Climate Corner: Earth Care – A Moral Imperative

by Dick Smythe and Gwynne Shultz

On Sept. 16, an event titled “Earth Care: A Moral Imperative,” was sponsored by 12 Door County churches, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and the Climate Change Coalition of Door County. It took place at the Calvary United Methodist Church in Egg Harbor. The event featured two speakers, Steve Coleman and Deborah Schneider, break-out discussion groups, a lunch provided by Main Street Market, and a wrap-up encouraging continuing awareness and supporting activities.

People from many different faith communities attended this six-hour forum. They engaged in a lively discussion of our moral responsibility to our planet and future generations. The experience was uplifting and filled with hope and good will.

The premise of the Sept. 16 event was the need for ethical values, moral guidance, and principled reasons for doing the right thing for the future of our planet, its animals, its plants and its people. There are good reasons, powerful reasons, for people of all religions or worldviews to respond to the imperatives of climate change, to take themselves seriously as moral agents, to reclaim the right to live the lives they believe in as people of integrity – conscientious, compassionate, joyous, and just.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu reminds us, however, that information alone is not enough. What is needed is to grasp the moral imperative:  the conviction that assuring our own comfort at a terrible cost to the future is not worthy of us as human beings.

Dealing with climate change presents economic and technological challenges, but those challenges also hold the promise of great opportunities in our transition to a low carbon economy that harnesses the power of the sun, the wind, our tides and so much more.

Fundamentally, we are called to prevent the enormous harm climate change is likely to cause, particularly for poor people and less developed nations. The price of the lifestyles we lead is being, and will continue to be, paid by millions of others through drought, famine and water shortages. We cannot hide from the fact that less fortunate people may lose their livelihoods and even their lives. We are all called by our different faiths to prevent the suffering of innocent people, especially of hungry children.

Leading environmental scientists predict that as many as 185 million Africans will die this century as the direct result of climate change. The reality is that it is countries and peoples the least responsible for causing climate change are paying, and will continue to pay, the heaviest price – the cost of our waste and huge fossil fuel consumption.

The average U.K. citizen consumes resources that result in nearly 50 times as much carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere as any citizen in the developing world. In the United States our per capita emission of carbon dioxide is much higher than in the U.K. The consequences of this disparity are rank injustice.

Even if we reject any sense of moral imperative, we must acknowledge that we do not exist apart from our environment. We cannot live without green plants. We cannot live without clean water, clean air and fertile topsoil. We and the rest of humanity are utterly dependent on a healthy planet Earth.

As the Pentagon has recognized repeatedly, chronic food and water shortages are likely to grow substantially due to climate change – threatening our national security and economy. To be blunt, our self-interest coincides with the moral imperative that should drive our response.

What, then, is the bottom line to this discussion? It’s really quite simple.

  1. An overwhelming number of scientists agree that if we do not act soon and decisively, human-caused environmental changes will bring serious harm to most forms of life, including human life.
  2. We have a moral obligation to leave the world as rich in life and possibility as the world we inherited.
  3. Therefore, we must act and act now. How? By each one of us, to the best of our ability, living a life that is consistent with our moral obligations and values. That means a life focused on the principles of sustainability – conserve energy in our homes and businesses, recycle and cut waste, and evaluate our decisions based on the impacts on others, now and in the future.

Most importantly, we must demand that our political leaders stop hiding and denying, and stand up and lead.

The Sept. 16 event provided both challenges and hope. We can make a difference. Many people already have and are continuing to do so. Will you help?

Climate Change Coalition of Door County October Program

“How Earth Worms Will Magnify the Effects of Climate Change in Wisconsin Forests”

Speaker:  Dr. Lee Frelich, director, University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology

Date:  Monday, Oct. 9, 2017

Time:  7 pm

Place:  Crossroads at Big Creek,  2041 Michigan St., Sturgeon Bay

Gwynne Schultz lives in Sister Bay. She is a retired UCC pastor with a deep concern about the world we are leaving for our grandchildren. She is on the steering committee of the Climate Change Coalition of Door County and is actively involved in trying to increase awareness of the perils of global warming. Since moving to Door County full time in 2006, she has taught several classes at The Clearing, as well as classes in various churches.


Dick Smythe and his wife Mary live in Sister Bay and are also on the Climate Change Coalition steering committee. Dr. Smythe spent his professional career with the U. S. Forest Service, first as a research scientist, then in a series of administrative positions. His final position was Director of Wildlife, Fish, Water, Soils, and Atmospheric Science (acid rain and climate change) Research for the Forest Service in Washington, D. C.

Smythe and Schultz planned and organized the Sept. 16 event, with the help of many others.

The Climate Corner is a monthly column featuring a variety of writers from around the state and Door County addressing various aspects of the challenges and opportunities climate change presents. The column is sponsored by the Climate Change Coalition of Door County, which is dedicated to “helping to keep our planet a cool place to live.” The Coalition is always open to new members and ideas. Contact the Coalition at [email protected]


Article Comments