Friday, July 15, 2016

An ethic of earth care AND people care

Getting Out of the Corner

by Curt Kairns

Recently Mark Lattime, Alaska bishop for the Episcopalian Church, invited me as Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Yukon to travel with him to Washington D.C.  Our purpose was to join with Christian advocates from five Christian agencies meeting with The White House Council on Environmental Quality.  The Council was exploring greater restrictions on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  We were the Alaskans on the team, and we asked for a shift in the ethical and political conversation on the subject.

We Alaskans find ourselves trapped in a corner.  Our families, friends and neighbors are so economically dependent on oil that we find discussion about restricting oil development difficult.  Indeed, Alaska’s economy traps Alaska’s congressional delegation into fighting for development, no matter what.

This is true even though climate change is hitting Alaska faster and harder than any place else in the nation.  Alaskans may sound like science deniers, but really we are just trapped in a corner.  Alaska, and others (West Virginia coal miners?), really cannot deal with the level of change our country needs from us without help.

This is an issue we Christians need to speak out on.  Genesis 2 tells us that creation care and people care are of equal importance.  Choosing one ethical value over the other may fit partisan politics, but deep ethics—ethics inspired by the transforming power of God—holds both values together.

This is a time for deeper ethics rather than that of partisan politics.  We are in an important historical moment, so let us see it for what it is.  This is not a people versus nature moment.  This is the moment when God is reminding us that weare related to all of creation.  Loving our neighbor therefore means earth care and people care go hand-in-hand.

What will this look like politically?  This same issue caused the UN to form theGreen Climate Fund.  Surely, deep ethics can affect domestic policy, too.

On our part, Mark and I invited leaders from four other denominations to join us in this work.  Together, we are speaking to our churches and to power structures across the state about the importance of this moment, and the importance of effective policies informed by an ethic of earth care AND people care.  It is time to reframe the issue, so no one is fighting from a corner. 

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