The following post is a sermon by Reverend Fred Small of First Parish in Cambridge, Massachussetts, USA reflecting on global warming, Bill McKibben's recent article in Rolling Stone, and the movement that needs to rise to the occassion. Thank you, Fred, for your ongoing inspiration and your loving ministry.
Heat and Light: Reflections on Global Warming
A sermon by Rev. Fred Small
First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist
August 19, 2012
Now is the summer of our discontent.
We caught a little break this morning . . . but it’s been hot, hasn’t it?
July was the hottest ever recorded in the United States, and so were the first seven months of the year combined, and so were the last twelve months combined.
The American Midwest and West are broiling under a heat wave that leaves crops dying in the fields and ranchers selling off livestock they can’t feed. Nearly two-thirds of the United States is in drought, which will raise food prices between three and four percent next year. Wildfires rage in Texas, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Nebraska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington.
In the rest of the world, it’s much the same—or worse.
In China’s drought-stricken Hubei Province, half a million people don’t have enough water to drink. Recently in Saudi Arabia rain fell when the temperature was 109 degrees, the hottest precipitation in the history of the planet. Thermal bleaching of coral reefs is accelerating, and most are expected to be seriously degraded within decades. Arctic sea ice is at the lowest level ever recorded. The Greenland ice sheet is melting at a record pace.
People are finally—finally—connecting the dots between what we see around us and what scientists have been warning us about for decades. 69 percent of Americans polled now agree that “global warming is affecting the weather in the United States.”
The chasm between what science demands and what politics permits is mind-numbing.
Common sense tells us we’ve got to do something. Political realism tells us we can’t do anything.
In North Carolina, Republican legislators have introduced a bill forbidding coastal counties from planning for the sea-level rise predicted by scientists.
Well, I didn’t vote for the North Carolina legislature. I voted for Barack Obama.
On the night he won his party’s nomination for president, Barack Obama told us that “generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment . . . when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” But since the failure of the cap-and-trade bill in the Senate and the fiasco of the Copenhagen conference in 2009, President Obama has been nearly silent on global warming.
Unlike the first President Bush, who flew to Rio de Janeiro for the 1992 environmental summit, or Vice-President Al Gore, who helped hammer out the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, President Obama didn’t bother to attend last month’s international climate conference in Rio.
Eight days ago in his weekly radio address, the president took note of the record heat, promised drought relief for farmers, and never mentioned global warming.
Now I realize that the president, like any politician, is hamstrung by a corrupt political system. He can no more stand up to Peabody Energy in an election year than he can to the National Rifle Association.
But somebody’s going to have to.
Last month, journalist and activist Bill McKibben wrote a compelling piece for Rolling Stone titled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” (It would have been the cover story had the publishers not figured they could sell more magazines with Justin Bieber in a tank top than with a graphic of a burning planet—or for that matter with McKibben in a tank top,)
McKibben thinks this is his most important writing since he first sounded the alarm on global warming in 1989 with his landmark book, The End of Nature. I agree.