Step by Step: Faithfully Seeking Climate Justice

All together now

Changes to make for changing planet

by abby mohaupt


I was recently interviewed by a German newspaper about the role of climate change denial and how one organizes a response to climate change. He wanted to know how climate change denial (by lobbyists and the fossil fuel industry) affects climate change activism and responding to the urgency of climate change. In sum, my answer was this: If we do not respect or believe what the vast majority of scientists who have told us for more than a century — that climate change would be the result of human overuse of fossil fuels — we believe we have all the time in the world to respond.

Setting Aside Urgency

The more people hear reports that deny climate change, the easier it is to set aside the urgency of responding to climate change. If we believe that there is scientific doubt about the cause and scope of the problem, we can put off the necessary changes required of us. We can ignore feelings of deep dread that the world as we know it has changed nearly irrevocably. We can calmly mourn the loss of flora and fauna and human life, seeing the patterns of destruction and pain as outliers instead of our present reality.

Simply put, if we give climate change deniers any sense of power or authority, we slow down response times, even as the world continues change. We lose our chance at survival. All the time in our world is growing short.

At the end of our interview, the reporter asked if I thought Americans would do all the things we need to do in order to hold back the literal and figurative rising tides of climate change. Would we change our lightbulbs, drive less, vote for carbon taxes, eat less meat, buy fewer goods, give up our plastic single-use bags, increase solar, divest from the fossil fuel industry? Would we be willing to change our lives?

I said, “Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it?”

Working Together

We each must take on changes in our lives so that our individual carbon footprints become smaller. Still, everything we do has a carbon footprint — no matter what we do, we contribute to a changing planet. We can only try to do the best we can to do all we can to have the biggest impact we can. It’s hard.

The difficult of the task ahead is why I think one of the great gifts of faith-based responses to climate change is the role of community. Alone, it is hard to stay committed to a low-carbon life. Alone, it is hard to say no to red meat every day (though, as a vegetarian for over 15 years, I don’t really get the appeal of a hamburger.) Alone, it is nearly impossible to increase solar or have significance in divestment from fossil fuels. We need each other. We need each other to pray for our work and to work side-by-side. We need the hope of our faith that tells us that trying to change together might get us closer to the world that God intended.

abby mohaupt (name is correct as per the author) is the moderator of Fossil Free PC(USA), a PhD student at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and a minister member of San Francisco Presbytery. She’s is a partner, daughter, aunt and sister, as well as a long distance runner and artist.