My climate advocacy began quite by accident in 2015. The Lord works in mysterious ways!
At a meet-and-greet of Toastmasters in Richmond Hill, an attendee mentioned they were planning to attend former U.S. vice president Al Gore’s training on making presentations. Hoping to improve my presentation skills, I googled the event, applied and was accepted.
With 600 global attendees, I experienced four amazing days on climate change and the need for awareness, education and mitigation. This was training for new Climate Reality Leaders (CRLs) of Mr. Gore’s global Climate Reality Project. I became a climate advocate – equipped to speak up and speak out about climate change.
Before this, I hadn’t given much thought to matters of climate or the ravages of climate change on our precious earth – and far less to my own contributions. I learned that much of climate change is caused by human activity. I came to understand that persons of all stripes and persuasions need to take action to demand, encourage and persuade others to stop fanning the flames of climate chaos.
Following training, CRLs receive access to a treasure trove of Al Gore’s presentation slides. Naturally, many included scientific language that was unfamiliar to me. Happily, in the mix I found a slide presentation of Pope Francis’s famous encyclical letter Laudato Si’, encouraging the care of God’s creation, our common home. Science in the language of Christianity! My advocacy by divine design became stewardship of God’s creation – where it all began.
2015 was an interesting year. Justin Trudeau became Canada’s prime minister; Pope Francis published Laudato Si’; and at the UN Climate Conference (COP21), the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, was adopted by 196 parties. The key goal of the Paris Agreement was to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2030.
Sadly, despite the hype and promises made at COP21, very little has been achieved by the signatories, including Canada. Even as climate advocates warn that time is running out to keep global warming within the critical 1.5°C limit, much remains to be done.
As a creation-focused Climate Reality Leader, I joined the green team at my former parish, St. Mary, Richmond Hill. This group had been faithfully raising awareness for many years through skits, talks and regular lunches after Sunday services with speakers or videos. The aim is to inform, educate and encourage the congregation to do their part in caring for the earth. It is advocacy at its best, responding to the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come on Earth as in heaven.” In 2020 I was invited to join the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care to help carry this message to our whole diocese.
With eyes increasingly opened to the plight and groanings of creation, what do I see? Climate crises in Canada and globally: wildfires, floods, Arctic melting, droughts, poor air quality, heat waves and more, resulting in evacuations, displacements locally and globally, loss of lives and livelihoods, and the destruction of property and biodiversity. This year, Canada has entered the worst forest fire season on record. Imagine the pain, fear, confusion and uncertainty as people are forced to flee their homes, some never to return.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns the world that time is running out for us to keep global warming within the critical 1.5°C limit. Are world leaders listening? Are Canadian leaders concerned enough to make this a high priority?
Governments continue to heavily subsidize the fossil fuel industry, increasing windfall profits to the wealthy. Reliable and accessible renewable energy options exist – wind, solar and geothermal – but the political will to make a large-scale shift is lacking.
Advocacy groups and organizations have risen to the earth’s defence. I join groups, support demonstrations on the streets, sign petitions, write letters and meet government leaders at all levels, advocating for climate action.
Advocacy also means speaking to friends, family and neighbours about reducing our carbon footprints – how we commute, shop, eat, waste (especially food), use energy and more. As Christians, we must consider not only our personal carbon footprints but also those of our churches.
Our mandate for advocacy lies in scripture. As Psalm 24 reminds us, the earth belongs to God. Human beings are called to be stewards, caretakers and advocates for all of creation – humans, plants, animals of the fields and of the seas. Indigenous peoples understood and practised careful use of land and waters long before colonization. Can we find mutual connections for advocacy here?
In scripture we also find the supreme advocate for the care of creation, Jesus. During his earthly life, Jesus’ love and regard for creation is evident. He encounters rivers, seas, gardens and wilderness. His parables speak of plants, flowers and trees, creatures of earth, sea and sky, and the rhythms of herding, pruning, sowing and reaping.
Jesus loves children. There may be no greater, growing threat facing the world’s children – and their children – than climate change. For me, as a grandmother of two young grandchildren, this is my greatest impetus to advocacy.
What encourages you to be an advocate for God’s creation? How can you get involved?
Possible suggestions: read up on the issue. Join a local climate action group. Sign up with environmental organizations. Shop thoughtfully. Start gardening, hiking, walking at home or at church with others. Join or start a green team at your church. Help and resources are available on the diocesan website at www.toronto.anglican.ca/creationcare.