view from an evening walk

I have been following the global climate talks in Durban, South Africa with intense interest.  The coverage of the talks, when it can be found at all, casts our response to climate change primarily in political and economic terms.  How will countries reach new treaty agreements?  What is the fair share for developed countries (like us) who have contributed most to the problem versus developing countries who seek to improve their standard of living?  Will we find the political will to make the changes necessary before it is too late?  And when will it be too late?  These are vital questions, but I find myself approaching this moment a bit differently.

I wonder how to respond spiritually to an Earth that is suffering.  More and more, I am convinced that how I live is my best response to climate change.  A part of how I live includes calling my representatives, meeting with them, posting Op-Eds, and rallying my friends.  But a deeper part of how I live includes how I relate to the whole, how I see myself as a part of the story and learn to live more gently on the Earth, mindful of its needs.  It’s a move from what professor Bron Taylor calls “green religion (which posits that environmentally friendly behavior is a religious obligation)” to “dark green religion (in which nature is sacred, has intrinsic value, and is therefore due reverent care).” (Taylor, 10)

It seems to me that what we lack is the dark green sense that nature is sacred.  It seems to me that it is too easy for us to forget what our ancestors knew, everyone from the wandering Hebrews to the First Nations peoples of this continent:  that we belong to the Earth, not the other way around.

As I tune in to the climate talks, I am also tuning in to my own inner sense of connectedness; I am asking about my own response.  And here I begin to review my actions, asking of each if it expresses relatedness.  Starting small, I map out the week and consider how many times I need to take car.  I ensure that cloth bags are on hand for my trip to the grocery, where I will try and pay attention to how and where the food is sourced.  (For beer enthusiasts, I’ll also take my reusable growler to be refilled with local ale or look for something with the “Go Texan” regional agriculture label.)  Moving on, I ask about how many Christmas presents we need and how we might also give to groups working for environmental protection.  When we travel to be with relatives, I am looking at the best ways to pay carbon offsets and/or plant trees to help balance out our carbon footprint.  I do not write about these things so that you will think well of me; I write about these things so that together we might continue to brainstorm.  What else can we do as individuals?  What else can we do as a church?

Every action is a prayer.

What ideas do you have?


See Bron Taylor, Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).