Dr. Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist. She studies climate change, one of the most pressing issues we face today. Katharine was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for her work as an atmospheric scientist studying climate change in 2014. In 2015, she was named as one of Huffington Post’s 20 Climate Champions. She is known for integrating faith with science and her work has been featured on Showtime’s Emmy award-winning documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously.”
A Rocha Canada has co-hosted two events featuring Katharine Hayhoe to engage Christians in caring for creation. Click below to view Katharine’s keynote presentations plus panel responses from key leaders such as Peter Robinson (CEO – David Suzuki Foundation), Preston Manning (former leader of the Official Opposition) and Dr. Terry LeBlanc (CEO and Director of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies).
“Climate change is affecting us all,
and is especially impacting our Indigenous brothers and sisters
here in North America and in most of the global south.”
Katharine Hayhoe, an award-winning evangelical Christian climate scientist, spoke with pure conviction on the science of climate change and the implications of her Christian faith. She argued that we need our faith to guide us in how we respond to the perils of climate change. “As Christians” she remarked, “we have the opportunity to speak and act in truth and love. We don’t have to live in fear and doubt. We have the duty to love our Lord’s earth and to love our neighbours as ourselves”.
Dr. Hayhoe also shared about her experiences at COP21 in Paris, France. A important theme of these climate meetings was that climate change is already a huge problem for so many nations around the world. It isn’t just a hypothetical, far-off threat. 195 nations were represented at COP21, and many of these countries are currently facing the effects of climate change. Loss of crop yields, increased floodings, the faster spread of disease; these are just some of the dangerous effects of climate change that the global south is facing. Our neighbours are losing their homes and their lives. Creation is suffering under climate change.
Yet, Hayhoe remained optimistic about the historic outcome of COP21. Among the goals agreed upon was a long-term temperature goal for the world and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century. You can read more about the outcomes in this post from one the organizers of the Climate Witness Project, Kyle Meyaard-Schaap.
Her talk was followed by a response panel facilitated by Context’s Lorna Dueck featured Dr. Terry Leblanc, CEO and Director of My People International and the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS); David Wells, General Superintendent of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada; and Gord King, Resource Specialist for the Canadian Baptist Ministries.
One of the most notable responses came from Dr.Terry LeBlanc. LeBlanc, who specializes in connecting Indigenous thought and culture with Christianity, advised the audience to think differently about their place in God’s world:
“We need to stop being so anthropocentric. We are not outside of creation. We are actually part of it. If you’re not a part of God’s creation, well then what the heck are you?”
LeBlanc also went on to talk about how our Western thought does not see the spirit of God working in creation: “We tend to view creation without any part of God working in it, where in fact the scriptures refer to the earth literally crying out in birth pains (see Romans 8).”
All the earth is sacred, and it is the duty of every Christian to tend to the earth and to see to the flourishing of ALL creation.
First, get to know your place and learn to love it. Conservation organizations like A Rocha offer incredible resources to help Christians care for creation in a tangible and practical way.
Second, listen. In order to understand the danger that our neighbours are facing from climate change, we must listen to their voices. One notable video and small group study resource from the Office of Social Justice and World Renew is Climate Conversation: Kenya.
Third, make change. Calculate your carbon footprint. Investigate alternative energy sources. Take public transit. Consume less, recycle more.
Fifth, pray. Citizens for Public Justice has a large library of prayer material for faithful action on climate change. Use these resources on your own, in a small group, or in your congregation. Pray for faithful political leadership, and pray that we as the church may continue to grow in our duty to steward creation.
Article by Cam Phillips
“A wonderful and hopeful evening.”
“I left saying how positive and hopeful I felt!”
Comments like those above do not normally follow a presentation on climate change. Yet “hope” was the word that sprang to mind for many of the attendees of the A Rocha sponsored Earthkeeping: A Climate for Change event in Vancouver, BC.
The event featured a presentation on faith and climate change by atmospheric scientist, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, followed by a response panel featuring Peter Robinson (CEO – David Suzuki Foundation), Preston Manning (former Leader of the Opposition), and Jeffrey Greenman (President – Regent College).
Peter Harris, co-founder of A Rocha International, opened the evening and welcomed all who came. “Everybody is welcome here tonight. And as Katharine herself has shown this is a very hopeful season.”
Photo by Peter Quek
Speaking to an audience of over 800, Katharine Hayhoe did not shy away from the hard facts. Climate is changing, contends Hayhoe, because of our actions, therefore our choices matter. We can choose to lessen our impact on the climate. We can choose to adapt to the effects such as drought, rising sea levels, and storms of increasing intensity. And we can choose the degree to which we will suffer.
“This is where the science stops,” says Hayhoe. “How do we determine where to go with these choices? How do we determine what’s too much suffering? How do we determine what’s enough mitigation? The science doesn’t answer those questions.”
She continued, “Here’s the problem. When we hear people talk about climate solutions, they use words that raise fear in people. Fear about change. Fear about economic hardship. Fear about taxes.” For Hayhoe, this is where faith and values come in. Here she turns to the Christianity’s sacred text and to Jesus’s call to love our neighbour.
Photo by Peter Quek
Following Katharine Hayhoe’s talk was an equally unique and encouraging response panel. In his opening remarks, Peter Robinson commented “Seven years ago when I joined the David Suzuki Foundation, if someone had told me I’d be sitting on a panel with Preston Manning, the President of Regent College, and a Christian climate scientist I likely would have laughed.”
“They might have fired you” chuckled Preston Manning, directly to his left.
“David might have fired me!” laughed Peter. “But in that picture is a glimpse of the way forward.”
Jeffrey Greenman agreed wholeheartedly. He asked fellow panel members how to best mobilize similar diverse coalitions based on a common value.
For Manning, one of the solutions is economic. “For every economic activity there are negative environmental consequences. We should determine what those are, and put the cost to mitigate or avoid them into the price of the product.”
“I love what Preston said. That’s an important way forward” agreed Peter Robinson. “As part of the solution in addition to the economics and the faith is this notion that individuals actually have to get re-engaged on this issue.”
Expanding on a concept he refers to as agency, Robinson explained that people have disengaged from acting on climate change because the problem is complex, distant and much bigger than just one person. In doing so, individuals have delegated their ‘agency’ (or ability to make one’s own choices) to government, business or environmental organizations.
To re-engage individuals, Robinson referred to Hayhoe’s examples of sustainable solutions that are already happening. “Nothing will help us get out of this morass than the sense that there’s momentum, that there’s excitement, that these solutions exist, and that we can do something about it.”
“Plett and Eisenhauer are a married pair of songwriters who have earned their keep playing music all over the continent for the last ten years. Vancouver was home for the couple and their kids until the mystical mountains of the Kootenays called them east. Their harmonies blend traditional alt-country with modern folk, combining the great sounds of the past with new innovation and depth.”