Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Stand with Indigenous People in this Climate Crisis


by Rev. Jed Koball

Closing worship for the Presbyterians for Earth Care conference was co-led by the Rev. Jed Koball, PCUSA Mission Co-Worker in Peru.  Jed is a strong and passionate leader in the church in both social and environmental justice. He has graciously shared a summary of his message. 

“In the face of the Climate Crisis, the Church has a unique role because it has unique responsibility. It is my belief that the crisis we are in today started long before the first combustible engine or any other greenhouse gas-emitting technology. I believe the crisis started at the dawn of the European conquest and colonization of what is today the Americas, Africa and Asia. Namely, I believe it began with the infamous Doctrine of Discovery in which the Church authorized, legitimized, and mandated the conquest of foreign lands by European kingdoms, justifying land left, slavery and genocide of indigenous peoples. 

In its eradication of indigenous peoples and their cultures, the Church buried indigenous spiritualities that promote harmony with the Earth and replaced it with a spirituality that promotes dominion over the earth. In so doing, the Church unleashed racial hierarchy and the exploitation of the earth in the interest of promulgating Christendom. While the Church has repented for some of its past, it is essential that we continue to reckon with our history which in many ways  has come to a head in the form of the climate crisis. Of the remaining indigenous peoples in the world today, they are guardians of 85% of the world's biodiversity, and they are crying out that if we want to solve the climate crisis then we must listen to them. I believe that in the face of the climate crisis, this must be our paramount task – listening to indigenous peoples. 

While we should have no expectation that any indigenous peoples would want to converse or be in relationship with those of us who are not indigenous and follow Jesus, we can and we must lift up their voices and their causes…and when invited stand with them.”

Note: To view the recording of the closing worship of the 2023 PEC Conference, including the sermon by Rev. Jed Koball, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

PEC's Conference: A Personal Perspective


by Rick Randolph, MD

This September, my wife and I attended the 2023 Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC) biennial conference at the PC(USA) Conference Center in Massenetta Springs, VA. This was a wonderful event featuring inspired preaching from the Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, enlightening teaching from Rev. Dr. Patricia Tull, the Rhodes Professor Emerita of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and an enlightening offering of classes. Everyone was collegial and the setting in Massenetta Springs enhanced our sense of reverence.

This conference was an ambitious undertaking by PEC. It was held in a hybrid in-person/online format with presentations originating from several different sites. It spanned five days and had 28 presentations. These presentations included advocacy opportunities, learning more about the effects of climate change, the Inflation Reduction Act, personal financial choices, congregational funding, and personal wellness.

We heard about the Doctrine of Discovery, environmental communications, home energy conservation, and how to become an Earth Care Congregation. In order to have so many offerings, several were presented simultaneously, presenting us with the challenge of choosing only one course at a time!

Thankfully, all the breakouts, the plenary presentations by Rev Dr. Diane Givens Moffett and Rev Dr. Patricia Tull, and the times of worship were recorded and all are on the PEC website. Visit and see the full breadth of the areas presented.

As with most conferences, the ability to visit with the other participants who were attending in person ended up being one of the most enduring fruits of the conference. Thanks must be given for the incredible hard work of the organizing committee. My wife Jo was part of that group and didnt have the opportunity to enjoy the conference as much as the rest of the 237 attendees. I can only express my profound appreciation for the results of their labors. PEC puts on a conference every two years. Plan now to attend. You will not be disappointed.

Richard Randolph, MD, recently retired as the Senior Chief Medical Officer of Heart to Heart International, based in Lenexa, KS, having had responsibility for the development of medical, disaster, and public health programs in the developing world and the US. He and his wife Jo have worked actively with PEC for many years and belong to Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Kansas.

The Parable of the Sower


by Nancy Corson Carter


One of the great gifts of PECs conference for me was the discovery of Octavia E. Butlers novel, The Parable of the Sower. I learned of it through Dr. Faith Harriss presentation, A Womanist and Interfaith Response to Climate Change: Reimagining Our Collective Futures.”


Dr. Harris quoted Katie Geneva Cannon to introduce herself: My assignment as a womanist liberation ethicist is to debunk, unmask, and disentangle the historically conditioned value judgements and power relations that undergird the particularities of race, sex, class, and oppression.” (She defines womanist” as a liberation theology restoring dignity and hope to women of color without being adversarial.)


In asking What should people of faith and good conscience do?” Dr. Harris argued that our faith tradition can change the narrative: We can make the moral argument to invest in people, in Earth.” So it seemed natural, now that I have read The Parable, that she would celebrate this book.


Written in 1993 by a gifted prize-winning writer whod grown up poor, fighting the notion that black women dont write,” the story begins in 2024. This dystopian work of science fiction presents a world in chaos that we can recognize as already becoming true—it is both prescient and prophetic.


The young woman protagonist, Lauren (the sower in hopes of seeding good soil), is thrown into a deeply disturbing journey by violence. I found that the nightmarish world she traverses (ostensibly the Pacific coast in the future) is not unlike the DariĆ©n Gap, the dangerous link between Colombia and Panama being risked now by hundreds of thousands of migrants set on finding a better life in the North. Yet Earthseed: The Books of the Living threads through the book in brief poetic-journal form at the beginning of each chapter as her testimonial that there is a God who is our partner in this Earth through change, forever uniting, growing, dissolving.” She believes that this God leads us, if we persist, toward loving, Earth-honoring community. The books final words quote the parable of the sower from Luke 8: 5-8 in the King James Version of the Bible.


 A main theme Dr. Harris argued is that, Our challenge is to interrupt the fossil fuel death spiral” and to face our problem of a theo-ethical premise” that individuals can own land and push others out (stealing, killing, or enslaving them as in the Doctrine of Discovery). She urged that the moral remedy is to bring God back to Earth: God is not outside us but within us and all Earth,” and our hope is to create community wherever we are. She celebrates Parable of the Sower as a work that gives her hope because we are going to have to figure this out, to do it together.” That we will do this is my hope as well.


Nancy Corson Carter, professor emerita of humanities at Eckerd College, has published two poetry books, Dragon Poems and The Sourdough Dream Kit, and three poetry chapbooks. Some of her poems, drawings, and photos appear in her nonfiction book, Martha, Mary, and Jesus: Weaving Action and Contemplation in Daily Life and in her memoir, The Never-Quite-Ending War: a WWII GI Daughter's Stories.

Empowering Hope in a Threatened World


by Nancy Corson Carter


Retired oceanographer Dr. C. Mark Eakin has spent over 30 years with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. His presentation, Climate and Oceans,” reminded me of the powerful film he helped create as its Chief Science Advisor. The Sundance and Emmy award-winning 2017 movie Chasing Coral documents one of the first repeated coral bleachings that occurred between June 2014 to May 2017. During that time, nearly all world coral bleached, sometimes for two years running, as the Earths oceanic waters have continued to warm beyond safe levels for the coral. An area near Guam was hit excessively. Now, almost every year brings bleaching events.


When corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.


Chasing Coral helped alert the world to what is only a 10-year-old field of study, one which is racing against time to rescue a beautiful and once abundant source of life. Nearly a billion people rely on coral reefs directly and indirectly. Thanks to its availability on Netflix and YouTube, Chasing Coral is available to more people and encourages action in caring for the oceans and advocating for their protection.


The corals depend upon a symbiotic relationship with algae, which exudes nutrients for the coral and protects them. Those who study the coral have been shocked to find that in places like the Great Barrier Reef and especially in the tropical waters around Florida, 60% of the coral are in jeopardy.


The situation has become critical and scientists are conducting research in coral nurseries to keep them alive and find strains that can survive warming water. One of the corals wiped out in the wild now only survives in a nursery. But we must do more to reduce CO2 now to save one of the ocean’s most valuable resources. 


There is some good news on the climate change front. France has officially pledged to shut down all coal-fired power plants in three years. California will put five million electric cars on the road by 2030. Individuals can help reduce dependency on fossil fuels by changing lifestyles, for example, by using mass transit and electric cars, and by supporting electric work vehicles like pickups, buses, and delivery trucks.


Reducing local stressors also helps. 50-85% of the coral loss in Kiribati in 2016 is now bouncing back; after a ban on most fishing. Shade helps and anything that cools the water—even ships spraying salt water up to make clouds.


Dr. Eakins report emphasized a great need to provide mental health support for scientist-researchers who must observe, year after year, the death of once healthy and utterly magical coral reef ecosystems.

In 1994, I went on an eco-tour of the Brazilian flooded forests of the Amazon, sponsored by the PC(USA) and led by Rev. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman. Our preparation packets included a stunning essay,The Ecology of Grief,” by Phyllis Windle.


Windle explores, with a wonderful cast of scientists and especially ecologists, the benefits of grieving well,” of avoiding the temptation to turn and walk away when what we love is threatened. In the final words of her essay, she writes,We shall need passion, commitment, creativity, energy, and concentration. We shall have none of these if we fail to grieve (alone and with each other) for the magnificent trees, the lovely animals, and the beautiful places that we are losing.


As Dr. Eakin and others like Dr. Faith Harris in our empowering 2023 Earth Care Conference remind us, Our hope is to create community together wherever we are.”


Nancy Corson Carter, professor emerita of humanities at Eckerd College, has published two poetry books, Dragon Poems and The Sourdough Dream Kit, and three poetry chapbooks. Some of her poems, drawings, and photos appear in her nonfiction book, Martha, Mary, and Jesus: Weaving Action and Contemplation in Daily Life and in her memoir, The Never-Quite-Ending War: a WWII GI Daughter's Stories.

Eating for a Healthy Climate


by Eric Diekhans


It seems like everything about America is big, whether it’s our landscapes, our superhero movies, our McMansions, or our SUVs. But that abundance results in a disproportionate impact on global warming. Each year, Americans are responsible for 19 tons of CO2 emissions per capita, as compared to seven tons for Europe, two tons for South Asia, and one ton for Sub-Saharan Africa.


Fifteen percent of those emissions comes from food and food waste. It’s not the largest source of our carbon footprint but it still has a substantial impact on climate change. Making different choices about food can make a real difference in avoiding the worst impacts of global warming.


As a member of Montclair Presbyterian Church (MPC) in Oakland, CA, Suzanne Jones helps lead the Earth Care Committees Climate and Food Team and recently co-authored MPCs new cookbook, Climate Friendly Cooking—105 Recipes to Help Save the Planet. During her presentation at PEC’s conference, Suzanne admitted that changing our diets isn’t easy. Food has important connections to our emotions, our habits, and our identities. Think of Thai beef noodles, British steak and kidney pudding, or Cuban boliche.


“It can be difficult and even painful to change such deeply held practices,” said Suzanne, but we can harmonize our food-related needs with leaving behind a livable planet and still be healthy and well-fed.”


Suzanne said that “the dominant factor that determines our dietary greenhouse gas emissions is what we choose to eat for protein.”

Thirty-one percent of agricultural emissions comes from livestock and fisheries. Most adults need 50-175 grams of protein per day. Eating 100 grams of beef protein emits 49.89 kg of carbon. Getting the same amount from nuts emits about half that amount.


But you don’t have to completely give up meat to make a positive environmental impact. Ruminants do the most damage to our environment. These are animals like cattle, bison, and sheep that chew the cud regurgitated from their second stomach, or rumen. This causes them to exhale methane, which is 80 times stronger than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Ruminant waste also emits CH4 and nitrous oxide n20, which are 300 times more potent as greenhouse gases than CO2.


“Cutting out just red meat and dairy products results in emissions comparable to pescatarians (who eat fish but not meat) and lacto-ovo-vegetarians (who eat plants, eggs, and dairy products),” says Suzanne.


If you don’t want to become a full-time vegetarian or pescatarian, Suzanne suggests saving beef for special occasions like Christmas dinner, and getting most of your protein from pork, chicken, and plants.


Fish is also another good source of protein, but choosing the right seafood is complicated. Wild-caught fish tend to be better for the environment than farm-raised, though new methods of raising fish on land are changing that calculation. Plus, ocean ecosystems are very stressed due to overfishing, pollution, and acidification from CO2 emissions.


Crab, lobster, and some oysters and prawns are very high in CO2 emissions because boats must go out and check traps often.


You can learn about the best options for choosing seafood using the Seafood Carbon Emissions Tool.


Buying local has become a popular way to minimize agriculture’s harm. But Suzanne says that, while it may have other benefits, buying locally sourced food has little impact on emissions because transportation only accounts for 6% of agricultural CO2. But it’s still important to be aware of how our food is transported. Ships are much more fuel-efficient than trucking. California beef has only 1% lower emissions than beef exported from Australia. On the other hand, air shipping perishable foods like out-of-season berries is terrible for the environment.


Food waste also contributes to global warming because food grown but thrown away offers no benefits. In the United States, we waste 40% of the food we use, and 30% of food is wasted worldwide.


“What could be more unChristian?” Suzanne asks.


She suggests that we be careful not to overbuy. We can also bring our own containers to take home restaurant leftovers, buy ugly produce that might otherwise be thrown away, and donate our extra food if possible. You can even search the web for companies that will deliver ugly but tasty produce to you, or consider signing up for a CSA farm share.


Following all of the advice in this article will make a positive impact on your personal carbon footprint but Suzanne reminds us that to save our planet, we must also take action to support and change institutions that have an even larger impact on carbon emissions. That means supporting democratic institutions and voting rights so we have the power to make our voices heard. Those voices must demand that governments enact swift and bold policies to phase out fossil fuels and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions.


Eric Diekhans is a published author, Executive Director of the Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministries, and a member of Lake View Presbyterian Church in Chicago. You can learn more about him on his website.