Climate Change and the Nations

Haggai by Giovanni Pisano, Sienna, Italy.

Haggai by Giovanni Pisano, Sienna, Italy.

“The Philippines envoy to the UN climate change conference has issued an emotional announcement that he will go on hunger strike unless talks lead to a “meaningful outcome”. Click HERE to read the whole story in The Independent.

Naderev “Yeb” Sano is not the only one who’s fasting. So is a dear friend in Pennsylvania. Carolyn and I were in kindergarten together. Our families were best friends. We grew up in each others’ living rooms. We went to the same church. Went to Sunday School and Confirmation together. Graduated from high school together. Our parents retired to the same retirement community in Cornwall, Pennsylvania where one after the other they each came to the end of their lives concerned about the shape of the future. Carolyn and I come by it naturally, I suppose, and the Kidder DNA and the Stewart DNA, although different, is like the DNA of the entire human species: essentially the same.

What happens to the human species if the scientists have it right? How do we care for each other across the planet – ONE species in the Philippines, Poland, the Netherlands, Argentina, and the USA – facing the daunting changes that are coming? If we believe that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, what changes will we make individually and together to exercise that responsibility?

Carolyn and “Yeb” Sano have decided to fast until the meeting in Warsaw leads to a meaningful outcome. Fasting is not for everyone, although I can’t help wonder what impact it would have if there were a fast across the world that spoke louder than words to the national representatives gathered this week by the United Nations in Warsaw, Poland.

In place of fasting this morning I looked again at the strange little book of Haggai in Hebrew Scripture, and what did I see? A civil leader named Zerubbabel and a religious leader named Joshua trying to lead their people during a time of colonial occupation. We, too, live under colonial occupation – the occupation of international greed and neglect of the planet, its people, and the environment itself. Perhaps Carolyn and “Yeb” are like the prophet Haggai, whose term of ministry BTW was less than four months. “The word of the LORD (the word is in caps because it refers to the reality that is beyond all human naming and controlling, “YHWH”, which is no name at all) came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, ‘Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations… On that day, says the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel, my servant,… and make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you, says the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:20-23).

The climate shaking that has driven “Yeb” and Carolyn to fasting is no respecter of nations. It knows no national boundaries. Nationalist thinking has outlived its time. There is only one people. Only one human species in a wonderful diversity of geography, culture, color, religion, and language. The “kingdoms of the nations” are gathered today in Warsaw, and one of their representatives from the Philippines is shaking the presumption of all of the thrones. The national delegates bear the equivalent of the king’s signet ring to sign and seal agreements and documents on behalf of the modern equivalent of their kings. Sometimes in life a person IS like a signet ring for a new order, a man for our time like Naderev “Yeb” Sano.

11 thoughts on “Climate Change and the Nations

  1. Gordon, This needs some tweaking (not twerking). See what you think as an idea to begin a discussion:

    R E Q U I E M


    Earth Day
    Wednesday, April 22, 2020



    • John, VERY interesting proposal. The Q is HOW to get the word out. WHO do we know or know who knows how to get to people like Stevie Wonder, etc. and their handlers? People who can make this happen all across the world.


  2. Love your response above, Gordon – if we all wait for someone else to do something, nothing will ever happen. If we all believe that we are too small to do anything, nothing will ever change. And while fasting is a symbol of resistance, let me say that both Carolyn and I are doing what we can to reduce our footprint- down from two cars to one, heat down, A/C up….choosing greener energy….and if it were just us, it would be meaningless. And, there are millions of people quietly doing the same things – wish they were a little noisier to encourage similar actions. It is all we can do, other than despair….


    • BJ, I so respect what you and Carolyn are doing. So often those who look at the “big picture” throw up hands and ignore or discount the small steps that bring our lives into alignment with our big picture view. Theology and ethics go together. They are inextricably tied. We practice HOPE – the courage of faith and action that lives between the poles of blind optimism and despairing resignation. I just came from a hymn sing to introduce new hymns in the newly produced Presbyterian Hymnal, Glory to God. There is a hymn that flooded the eyes of one of our members: There Is a Longing in Our Hearts.

      The first of four equally strong stanzas: “For justice, for freedom, for mercy: hear our prayer. In sorrow, in grief: be near; hear our prayer, O God.” Refrain: “There is a longing in our hearts, O Lord, for you to reveal yourself to us. There is a longing in our hearts for love we only find in you, our God.” The music and text by Anne Quigley (1992) are lovely. There’s probably a version of it on YouTube.

      Be well, BJ, and give my love to CA.


  3. Thanks Gordon. Haggai is the gift that keeps on giving. I hope they do something in Warsaw that makes a difference. It hadn’t even occurred to me to think that fasting could be a strategy for this issue but like you say can you imagine if it caught on.


    • Gary, I continue to think about the earlier conversation about mobilizing the public for purposes of pressuring Congress. Is it grandiose to think we could make such a huge difference? Or…is it slothful to think we can’t?


  4. While I share the sentiment you’ve expressed, there is zero chance of anything “meaningful” coming out of the current climate talks. China and the United States are the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters and neither will agree to any binding obligations in the near future. China won’t cut emissions at the cost of slowing its growth, and as the UN views China as a developing country, an agreement wouldn’t require binding action on China’s part anyhow. The US won’t agree to binding reductions because any commitments would require ratification by congress…of which one party doesn’t even believe in climate change. At the end of the day, as with Kyoto, if the world’s largest emitters don’t take a leadership role, nothing substantive can result.


    • Kevin, I wish things weren’t as they are. Your comments are dreadfully on target. And the great tragedy is that there’s a near consensus in the scientific community that the worst case scenarios will play out by as early as 2020 in some places and as late as 2040 and 2075 in other places. The die is already cast toward an ENORMOUS global tragedy, yet the common mind continues to believe everything can continue as it is without consequence and that whatever comes will take care of itself. China and U.S. are the big dogs. Many days I am on the edge of despair, feeling helpless and useless, which is why I write and why I preach. My tradition is akin to existentialism: live with integrity. Speak and do what you know. Now…imagine the people across the world fasting, gathering in candlelight vigils, led by popular artists all around the world in the way that happened when we gathered to sing We Are the World. Stranger things have happened – and the beginning of the economic, political, and ideological change that is required is a new consciousness that says to the powers: Enough! We’re not buying anymore!


    • Kevin, yes we are headed for catastrophic climate events due to our obsession with avoiding death. This was inevitable according to people who 1st discovered that climate change was due to human activity. As we developed machines to try & do away with the worst forms of slavery & premature human death from disease the unintended consequence became overpopulation. Imagine 100 million Phillipinos living on 7000 islands with a cumulative area only 1/3 larger than the state of Minnesota with rising sea levels on those 7000 islands. That’s enough despair for all of us. Imagine if the US had 4 times the people we do, as China does, on the same amount of land & the problems they have trying to deal with their CO2 emissions. In fact if one scans the net about China’s carbon policies we find they are making huge policy changes much faster than us. At any rate things are bad & will get worse but this was inevitable given the fact that man’s brain is big enough to outsmart his own nature to avoid death in the short term but not smart enough to outwit the planetary wisdom which is God itself. The collapse of man’s ability to have faith that life itself is a sufficient condition without turning to an obsession to avoid its natural end means we will pay the price for letting science replace spirituality as the meaning of our being. Thus the disconnect between the ecosystem & our civilization.


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