We can affect the climate crisis

A letter from Jed and Jenny Koball | Presbyterian World Mission

Every morning before the sun rises Gregorio gets out of bed and goes to his stable to collect 50 pounds of fresh cow manure. After gathering the manure he mixes it with 120 liters of water and pours the ripe concoction into his newly constructed bio-digester buried in his backyard. The bio-digester (a simple technology that is reminiscent of a giant inner tube) allows for the mixture to be converted into methane gas that then flows through plastic tubing and connects to a one-burner stove in his kitchen (as opposed to escaping into the air). Shortly after the sun rises Gregorio´s wife, Irma, lights the stove and cooks breakfast over a blue flame. “It may be a small thing,” says Gregorio, “but it is part of our contribution to stopping global warming.”

Gregorio and Irma show the delegation their newly installed bio-digester buried underneath the solar tarp in their backyard

The urgency of addressing global warming and resulting climate change could not be felt more strongly than in the rural areas of the central Andes where Gregorio and Irma live. Peru has more than 600 glaciers, which account for 70 percent of all glaciers found within the tropical regions of the world. These 600 glaciers and the 12,000 mountain lagoons that they feed are the source of water for the 30 million people of Peru. Sadly, these glaciers have lost 40 percent of their surface area over the past 20 years due to increasing global temperatures and subsequent melting, making Peru one of the three most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. What this means for Gregorio and Irma is that the mountain streams that feed their community and thousands of other communities like it have lost up to two-thirds of their volume in recent years. By 2030 the glaciers will be gone, but the crisis has already begun.

It is this climate crisis (water shortage, plagues, floods, droughts, unpredictable weather patterns, rising sea levels, super storms, and more) that inspired our partners Red Uniendo Manos Peru and the Presbyterian Hunger Program to organize a delegation of Presbyterians to come to Peru in early December at the very same time that the United Nations was holding its Climate Change Conference (COP-20) in Lima. Twenty-five Presbyterians—pastors and lay people, young adults and older adults, from rural and urban contexts—including the moderator of the PC(USA) General Assembly, Heath Rada, and his wife, Peggy, joined us for a 10-day Reflection and Action trip in which we visited with communities in both rural and urban areas being affected by climate change, learned from scientific experts in areas of adaptation and mitigation, dialogued with government, non-government and religious leaders, joined in prayer at an interfaith vigil, and joined our voices with tens of thousands of people on the streets of Lima in the largest climate march ever in Latin America.

Participants on the Reflection and Action trip join hands in Lima at the Interfaith Vigil

What our partners and those we spoke with and millions of others around the world are calling for (demanding!) is an agreement among the nations of the world to be signed one year from now that will set out an enforceable course of action to rapidly reduce carbon dioxide emissions on a global scale, principally by reducing the use of fossil fuels. Without such urgent measures, the average temperature of the earth will continue to increase, leading to even more catastrophic results. It is the impoverished peoples of the world who will feel this impact most immediately and most dramatically. This is why the director of Red Uniendo Manos Peru, Conrado Olivera, says with great conviction that climate change is the greatest and most urgent problem the human race has ever faced. As trip participant Colleen Earp noted in a presentation she made in Lima, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is right now.”

So, what does urgent action look like? Raising our collective voice to encourage our governments to find the political will to reach a binding agreement is certainly an important aspect of such action. But the message that came through most clearly to all of us, Peruvian and North American alike, is that any meaningful attempt to address climate change begins with our own attitudes—our own daily actions and commitment to changing the way we live. Until we as a human race demonstrate the individual will to adapt to a new lifestyle, our governments will fail to find the political will to make the necessary and difficult decisions that our partners and neighbors are calling for.

PC(USA) General Assembly Moderator Heath Rada and his wife, Peggy, raise their voices at the March for Climate Justice in Lima—the largest climate march ever in Latin America

This new year, 2015, is a landmark year for the human race.  This is the year the nations of the world must come to an agreement. This is the year we either choose to live into our collective calling (our first calling!) to be caretakers of God’s Creation, or it will be the year we collectively announce our disregard for the Garden of Eden once and for all.

After 10 days of travel through the Andes we have great hope that the Garden will bear fruit for days, years and generations to come. We have such hope because Gregorio and Irma, Conrado, Colleen, Heath and Peggy and tens of thousands of others we walked alongside of are paving the way forward. We invite you, (we urge you!) to join with us—through prayer, through daily living, through raising your voice, through offering your financial support, through sharing this story and many others like it. For this and so much more, we thank you.

With grateful and hopeful hearts,

Jed and Jenny Koball

The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 54
Read more about Jed and Jenny Koball’s ministry

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A group of committed donors has pledged to match all gifts sent by individuals for mission personnel support now through December 31, 2014, up to $137,480.  This means your gift today will be matched by a gift to support mission personnel around the world, wherever the need is greatest. We invite you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to double the impact of your gift. Thank you!

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