, and you can contact your elected officials and the senate and house presidents, to get these bills up for a vote. Your voice is particularly powerful at this moment. God has made a way for us when many of us were feeling exhausted from the past 4 years. May we gather the strength we need to act, and rest in the presence of God who has always been by our side.