I am in New York this week to help in the preparations of the World Council of Church's (WCC) Interfaith Summit of Climate Change. Having breakfast in a hotel before a meeting is always a rush. This morning, some of the European WCC staff members kept asking me if the Styrofoam plates, plastic utensils and paper cups are "normal" in the U.S. hotels. I told them that it was "normal" and their response was, "That is a lot of garbage".
Our disposable lives have become too "normal" in our day-to-day living that we do not think twice about the environment as we eat breakfast, drink from plastic bottles and throw away our unwanted goods. We are becoming complacent in our ways of living that is slowly destroying the environment and causing climate change.
This week in New York City, there are a lot of climate change activities as churches, religious groups and governments are recognizing the devastating affects of climate change for people around the globe. A heightened awareness of how climate change affects the lives of everyone is growing. We need to be able to move toward climate justice for all. The most vulnerable are suffering far more greatly due to the damages caused by climate change. Climate change is becoming a matter of social and economic injustice.
Religious leaders are recognizing that they cannot remain silent on this pertinent issue as it is damaging the earth and causing too many problems globally. The World Council of Churches is taking this matter seriously and will be holding an Interfaith Summit on Climate Change to address this matter.
This Interfaith Summit on Climate Change will take place September 21-22, 2014 in New York City. It will gather 30 faith leaders such as Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslims, Sikh and Indigenous religious leaders to discuss how people of faith need to take this issue of climate change seriously and at the forefront of their agenda. Part of the statement from 30 faith leaders of the Interfaith Summit on Climate Change reads:
"... share the conviction that the threats of climate change cannot be curbed effectively by a single State alone but only by the enhanced co-operation of the community of States, based on principles of mutual trust, fairness and equity, precaution, intergenerational justice and common but differentiated responsibilities and capabilities. We urge the rich to support the poor and the vulnerable significantly and everywhere, especially in Least Developed Countries, Small Island States and Sub-Saharan Africa. Significant support would include generous financial resources, capacity building, technology transfer and other forms of co-operation."
In conjunction with the WCC events is the "Religions for the Earth" conference held by Union Theological Seminary where more than 200 religious leaders from around the world will gather to discuss climate change:
"This is no ordinary conference: as the world's political leaders prepare to address an unprecedented moral crisis, Union will offer a unique platform for the world's ethical leaders to voice the concerns and commitments of the spiritual and faith traditions. Participants are prepared to use their reach and influence to galvanize faith-based action. This action will be in support of a just climate treaty and the new measures within nations, regions and cultures that will be necessary to support the treaty and protect the most vulnerable among us in this time when profits are prioritized over the wellbeing of people, and the effects of pollution are being felt in extreme weather patterns, exacerbated social instability and a decrease in the quality of food, air and water."
The Vartland newspaper in Norway quoted Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit who is the WCC General Secretary. Dr. Fykse Tveit believes:
"If one should create the large changes in both attitudes and actions required in order to meet climate change there needs to be deep and strong convictions. Knowledge and political action alternative is required, but you also need a sustainable motivation for a change. The belief, rituals, symbols, sacred texts and prayers of faith give meaning and direction for a large portion of the world's population. In these resources, we get a great reverence for the author of Creation. It is therefore important to see how this deep dimension of the human experience can strengthen the conviction that now is the time for change come. The WCC was asked to arrange an inter-religious summit to mobilize believers of all religions to stand together with us in the fight for a common future for all people and for the world."
Dr. Agnes Abuom from the Anglican Church of Kenya who is the Moderator of the WCC Central Committee and one of the signatories of the WCC statement claims: "We encourage the heads of state meeting at the UN to join with all people to take decisive steps to reverse climate change. Let us move together to rebuild, restore and reclaim a life-giving and life-empowering world where all live in dignity, peace and justice."
The WCC events are happening just before the United Nations Climate Summit 2014. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu "called on delegates attending the upcoming United Nations climate summit in New York to take the first tangible steps to move humanity beyond the fossil fuel era." He states, "We are on the cusp of a global transition to a new safe energy economy, a transition that unites people in common purpose, advances collective wellbeing and ensures the survival of our species."
We must prioritize the issue of climate change. We cannot "normalize" our disposable lifestyle that is hurting the environment. This is not only an environmental issue, but also an economic and social issue. Communities, churches and individuals need to become and involved in working towards climate justice. The time to act is now. Tomorrow is already too late.